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The budget cuts putting Wales’ national heritage at risk

03 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Capel Peniel, Tremadog

Martin Shipton

Three of Wales’ cultural treasures are under immense pressure as a result of austerity cuts imposed by the Welsh Government because of a shortfall in its expected funding from Westminster.

Job losses are on the way at the National Library of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, while the biggest budget cut of all is facing Cadw, the Welsh Government body responsible for safeguarding historic places in Wales, with a reduction of more than 20%.

Cadw, in turn, funds Addoldai Cymru, a charity it set up to preserve the best of the nation’s redundant Nonconformist chapels for posterity.

Precious architectural heritage

Christine Moore, the charity’s part-time manager, said: “Whatever your religious beliefs, the Nonconformist chapels represent a precious architectural heritage for Wales. They remain valuable to their local communities and after they have closed we aim to protect and develop sensitively a small number of distinctive chapel buildings. We currently have 11 chapels from a variety of denominations located across Wales.

“We are managed by a small team of staff and trustees whose vision relies upon the goodwill of local communities and interested parties. We aim to tell the story of Welsh chapels from their humble beginnings to becoming the building type described as the “national architecture of Wales” and to create an important legacy for the benefit of future generations.

“We receive a small grant from Cadw to maintain two part-time staff, based in Wales to support the care and promotion of 11, soon to be 13, exceptional chapel buildings here in Wales. We empathise with the large organisations such as the Arts Council of Wales and the National Museum of Wales, but a 20% budget cut for an already small trust such as Addoldai Cymru is literally a ‘cut to the cwic’ – a cut too far!

“As yet we are unsure how much funding we will have to go forwards. The problem we have is that as time goes on, more chapels become redundant, meaning there is a need for more funds, but we are having to make do with less. I’m not sure whether, or for how long, we will be able to continue. We have recently had to turn down one chapel that we could have taken on if we’d had more funds. Our aim is to make them available for some kind of community use. If we don’t take them on, they will be sold.”

Among the chapels cared for by Addoldai Cymru is Capel Peniel at Tremadog in Gwynedd, a Grade 1 listed building built in 1811 by the Presbyterian Church of Wales that was founded six years before. It is one of the earliest chapels in Wales built with a gabled ended front. Its classical portico was added when the exterior of the chapel was completed in 1849. The building was acquired by Addoldai Cymru in 2010.

National Library of Wales

Meanwhile, Rhodri ap Dyfrig, head of marketing and audiences at the National Library of Wales, said: “At the end of December 2023 the National Library of Wales was notified by the Welsh Government of a 10.5% reduction in its funding for the upcoming financial year.

“The Library has reviewed the operational expenditure and identified savings. The staff budget represents a substantial amount – approximately 75% – of the Library’s overall budget. The Library has therefore offered a Voluntary Severance Scheme to its staff to be implemented by March 31 2024.

“The chief executive and librarian, Pedr ap Llwyd, will be releasing further details at the end of next week.”

A spokesperson for Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, said: “We are currently undertaking a large change management programme. As we are still in the early stages of delivering this programme, we are not yet in a position to comment on any specific cost savings.

“The Welsh Government announced its 2024-2025 draft budget on December 19, presenting Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales with a financial cut of 10.5%. This is part of a programme of extensive cuts across all Welsh Government portfolios to address the significant shortfall in the Welsh Government budget.

“This represents the largest funding cut in the museum’s history and will have a sizeable impact on Amgueddfa Cymru’s day-to-day operations. To ensure that the organisation can continue to operate within the revised budgets, Amgueddfa Cymru is having to consider different cost-saving options including changing operating arrangements, closing services, and potential job losses.

“This is an unsettling period for Amgueddfa Cymru, and the first priority is to provide care and support to our staff and volunteers over the coming weeks and months. Consultations with trade union colleagues will also be taking place throughout the process.

Amgueddfa Cymru chief executive Jane Richardson said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the long-lasting effect these cuts will have on Amgueddfa Cymru and the wider culture sector in Wales.

“We are already working within an extremely challenging financial environment post-Covid as we try to manage the ongoing risks to protecting, preserving, and promoting the national collection.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

Amusing to think that behind the photographer is the birth place of T. E. Lawrence.

Altogether a remarkable place is Tremadog…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

A word Mr Lawrence if you please. About this chap in the government bombing the Yemen, The defense wallah Mr Alias Alias, care to comment as you were once a great Arabist, as were many once upon a time before they were driven out of the temple of Westminster along with the house-trained wing of the Con-club, although the Kremlin is still applicable for the back-bar even if the politics has done a 180 thanks to Gove and the Vixen, now loose in the House of Lords. I expect Jolyon Maughan will have a dossier on Mike ‘the moral maze’… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Mab Meirion
3 months ago

In addition to these three national treasures the Comiswn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru / Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales (CBHC /RCAHMW) is facing a 22%. This organisation does not have the revenue creating capability of the others mentioned in the article meaning cut and a potential loss of a third of it’s workforce. It’s work in recording the heritage environment in Wales, from it’s hillforts to 20th centaury architecture and everything in between will be seriously damaged by these cuts. It has statutory duties including maintaining the National Monuments Records archive set out in it’s Royal Charter… Read more »

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