English Heritage consultation finds broad agreement on charity plan

The government is proposing that the management of the National Heritage Collection should be carried out by a charity from April 2015

Kenwood House, an English Heritage site in Hampstead, north London
Kenwood House, an English Heritage site in Hampstead, north London

The majority of respondents to the government consultation on turning part of the quango English Heritage into a charity agree with the proposed benefits, but some respondents also voice concern.

The consultation proposes that the management of the 400-site National Heritage Collection, currently operated by the non-departmental public body, should be carried out by a charity, also known as English Heritage, from 1 April 2015. The heritage protection side of English Heritage will be known as Historic England and remain a quango reporting to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

DCMS received about 600 responses to the consultation, which closed on 7 February – 218 were from organisations, about 200 from individuals and the remainder from unidentified sources.

A letter to respondents containing a summary of submissions says that of the 497 respondents to a question about the predicted benefits of the proposed changes, 20 per cent strongly agreed, 40 per cent somewhat agreed, 14 per cent somewhat disagreed and 8 per cent strongly disagreed.

The analysis also says some respondents "required more detail to make a better informed judgement about the resilience of the proposed model." It also says many would like to see the business case, in particular the evidence for the earned income projections and fundraising sources.

In an interview with Third Sector earlier this year, Sir Laurie Magnus, chair of EH, said a business plan containing more detail is being prepared for approval by HM Treasury this summer.

Other concerns raised by respondents included whether the new charity would compete with other charities for funding, how non-revenue-generating or less profitable EH sites would benefit from the new approach, and on what might happen if EH did not become self-sufficient as planned in the proposed eight-year transition period.

As previously reported by Third Sector, it is possible that EH might not retain its licence to manage the 400 sites after that time.

Some respondents thought the new charity’s objectives were too narrow, saying they felt they required a broader definition of education.

Concerns abound Historic England also included the level of detail in the consultation document as well as funding, the relationship between it and EH, and the strength of the criteria advanced for its success.

A DCMS spokeswoman said: "We will publish a full response to the consultation in the course of the summer, once the Government has concluded its consideration of English Heritage’s final plans for the new model."

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