Proposals relating to Hampshire Cultural Trust

What is the current situation?

In 2014, the County Council transferred Hampshire’s arts and museums services to Hampshire Cultural Trust (the Trust). The Trust took on responsibilities to care for and manage our collections: i.e., the artefacts and objects we own or hold under loan.

This ongoing agreement with the Trust provides for grant funding to give people in Hampshire access to culture and heritage including:

  • the operation and management of the arts and museums venues owned by the County Council and the arts and museums collections owned by or loaned to the County Council
  • provision of arts and museums outreach activities in Hampshire

The Trust is an independent organisation that uses our grant to deliver the agreed service to the public, but also earns its own income through commercial activity and fundraising to support wider cultural activity.

Within the agreement, the Trust delivers arts and museums services from the following County Council properties:

  • Aldershot Military Museum
  • Allen Gallery
  • Andover Museum
  • Ashcroft Arts Centre
  • Basing House
  • Bursledon Windmill
  • Chilcomb House
  • Curtis Museum
  • Eastleigh Museum (temporarily closed since April 2022)
  • Forest Arts Centre
  • Gosport Museum and Art Gallery
  • Milestones Museum
  • Red House Museum
  • Rockbourne Roman Villa
  • The Arc
  • West End Arts Centre
  • Willis Museum

The Trust also has other separate agreements with other local authorities for services delivered from other venues.

The Trust welcomes almost 635,000 visits and 15,000 education visits annually across all the venues it operates. In the last five years it has delivered 27 targeted social impact programmes for Hampshire residents, working with 6,200 people and more than 90 partners. The Trust is supported by more than 400 volunteers.

Further details of the arts and museum services provided by Hampshire Cultural Trust can be found at: hampshireculture.org.uk

What is being proposed?

The total annual grant to Hampshire Cultural Trust is £2.5 million. This proposal would reduce the annual grant figure by £600,000 by April 2027.

Why is this being proposed?

Until a sustainable long-term national funding solution can be found to address the intense financial pressures facing not only the County Council, but also wider local government, we have no choice but to consider changing or reducing services and reducing financial support to organisations in some areas and propose options for savings.

Reducing the annual grant to Hampshire Cultural Trust by £600,000 would contribute towards addressing the County Council’s overall anticipated £132 million budget deficit from April 2025.

The reduction proposed would still give a level of ongoing financial support to the Trust that would allow it to maintain most of its services, whilst reducing future dependence on our funding.

How would the proposal be implemented?

If approved, the reduction in the annual grant to Hampshire Cultural Trust would be implemented in April 2027.

As an independent organisation, it would be the Trust’s responsibility to develop a long-term business plan which enables it to operate within the reduced budget and agree it with us as the grant provider.

What are the potential impacts?

Having already been made aware of this proposal, Hampshire Cultural Trust has given initial thought to possible changes that would enable arts and museums services to operate within the reduced grant. At this stage, the Trust considers it might be possible to manage the funding reduction by:

  • generating increased income through commercial activity
  • identifying efficiencies within running costs and operations
  • seeking alternative funding opportunities or arrangements for running the service
  • potentially closing a small number of venues

Wherever possible, the Trust would seek to avoid closing any venues, but if the other options could not deliver enough savings, then initial analysis shows that, based on:

  • the strategic importance and social impact of a venue
  • its financial position including current financial performance and future income generation opportunities
  • the contribution from other partners including other local authorities or other organisations
  • any legal responsibilities to preserve museum collections and ancient monuments

The most likely potential venues for permanent closure in the near future may be:

  • Ashcroft Arts Centre
  • Eastleigh Museum

Depending on how much income can be raised through other activities, venues at risk in the longer term might be:

  • Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age
  • Curtis Museum

Should the need to close venues arise, we would work with the Trust to ensure appropriate relevant guidelines are followed, including involving visitors, local communities and other relevant stakeholders as appropriate.

If closure cannot be avoided, the Trust would need to consider how best to address any impacts, particularly in relation to caring for and providing access to the collections. This could include providing public access to collections in storage, to temporarily display collection items in other venues or to increase online access to the collection.

What alternatives have been considered?

There are other approaches that we could take that are not proposed at this time. In developing this proposal, we have also considered the following:

Maintain the current level of grant funding or reduce it by less than £600,000

This option is not being proposed because of the scale of the budget pressures faced by the County Council, and the legal requirement to operate within budget. If the County Council decided to maintain the current level of grant funding to Hampshire Cultural Trust, it would put additional pressure on other statutory or critical services to deliver increased savings. Statutory services are those we are legally required to provide. This may impact levels of service in these areas and our ability to operate within our budget.

Reduce the grant funding provided to Hampshire Cultural Trust by more than £600,000

We recognise that arts venues and museums can be a catalyst for positive social and economic change; they are public assets that can engage, educate and inspire entire communities, and create great places to live. Proposals have been designed to enable a level of ongoing financial support to sustain delivery and support efforts to enable the Trust to operate with reduced reliance on the County Council’s funding.

End the agreement with Hampshire Cultural Trust and bring the arts and museum service back in-house

This option is not being proposed because, since it was created, the Trust has demonstrated its ability to provide improved services to the public at lower cost than the County Council could deliver itself. It can operate with greater commercial freedom than the County Council and take advantage of other benefits due to its charitable status (e.g., Gift Aid and reduced business rates). If we were to end the agreement, we would need to close more venues to achieve the same level of savings.