West Devon Borough Council Reduces Support For Local Heritage
It has come as a shock to heritage organisations in West Devon to find that they will no longer have the full financial support of the West Devon Borough Council. Currently heritage organisations which are charities receive a mandatory 80% support grant towards their rates and the remaining 20% is at the discretion of the local authority. In the past the full 20% has generally been given to heritage charities by West Devon Borough Council so that they have not paid any business rates. However for this financial year it has been reduced from 20% to 10% leaving heritage organisations to find the remaining 10% from their own income. It appears that West Devon Borough Council is the only district authority in Devon to implement such a policy.
For Tavistock Museum this could mean that several hundred pounds will need to be paid to the Borough Council in rates and effectively lost from the museum income. In their letter of notification to the museum the Borough Council state that the decision to reduce the financial support has been done ‘with all the Borough Councils Taxpayers in mind as they have to fund a part of the grant awarded’.
At the present time the Tavistock Museum costs £6,000 annually to run. The museum opens daily from April to October and currently has a free entry policy. Last year it had 8,500 visitors who donated £4,500 thus leaving a shortfall which has needed to be closed by fundraising through the museum shop and outside outlets. The effect of the changes will in practice mean that the donations from the first six visitors to come into the museum each time it opens will be swallowed-up by the business rate demand.
Roderick Martin, manager of the Tavistock Museum stated ‘The museum has become an enquiry centre for local tourism since the Borough Council pulled-the-plug three years ago on the Tourist Information Office in Tavistock. Every day we give information to tourists and hand out leaflets about accommodation, places-to-eat, walks and attractions. The only benefit we have ever had from the Borough Council was the discretionary grant so it is particularly galling to find that half of that has now gone. Its not going to change our policy in helping tourists but I will be very disappointed if our WDBC councillors representing the Tavistock wards do not support us by getting our full grant restored.’
Meetings have been requested with West Devon Borough councillors and Geoffrey Cox (our MP). It is understood that the Museum of Dartmoor Life, Okehampton, and the Robey Trust are similarly affected by the reduced grant support.