Saturday, November 12, 2011

Welsh Government to consider revised funding package for PAS

 Minister Huw Lewis discussing heritage matters at the Hay Festival, May 2011
 © David Gill
The Welsh Government has issued its first statement on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS): "The future of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales" (31 October 2011). (Earlier in October 2011 there was no mention whatsoever of PAS on the WG website.)

It now seems that the Minister for Heritage has realised that he has devolved responsibility for PAS in Wales. And with responsibility comes the need to foot the bill.
The Minister for Heritage is being asked to consider a revised funding package from Wales to support the continued operation of the popular and successful Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in Wales in 2012-13 and identifies a framework for future years.
This appears to suggest that there is no solution to the funding question but merely a "consideration".

Yet this cannot have been news to any serious heritage watchers in Wales. It was raised specifically on the James and Louise show on BBC Wales back in June this year. There had been academic discussion of the issue in the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology (London) in December 2010. In November 2010 PAS made a statement about the impact of the comprehensive spending review on PAS operations in Wales (a view that I heard aired in Cambridge earlier that autumn). This statement was issued just as the Welsh Assembly Government (as it was then) had announced cuts to the heritage budget in Wales. And to go back even further (May 2010) PAS was discussed at an open meeting in Cardiff where CyMAL was represented.

The apparent confusion is unwarranted and serious questions should be asked about how politicians and civil servants in Cardiff Bay have handled the issue of protecting the portable heritage of Wales.

The present official decision is this:
The funding package being considered would allow for the continuation of the Scheme in Wales including the continued employment of the Wales Finds Liaison Officer by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and the continuation of the role undertaken by the Welsh Archaeological Trusts.
What is not clear is how this will be funded, when the matter will be resolved, and where additional cuts will be made to find the necessary money.

It would also be interesting to know how WG can make the claim: "It [sc. PAS] also seems to have reduced the amount of illicit detecting on archaeological sites." What is the evidence for this?

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