The National Heritage Debate on 2 December was hosted by the former Heritage Link- after announcing the new name and introducing a new Chair – Loyd Grossman.
The audience represented the wide range of heritage organisations all of whom have benefited from the umbrella of the organisation and its success.
Representatives from the Conservative and Labour parties each claimed the high ground on heritage protection, followed by the Liberal Democrat representative who moved the discussion from museums and monuments to include the heritage environment in its wider sense.
Provocative questions from the floor probed the future of the Heritage Protection Bill – with commitments from both sides to support this; resources for heritage – everything from support for local authorities to VAT issues and how ‘localism’ was going to be supported in the future.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture and Tourism reminded the audience how much money had been invested by the present administration in policies and projects and the importance of projects targeting the young – such as ‘Find your talent’.
Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister for Culture, considered the case for (the value of) heritage had already been made but the Treasury was “philistine” in its approach and therefore difficult to convince regarding changes to the tax regime. It was up to local authorities, he said to be “smart” about resourcing and for heritage organisations to work together.
Richard Younger-Ross, the Lib Dem’s spokesperson on Heritage, wondered how many buildings currently at risk would be lost whilst the new legislation was delayed and that Treasury support for heritage would give a very strong message to the public about its value to daily life. He called for a wider debate at Government level about heritage which might help to resolve the problem of the “fight for funding”.
“This event demonstrated the commitment and level of cooperation within the heritage sector itself” said Chris Winter, HTF Director, “but it also illustrated that we have a long way to go to convince policy makers of how much is being achieved on the ground and of the need for demonstrable support from politicians at national and local levels.
“HTF has supported Heritage Link since its creation and we welcomed the new name - ‘The Heritage Alliance’ - and new Chair and look forward to working together in the coming year on the challenges facing the sector.”