by a Heritage Action cynic!

As expected, the government intends to fill some of the shortfalls created by funding cuts by attempting to stimulate philanthropy. It’s a fair bet that what’s planned for the Arts sector will also be applied to the Heritage sector.

No doubt the government will say – and perhaps mean – that the system will not involve the buying of favours. But sorry to be cynical, how many companies hand over money without expecting a return? Most of them already spend megabucks on trying to inflence decisions, why would they not see this as another opportunity? It’s pretty easy to cover your tracks – you just say, sure you can have the gift this year, no strings, it’s a purely philanthropic gesture. But next year, well, we might have to economise, we’ll have to see how things go…….   And even that is unnecessary.  Wikileaks can’t pick up on nods and winks and that’s all that you need in order to get things done if you are a major philanthropist. Money talks. Shock horror, piper’s financier calls tune! 

This very week, in a seminal editorial in Antiquity (which I can’t recommend highly enough) Professor Martin Carver used a phrase that could be applied to the whole of the government’s Heritage Philanthropy strategy:

“No ruin gets a free lunch” !

If Tarmac PLC offers millions of pounds towards heritage conservation you can bet that something, somewhere, is about to be destroyed. Privatising the funding of the protection of national treasures from exploitation by private interests is surely a dangerous game?