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Recent calls by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum for a funding increase of £60,000  seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite currently giving only £35,500 per year (obliging the museum to be run on a shoestring despite its national importance) the Wiltshire Council has just refused any increase.

As if to rub salt into the wound, “Nobody is losing out”  soothes Council leader Jane Scott speaking of the austerity programme. “We’re becoming more efficient by taking waste and bureaucracy out of the system.”

We beg to differ. Everyone loses out if the Museum isn’t supported. Archaeology is Wiltshire’s greatest asset and attracts countless millions of visitors and tourist pounds. The Museum contains the best Bronze Age archaeology collection in Britain. Plans are in hand for new lottery-funded galleries at the Museum to house some of its iconic items from Stonehenge and elsewhere and for that development to be run in co-ordination with the new English Heritage Stonehenge Visitor Centre and new galleries planned by Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. The pivotal importance of the Museum in terms of bringing massive future tourism benefits to Devizes, Wiltshire and Britain is clear for all to see.

And yet….having just agreed a budget of £330m for the coming year Wiltshire Council is refusing to allocate less than a five thousandth of it to ensure the financial viability of the museum !

Cultural institutions are being closed or squeezed all over the country but this is surely the most egregious example – and is in the last place one might expect. Archaeologists protested bitterly about the cultural philistinism and short-sightedness recently displayed by the Fenland District Council. Let’s hope they make even more fuss over this – and force a re-think.

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