Policy Round-up: November 2018

  • 03 Dec 2018
  • Article

November kicked off with a ministerial visit to Holdenby House in Northamptonshire, where the Heritage Minister, Michael Ellis MP, saw at first-hand ‘a day in the life’ of a Historic Houses member property – from observing a school visit in action, to hearing from the owners about their repair and maintenance programme.

Hot on the heels of his day at Holdenby, we were delighted to welcome the Minister as the keynote speaker at our Annual General Meeting. The Minister gave an excellent speech, which underlined his support for independent historic houses and their economic and social impact in communities across the country: “Without the passion, hard work and commitment of people like you, our heritage sector simply could not be the economic powerhouse and world-leading cultural asset it is today.” The 600-strong AGM audience also heard fascinating presentations from key figures in the sector -including Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust, who outlined her priorities for the Trust going forward; and the Earl and Countess of Devon, who talked about their work developing a social enterprise model at Powderham Castle.   

A week after our AGM we were again celebrating the social impact of Historic Houses places, as we unveiled Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens as the winner of this year’s Frances Garnham Award during the Sandford Awards ceremony at the Tower of London. This Award, which is named after our former Director of Policy and Campaigns, celebrates innovation in education or community engagement. Kelmarsh Hall’s dynamic partnership work with learners of all ages really impressed our judging panel. 

Mid-month our Director General, Ben Cowell, attended the second meeting of the Minister’s Heritage Council. This valuable forum, chaired by the Minister, brings together heritage organisations and government departments whose work has an impact on the heritage sector, such as the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Top of the agenda for this meeting was a discussion with MHCLG about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace various EU funding streams that are of great importance to heritage and tourism. 

Throughout the month we have also been out on the road discussing our Heritage Maintenance Funds campaign with various audiences; we were delighted to present our case to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts and Heritage, and we have had productive meetings with officials at HM Treasury, HMRC and DCMS. While it is still early days in the campaign there has been genuine interest in the findings of our cost/benefit analysis, and we look forward to developing this momentum into the New Year.

As we enter December, all of Westminster is of course focused on the ‘meaningful vote’ that will take place on 11 December – and what may happen after it. At Historic Houses we continue to engage closely with government departments to feed into various aspects of government’s scenario planning, and we will of course maintain these channels of communication throughout the Brexit process and beyond.

This is our final policy round-up of the year, before we head off on holiday towards the end of the month. We look forward to blogging again in January; in the meantime, Merry Christmas to all our house members and visitors!

Emma and Polly, the policy team


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