Policy round-up: January 2020

  • 03 Feb 2020
  • Article

Happy New Year from the policy team! We may have been back for less than a month, but the year in public affairs has already got off to a flying start.

Ahead of the Budget in March, we’re stepping up our campaign to reduce the income tax charged on Heritage Maintenance Funds with a letter to the Chancellor supported by MPs from across the Commons, alongside a formal Budget Representation submission to the Treasury. Throughout January we continued to write to new and returning MPs and meet with sector leaders to raise awareness of the vital economic and social benefits of this reform.

Meanwhile our consultation work continues, with the Welsh Government recently launching a new consultation looking at the potential impact of amending planning fees for cost recovery. We are also anticipating the launch of the domestic Energy Performance Certificate consultation in the coming weeks; this will present an opportunity to highlight the weaknesses of a cost-based grading system, and promote a more comprehensive carbon lifecycles approach. The outcome should have a significant impact on the future of energy use in historic buildings, and we are working closely with colleagues throughout the heritage sector to present a united response.

Earlier this month, the Agriculture Bill was brought back to the Commons. The Bill has the potential to be transformative, putting the natural and historic environments on an equal footing and directing payments towards public goods - including cultural heritage. In contrast, the recently reintroduced Environment Bill explicitly excludes the historic environment from its definition of ‘environment’. This may have mixed implications – perhaps reducing the regulatory burden, but also deprioritising the historic environment in environmental government funding and decision-making. We’ve been working closely with colleagues across the sector over the last year to track and influence both Bills, and will continue to monitor their progress.

Elsewhere this month we attended the Visit Britain Annual Review launch, where Heritage Minister Helen Whately reasserted the government’s commitment to the Tourism Sector Deal; and more recently we were invited to a lively Q&A event with the Culture Secretary, Nicky Morgan. Needless to say we will be keeping a close eye on events at DCMS next month, with a reshuffle imminent and the possibility of a major departmental restructure coming to fruition.

With the UK now officially out of the EU, and a calendar chock full of legislative and policy milestones, 2020 looks set to bring some major political changes both in and out of Westminster. With spring on the horizon we’re looking ahead to the Budget, which should usher in the welcome return of a domestic policy agenda, alongside fresh opportunities and challenges for our sector in the new decade.

Emma and Lydia, the policy team


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