March 30, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 25 March 2020

The Co-Chairs have joined a DCMS museum representatives’ group that is currently running a short meeting every week (the other participants include ACE, NMDC, the MA, AIM, the Heritage Fund and the devolved administrations).

The headlines from the meeting were:

  1. Building access

Following the UMG Committee discussion referred to in yesterday’s update, many members have been concerned that university closures may preclude access to museum sites for the purposes of conducting security and environmental monitoring checks. DCMS is clear that visits by security or collections staff to ensure the safety of collections count as ‘essential’. This is equally so for library special collections. It was noted that for many institutions there is a legal duty to ensure preservation. If any members are finding that the leadership at your institution, or estates management staff, are seeking to shut down your access for these purposes, you may advise them that formal guidance from the Cabinet Office will be published in coming days which makes this position clear.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

While this is under the umbrella of support for ‘businesses’, all UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible, including public sector bodies and charities. The current guidance is at the link below; it will be further updated in coming days:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The scheme enables 80% support for the wages of staff who cannot undertake their duties and are on furlough (i.e. are not being paid). Where universities have made a commitment to retaining staff on full pay or sick pay, this scheme will not be relevant. Note also that the roles of staff who continue to be employed part-time cannot be supported through this scheme.

  1. Government loans

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is unlikely to be relevant to any university museum, except possibly those that have establishing spinoff trading companies.

  1. Arts Council of England

[Update following meeting: late on Tuesday 24 March, ACE emailed award recipients and posted details of support packages on its website. Funding for NPOs will be rolled over for a year and the next investment round deferred].

  1. DCMS

The DCMS team emphasises that communication from us is really important to them, both regarding challenges and ‘good news’. ‘If there is any work that museums can highlight, we will make the case that museums are still doing great things… Please pass on news’. The team email is: covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk

Nicholas Thomas
Co-Chair
University Museums Group