New Secretary of State Appointed

uk parliament

Nadine Dorries has been appointed as Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). At time of writing the junior minister or ministers with responsibility for culture and heritage have not yet been announced. AIM Director Lisa Ollerhead shares the challenges and opportunities likely to be in their in-trays.

Elected as the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire in May 2005, Nadine Dorries was previously Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care. She replaces Oliver Dowden and is the tenth culture secretary in ten years.

In correspondence congratulating her on her new role, we have highlighted that this is an exciting brief – looking after many of the sectors that make up our rich and varied public life in the UK – yet those sectors have struggled deeply over the last eighteen months and need the Government’s ongoing help and support to thrive.

We also shared our recognition that the Culture Recovery Fund has allowed many to get through the closures and restrictions forced by the pandemic, and that the museum and heritage sectors have been enormously grateful to the Government for such support.

It remains our position that such support is an investment, and it is a good one that is well rewarded. Museums and heritage organisations are important civic and community assets with major roles to play: in placemaking and the emerging levelling up agenda; through protecting the UK’s rich cultural and historic collections and sites; helping people understand their full histories; bringing in domestic and international visitors, and supporting the cultural engagement and wellbeing of their audiences.

As she travels across the UK the Secretary of State will find many of AIM’s members are now open again and eagerly welcoming back visitors. However, that reopening is not recovery, and their challenges are not over.

We hope that the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review will enable the Government to provide the ongoing support they desperately need. There is a major need for increased revenue funding through Arts Council England, and for their settlement to be protected; the confirmation of further years of the Museum Estates and Development Fund (MEND); a fair and consistent business rates system; permanency for the Museums and Galleries (Exhibitions) Tax Relief; and help to re-interpret collections, make buildings environmentally sustainable, refresh their volunteer base, improve governance, and look at major reform where needed at organisational, partnership, and sector level.

At AIM we are particularly keen on ensuring that the benefits of public support for museums are felt all around the country, from world-class museums in urban centres to the smallest museums on the shortest high streets. As we are sure the Secretary of State will find as she settles into her new role, our sector is lively, passionate and complex, which makes it all the more rewarding to work in.

AIM Partners