The UK’s museum and gallery sector could save up to £30 million a year from 2018 to 2022 after it was awarded a generous windfall in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement (23 November).

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a museums and galleries tax relief for exhibitions which is set to take effect from 1 April 2017 until April 2022. Designed to allow museums to save on the creative and set-up costs of exhibitions it offers:

  • a 25% rate of relief for touring exhibitions; and
  • a 20% rate of relief for non-touring exhibitions.

Although subject to a cap of £500,000 of qualifying expenditure per exhibition and available on a maximum of 80% of qualifying expenditure, as a result of the relief museums and galleries could potentially claim up to:

  • £100,000 for touring exhibitions; and
  • £80,000 for non-touring exhibitions.

The tax relief was first announced in Budget 2016, which was delivered on 16 March this year. At that time its scope was limited to temporary and touring exhibitions. The Museums Association (MA) expressed concern that this would unduly favour national and larger regional museums with sizeable exhibitions budgets. Following a public consultation which ran from 5 September to 29 October this year it was decided to widen the availability of the relief to make it accessible to more UK institutions.

Among other arts and cultural heritage institutions to receive early Christmas gifts in the Autumn Statement was Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire. The Grade I listed country house which is believed to be the largest privately-owned house in the UK and one of Europe’s largest stately homes was granted £7.6 million for urgent repairs subject to the approval of a sustainable business case.

The government also pledged:

  • £1.6 million for the development of new city centre arts complex Studio 144 in Southampton; and
  • £850,000 to enable the Royal Society of the Arts to run a series of trials examining the impact of cultural education on the academic performance of disadvantaged schoolchildren.

On a less festive note, spending by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will remain at the same level outlined in last year’s statement when its overall budget was cut by 5%. Seems Chancellor Claus only has so many gifts to go around this year.