Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A suitable case

Credit crunch, downturn,depression; call it what you will, it seems we're saddled with the bloody thing for the foreseeable future.
Of course, it's an ill wind. The serious shoeing the banks have had over the past year has put paid to some of the more ludicrous and grandiose building schemes that would have seen yet more of the old East End put to the bulldozer, while the horrible Caltongate scheme in Edinburgh has thanfully been shelved, as Nemesis reports elsewhere.
Notwithstanding that, however, in a more parochial sense, the recession is already turning out to be a bit of a bummer for the conservation and 'heritage' sector.
The building trade as a whole is already feeling the pinch, with clients reluctant to spend money in the current climate. New builds are worst hit - most of the sites near me are already on stop, and one local contractor that I know of has laid off five staff since Christmas. But now even the limestone cowboys are exposed. I'm fortunate enough to have work booked up until the end of summer, but thereafter? Who knows?
Certainly it does look as though one source of work for the conservation sector is about to take a kicking. Wearing my other hat, as a conservation project officer, I'm trying to encourage clients to take up large amounts of grant money to have conservation work carried out. The snag is that they have to provide some of their own money.
Understandably, most don't feel in a position to do this at the moment. We may call it match funding, they simply regard it as an unnecessary extravagance.
And 'they' are not just private clients. 'They' are also large public bodies and local authorities. I had a chance to secure £60K a year of grant money for domestic properties in one conservation area on my patch. All that was needed was for the local authority to agree to match this with £60K of its own money.
The issue went to committee and then to cabinet. The answer that came back this morning was a flat 'No'.
Coming on top of the Iceland debacle (in which my authority was one of the losers), and the general pulling in of horns, a grant of £60K would be hard to justify when education and social services were facing cuts.
As a result a total of £120K a year will not now be going into the conservation and restoration sector in my area alone. Arse!


  1. Oh arse indeed! Yes, when it's boom time, conservation suffers, when it's bust conservation suffers.

  2. Oh dear.

    I think we are only looking at the tip of this recession iceberg as yet. We all need serious Plan Bs.