Budget reductions throughout the public sector mean that historic environment services are facing significant challenges in many places. The number of historic environment staff members working for local authorities fell by over 11% between early 2010 and early 2011. Against this backdrop the LGA, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, POS and EH joined forces to work with local leaders in exploring different ways of working.
Local government is at the forefront of protecting and managing the historic environment. Be it through the planning system, or through supporting community involvement in local assets, councils care for and enhance local areas, stimulating interest and encouraging awareness of local heritage. In order to do that, it is important that they have access to the right advice and skills.
This initiative, Historic Environment: Local Authority Capacity (HELAC), has worked with five pilot areas, looking at different ways of delivering local historic environment services. Details and a summary report of the pilots are now available.
English Heritage has said "The pilot studies undertaken for the HELAC project are innovative and encouraging but, there is a limit to what can be achieved through such innovations. There is a need to ensure that expert knowledge continues to be available to sustain the vital work of local authority historic environment services."
John Silvester, Society Spokesperson and representative on the HELAC steering group, said "The trend of reducing staff numbers in planning departments remains a cause of concern, particularly in specialist areas."