CASH-STRAPPED county council chiefs have been urged to consider an alternative way of funding Worcestershire’s award-winning Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS) ahead of a meeting which could see its budget slashed by £250,000.
The Friends of Worcestershire Archives revealed their alternative vision in a letter ahead of a meeting of Worcestershire County Council on Thursday to rubber stamp the budget for the year ahead.
Although council chiefs have reduced the proposed cut to the service from £405,000 to a quarter of a million, Mark Regan from the Friends said the reduction would form a ‘massive’ part of the service’s budget and leave it under threat in the future.
“WAAS’s professional accreditation is still not guaranteed.
Accreditation is dependent on having the appropriate number of qualified people to match the volume of records held in The Hive,” he said.
WAAS is the archive service for the Diocese of Worcester and all parish records, the Croome Trustees and for prominent local families – for example the Lechmeres, the Lytteltons, and the Sandys.
WAAS cares for 12 miles of records which include those of businesses, charities, community organisations and public bodies such as the NHS. Shakespeare’s marriage bond (part of the UNESCO listed Collections), Royal Charters and many more remarkable treasures.
In the letter to the Observer, Mr Regan highlighted the business plan put foward as an alternative to the proposed cuts being suggested.
One of the options being suggested is to ask those who deposit items with the archive to pay the service for its storage which the Friends estimate would raise at least £30,000 in the next year.
Two jobs should be frozen until bosses can secure funding to pay the roles in a further saving of £50,000 while the service could re-invest the surplus WAAS makes each year back into the service to save at least £75,000.
A further option being suggested is to make WAAS a separate business from Worcestershire County Council, according to the letter.
“These actions will save the service and maintain its award-winning status and excellent service to the people of Worcestershire, the UK and overseas,” Mr Regan said.
“Next year, American heritage tourists will visit Worcestershire because of Edward Winslow and the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrimage. The Hive will be one of their destinations.
“Worcestershire has a rich history – King John, a Medici Bishop, the English Civil War, Nelson’s visit in 1803; and more recently Stanley Baldwin, Edward Elgar, Vesta Tilley, and Woodbine Willie – just a few examples.”