Our Response to the Historic England Tailored Review
We are delighted that the Tailored Review of Historic England, an independent review by government, has given a positive and strong endorsement for the work we do championing and protecting the historic environment.
Historic places are the foundation of local identity and a catalyst for socio-economic regeneration and growth. At this particular moment, it is critical that the sector has a strong voice and that the government’s support, which is gratefully acknowledged, enables it to survive the current crisis and thrive again.
The review recognises that Historic England is regarded as one of the leaders in the heritage sector, and commends us for providing "high quality expert advice in England and undertaking world leading conservation research".
We acknowledge and will adopt all the recommendations for improvement, including the following areas:
- We will adopt the recommendation for improved reporting and target setting for the English Heritage Trust as an independent charity, which is even more critical as we monitor its sustainability over the coming years and demonstrate that the government’s additional support has moved the trust back onto the path of financial self-reliance.
- We welcome the opportunity to play an enhanced role in sector leadership, particularly in collaborating with partners to improve diversity, inclusion and public engagement in our sector, and establishing a standard framework for the measurement of impact where coordination is especially important. We are committed, in particular, to working more closely with The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
- We will work to improve transparency in our processes, in order to make them as simple and understandable as possible, and improve access to information, including much more extensive digital access subject to funding being available.
We are proud of our role, fully recognised in the review, to both champion and protect all of England’s historic environment, in its many forms. Our shared heritage has suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with the widespread closure of many heritage sites and the heavy impact on a range of heritage businesses. We have gladly played a significant sector leadership role throughout and the report recommends how we can continue in this vein.
We are taking crucial steps to address the lack of diversity in the heritage sector – we believe that heritage should be for everyone, and we are committed to inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity in all our work. Effective public engagement has been an increasing priority for Historic England, and a key part of this work is our emerging Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Strategy which will provide the framework for a new organisational approach.
We will continue our wider work to unlock the social and economic benefits of heritage, such as through our successful Heritage Schools programme, which is referenced in the review.
Our High Streets Heritage Action Zones programme, developed in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, also illustrates our commitment to ensure struggling places continue to use their rich heritage as a force for positive change by bringing communities together and encouraging levelling up.
We have been doing this vital work for nearly 40 years. We have grown a highly specialised and productive workforce, bringing together staff that have decades of accumulated experience with people at the start of their careers who have fresh ideas and perspectives. What unites them is their passion for heritage and their dedication to reveal its potential for social and economic good.
It is this public duty that drives us. As an organisation we are committed to continuous improvement to deliver the functions expected of us as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Our Tailored Review concludes that we are a lean organisation. The review notes the significant reduction in our financial resources over a number of years and, whilst we have demonstrated commendable efficiency to respond to these challenges, the question of how sustainable this level of performance and delivery is within current resource parameters will need to be addressed. For example, it recognises that investment in IT systems is overdue.
The Tailored Review reaffirms confidence in the direction Historic England has taken in reorganising to make better use of our resources and in focussing on areas such as place-making, public engagement and the high street where we can make the greatest difference to people’s lives.
We are wholly committed to upholding the government’s, and the public’s, trust in us to continue to champion, protect and save England’s historic environment for existing and future generations.