The Curious Incident of the Local Authority Archaeology Website: Response from Sandwell

A few days ago I wrote a blog on the changes to Sandwell MBC’s website and their removal from it of nearly all information relating to archaeology in the area. Yesterday, in several tweets, Sandwell kindly responded. I thought it seemed only fair to incorporate these into an updated blog and provide their side of the story. I’ve added my own additional questions and comments beneath each tweet.

I’m sure you are correct. Then again, it’s an easy deletion to make when you’ve made redundant everyone who could present the case for retention. Continue reading

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The Curious Incident of the Local Authority Archaeology Website in the Night-Time

As some of you may remember in late September 2011 news broke that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was planning on sacking it’s Borough archaeologist after it declared that archaeology and heritage were “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“. 

I last wrote about Sandwell’s decision in December 2011 after the council, in an astonishing move, deemed Twitlonger an appropriate service to announce that they had cut their archaeologists.

A few months later I had a further discussion on Twitter with the leader of Sandwell MBC Councillor Darren Cooper about the nature of the consultation that occurred prior to the Council’s decision. During this I noticed that there had been some changes on the Sandwell website (read the tweets that led to this part of the conversation: 1, 2 and 3):

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The more things change…

Whilst doing a bit of research earlier I came across an article in The Observer that I missed when it was published. With continuing threats to heritage funding in the UK dominating many archaeological discussions I thought it would be worth summarising here for anyone else who didn’t see it :

“Large quantities of important archaeological material, the fruit of years of fieldwork, are at present lying, unexamined…” Continue reading

Museum Funding: Harriet Harman and Corporate Vanity

Heritage – and museums in particular – have not been having an easy time of it lately. So when Harriet Harman, after preventing Newcastle City Council cutting it’s art budget 100%gave a speech (in her capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for DCMS)  to reassure the culture community that Labour ‘get the arts‘ I read it with interest.  Within the text were three paragraphs that I felt had particular resonance for heritage and museums:
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Cuts and Consultation: Sandwell Sacks Archaeologists

In late September news broke that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was planning on sacking it’s Borough archaeologist after it declared that archaeology and heritage were “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“.

This was met with dismay by the archaeological community; Rescue (the British Archaeological Trust) described the proposal as “wholly and conclusively both misguided and incorrect” and the Institute for Archaeologists pointed out that Sandwell risked a “Judicial Review or investigation by the Local Authority Ombudsmanfor “ill-informed decision-making about the historic environment”.

Sandwell Council seemed to operating a policy of radio silence on the matter. Then, one day Council Leader Darren Cooper retweeted a message about a heritage trail in the area. Pleased to see that the MBC leader appeared to view local heritage as important I tweeted a question at him, to which I received the following response: Continue reading