Data shows some areas have faced 50% cut in numbers over a decade

The past 12 months have seen the number of conservation and archaeology professionals employed by councils drop further at a time when the volume of work has increased, according to new data.

The number of full-time-equivalent historic environment staff providing advice to local authorities fell by 1% over the past 12 months, while the number of archaeological specialists fell by 3%.

The ninth annual Report on Local Authority Staff Resources said councils now only used the services of 518 conservation staff and 263 archaeological advisers as of this year, a decline of 37% and 35% respectively since 2006.

According to the report, compiled by government heritage adviser Historic England, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, some regions have been more affected than others by the decline in staffing.

It said that councils in the north west of England had seen specialist staff numbers reduced by more than 50%.

At the other end of the scale, reduction in staff number in the east of England was 24% since 2006. However the report said the figure was still “significant”.


Source: Sabena Jane Blackbird / Alamy Stock Photo

Liverpool, which has been threatened with the loss of its Unesco World Heritage Site status because of the impact of nearby development on its main assets

The decline in staff numbers over the past 12 months has been accompanied by a rise in caseloads, particularly in relation to listed building planning consents.

The report said the number of planning applications decided by English councils over the past 12 months had increased by 3.5%, while the number of listed building decisions was up by 3.6%. Numerically, the increase in listed-building decisions rose from 30,193 to 31,285 over the period.

Historic England said the staff numbers included in the report did not solely reflect local authority employees, but also took account of consultants.

It said the figures did not discriminate between officers with particular professional or academic qualifications and those without them when the work they were engaged in was equivalent, but that staff whose role was purely administrative were not counted.