Review of the Portable Antiquities Scheme Partnership Model

DC Research was appointed in November 2017 by The British Museum to Review the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Partnership Model.

The overall sustainability of PAS, both in its current funding context and also in terms of future opportunities, was a particular focus for the review. The review also captured the benefits that PAS generates for its 33 partners, through understanding the range of different approaches to how the service is delivered, and the role and contribution of partners, including goodwill, in-cash and in-kind support provided.

Key Findings

Most FLOs described the purpose of PAS being to record archaeological objects discovered by the public, with many also highlighting the importance of PAS in terms of: making data available to researchers; working with heritage partners to promote awareness of local archaeology; educating finders in terms of good practice; and supporting cases reported under the Treasure Act. Managers of FLOs agree, and also highlighted engagement and awareness with diverse audiences.

FLO posts are typically located in either historic environmental record teams in local authorities, or in museums as part of collections teams, with all managers reporting that their organisations make both financial and 'in kind' contributions to PAS:

  • The average contribution made towards PAS costs was just under £6,000 per year, ranging from £600 to £26,000, and the average proportion of overall costs covered by these contributions was 15.7%, ranging from 2% to 53%.
  • The average 'in kind' contribution made by an FLO manager was 11 days per year, ranging from 4 to 30; the average 'in kind' contribution made by other staff was 32 days per year, ranging from 3 to 330, and the average 'in kind' contribution made by volunteers was 80 days per year, ranging from 20 to 300.

PAS generates a range of impacts, with 'engaging with community, historic and special interest groups' being the most significant impact, followed by 'providing archaeological expertise in the area'. Other prominent impacts included supporting collecting and collections, volunteering opportunities and supporting researchers. It is clear that PAS contributes to a wide range of outcomes that might not be possible otherwise.

'Engagement with communities', followed by 'association with a national initiative' were the highest ranked benefits of PAS to partners, with association with a national initiative being regarded as more important than association with the British Museum; though the British Museum being the lead was important to many partners.

Most survey respondents felt partnership roles either completely or moderately clear, and more than half felt the current PAS partnership structure was moderately effective, although levels of engagement in the partnership, and the tone/function of some meetings were causes for concern. Additionally, FLOs can often feel frustrated, isolated and poorly supported.

Many respondents and most consultees felt that the current funding and resources arrangements of the PAS partnership model was an ongoing cause for concern. Whilst the survival of PAS as a national scheme is seen as testament to the overall effectiveness of the model, the original funding arrangements were not designed to serve the Scheme for as long as they have.

In terms of delivery arrangements, most of those that engaged in the research felt that the PAS partnership model is currently either 'very effective' or moderately effective', and that collaborative working was currently either 'very' or 'moderately' effective. There was a wide spread of positive and negative views on the effectiveness of communication in the PAS Partnership.

Sustainability of PAS

There is consensus from all that PAS is very highly regarded and does vital work in ensuring that the heritage of England is properly recorded and managed, and in encouraging good practice across all partners involved in finds recording and managing treasure.

The considerable goodwill towards PAS from across the partnership has clearly been critical in ensuring that the Scheme has survived to date in the context of ongoing flat core funding and partner financial constraints. Without this regard and goodwill, PAS would not have survived into 2018 in its current format, if at all.

Most participants in the research agree that a new delivery model is required beyond 2019 to allow the benefits of the scheme to be continued. To be sustainable beyond the immediate short term (i.e. beyond the current funding arrangements to March 2019), PAS now needs to directly address a number of challenges that the Scheme has previously been able to navigate around.

a) Funding agreements: The British Museum needs to demonstrate its commitment to the PAS partnership by offering longer term funding arrangements, at least for the term of its own funding agreements. Whilst partners are realistic about the overall funding context for PAS, such a move would provide greater individual and partnership certainty and could be the starting point of a more fundamental process of developing a more sustainable partnership approach to PAS.

b) PAS operations: PAS is now at the point where greater operational flexibility is necessary to maintain the principle of national coverage, and there are separate, but clearly overlapping, mechanisms through which this flexibility could be achieved:

  • First, the extent to which the Scheme manages the priorities of PAS staff could be reviewed. If priority sharing arrangements could be agreed by the PAS partnership, it could alleviate pressure in some areas and some organisations, and allow staff to be retained, supplementing PAS work with complementary activities.
  • Second, the partnership needs to consider and question whether the current arrangements mean that the right staff are with the best hosts and in the most appropriate geographical locations.
  • Third, there may also be circumstances where partners might prefer greater freedom to determine how PAS is delivered in their area.

c) Partnership working and communication: The improvement of communication between all partners will be an essential part of addressing the sustainability of PAS.

Given the proportionate increase in the importance of partner contributions of PAS, the scheme needs to progress to a more balanced partnership model to support its future sustainability. Therefore, any change in the delivery of the Scheme must involve meaningful consultation and partner involvement in decision making, and it is vital that all partners fully understand each other, and that managers meetings in particular develop beyond being information disseminating sessions.

d) PAS responsibilities and liabilities: In a partnership context it is important that PAS is seen to be fair and equitable, and that employment practices are compliant in terms of legislation, and ideally good practice. PAS could look to commission some expert HR input to review relevant issues and concerns, which could include a market rate review.

Opportunities

All consultees, and most survey respondents, felt there were opportunities to develop the work of PAS over the next five years, although many felt that centralised core funding was a fundamental prerequisite to the future of the Scheme.

The full report sets out a range of suggested opportunities that emerged through the review process across the following themes:

  • Legislative
  • Project
  • PAS products
  • Fundraising
  • Branding
  • Events/exhibitions
  • Historic Environment Record
  • Research
  • Licencing
  • Structural