Projects hit by staff cuts

AN archaeology service that runs a range of projects is set to be downgraded due to budget cuts.

Staff numbers at Tees Archaeology will be slashed from April after its budget was cut by 24 per cent.

The Hartlepool-based service employs five full time workers and one part time. But it will be cut to just three.

The service is shared between local authroities in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton although Hartlepool Borough Council is the lead authority.

Events last year included 36 guided walks, public talks, open events and there were also excavations in Middlesbrough, Saltburn, North Yorkshire Moors and recording of Second World War sites at Hart, on the outskirts of Hartlepool.

Tees Archaeology keeps a record of the region’s “historic environment”, which includes historic buildings and sites and gives planning advice to local authorities.

There are 7,986 sites on the historic environment record.

Budget cuts mean that from April the focus will be on protecting the historic environment rather than engaging with the public.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism, met with council officers to discuss the future of Tees Archaeology.

A Hartlepool Borough Council report said: “At the beginning of 2010-11, the service had a staff of five core-funded staff and one part-time administrative post based on external funding.

“The proposed budget for the year was £178,424 gross with a net contribution from the partner authorities of £162,424.”

But following budget reductions as a result of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the service has seen its staff cut to three with a net budget of £122,960.

It added that officers will look for external funding for a series of volunteer-based projects in the region that promote archaeology.

Coun Thompson said: “It is sad that it has to be downgraded due to budget constraints, but that is the way of the world at the moment.”

Officers stressed there is still a commitment to provide talks to the public.