What is Going On at the Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage Office?

The Northamptonshire (England) Record Office reportedly has made drastic reductions in their services, all without any public consultation. My information is all second-hand. However, I am told that the Record Office management announced last week that they are cutting free access to the public search room to three mornings a week. Previously, it was open three days per week.

Free access is now available only on Tuesday-Thursday mornings, 9am-1pm, and on 7 Saturdays in the year.

If anyone wants to use the archives outside those hours they have to pay £31.50 an hour (roughly $41.37 US per hour).

As you might expect, this announcement caused an uproar amongst genealogists, historians, and others who use the services of the Northamptonshire Record Office. There is an online petition to Save Northamptonshire Record Office at http://bit.ly/2u54klq.

The page for the online petition states:

This decision:

severely limits access to archives of international importance;

stops academics, students, and family and local historians from conducting proper, extended research;

prevents local residents from connecting with their heritage, and charges them twice for a service they already pay for through council tax;

restricts visitors from further afield, who want to make the most of their time;

creates a two-tier system, with charges prohibitive for most users.

This decision goes against the spirit of open access in research, and sets a dangerous precedent for repositories of public documents.

The County Council’s plan for 2014-19 pledged to ‘continue to celebrate Northamptonshire’s rich cultural heritage’. Please hold them to that pledge by asking them to reverse this terrible decision.

As of the time I am writing these words, the online petition already has 3,362 signed supporters. To succeed, it needs many more.

If you have an opinion about the reduction in hours, please sign the online petition to Save Northamptonshire Record Office at http://bit.ly/2u54klq.

2 Comments

One of the myths of UK taxation is that in paying what is called Council Tax, we householders pay for local services. The reality is that on average it covers about 15%. One of the other elements is a grant from Central Government which has been and is continuing to be, savagely cut. The abilty to increase Council Tax has also been severely constrained without resorting to a referendum
As a result councils are pulling back from providing services which they are not obliged by law to provide. This can mean ending them completely or imposing charges as they endeavour to maintain the core responsibilites of schools, social care, refuse collection.

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    For those who are unaware Council Tax is basically a domestic property tax. Non-domestic rates are the business equivalent. There used to be domestic rates, but in the 1980s various changes were made to the taxation system that proved controversial enough to provoke riots. Council tax has different parts, called precepts. For example where I live there is a town council, district council, county council, fire service and police precept. In areas like London there are also amounts to cover things like the London Assembly.

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