Not just Florence's National Central Library: all the ministry's cuts for 2015

A very concise list of major cuts to culture according to the 2015 budget for the Ministry of Culture.

An article, published yesterday in Repubblica and signed by Tomaso Montanari, in which the author rails against the cuts in funding for the National Central Library of Florence, which goes from more than one million euros in 2014 to a mere 196,397 euros allocated by the 2015 budget (less than what the ministry granted to the latest movie starring Belén Rodriguez), is causing quite a stir these hours. Unfortunately, the National Central Library of Florence is not the only institution for which the budget includes cuts.

What, meanwhile, is the budget? It is the “main document for the allocation, management and monitoring of the State’s financial resources,” as it is explained on the State Accounting Office website. Through the budget, Parliament authorizes the government “to draw down and use public resources in its administrative activity.” It is approved annually and summarizes both the revenues and expenditures of the state government over the following three-year period. However, only the appropriations for the first year of the three-year period constitute limits on spending authorization, and are therefore the ones to be referred to for the current year. By comparing the 2014 budget for expenditures of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, and the same document for 2015, we can derive the figures disclosed by Montanari in his article in Repubblica. Regarding the National Central Library of Florence, it must be said that the disbursement of more than one million euros in 2014 was the result of a precise policy of former Minister Massimo Bray, who planned to strengthen the state library system, so much so that in 2013 the expenditure for the same library was about 350,000 euros. The 2014 budget itself, however, included a large cut for 2015, to 248,061 euros, later reduced to 196,397 euros with the approval of the 2015 budget: so, in fact, the cut was widely expected, and it was the million euros in 2014 that was configured as something, alas, out of the ordinary. Of course, one has to wonder whether with Bray still on the government team, and perhaps with a different council president, the work of strengthening Italian libraries could have continued and perhaps strengthened, with similar allocations. The fact remains, however, that the Library has suffered this huge cut, effectively forcing the institution to live on a paltry sum when compared to its enormous importance.

La Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze
The National Central Library of Florence

However, the cuts also affect other items in the chapter. To remain on the subject of books, big cuts also for the National Computerized Library Service: it goes from one million euros in 2014 to about 760,000 in 2015. Still on the information technology theme, investments are cut: the 908,335 euros of 2014 become 740,370 in 2015 (and it’s a good thing we should be modernizing libraries). However, if the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome breathes (allocated 200,000 euros more than in 2014), the Library for the Blind “Regina Margherita” in Monza sees its funds cut by more than 800,000 euros (from 3.3 million in 2014 to 2.5 in 2015). Also cut by about 100,000 euros (from 1.7 million in 2014 to 1.6 in 2015) are funds for thepurchase of books, documents, manuscripts and publications.

But let’s turn to other areas. Do not be surprised by the mighty differences noted between 2015 and 2014 for the protection of the archaeological heritage and that of the fine arts, architecture, contemporary art and landscape: simply, a large part of the staff pertaining to these areas, has been reassigned to new directorates general (such as that of museums, nonexistent until 2014) created by the Franceschini reform. One then has to consult the individual chapter headings to discover that, in any case, the cuts also affect areas other than book heritage protection. Despite the fact that archaeology is not doing so badly, with the 200,000 euros more in 2015 for the extraordinary maintenance of sites (from 6 million to 6.2) and the doubling of funds for inventories (from 135,417 to 328,813) and for the Great Pompeii project (from 556,000 to 1,080,202), the cuts are felt especially on art heritage. The Great Brera project, for example, will receive 70,000 euros less (from 1.974 to 1.905 million), funds for restoration will have cuts of 200,000 euros (from 1.1 million to 920,000), those for inventorying will have to do without 100,000 euros (from 524 to 424.000), and above all, funds for thepurchase of works of art, expropriation and the exercise of the right of first refusal will be cut by as much as 700,000 euros (from 2.6 million to 1.9), although an endowment of about 300,000 euros is established, for the same purposes, at the General Directorate for Contemporary Art and Architecture, created by the Franceschini reform.

On the enhancement side, funds for urgent interventions on endangered sites are halved (from 316,279 euros to 183,571), while on the heritage protection side a further halving should be noted, that for restorations of archival assets (it goes from 315,846 euros in 2014 to 130,775 at present). However, as much as 30 million euros are allocated for the "Major cultural heritage projects,“ the plan that ”identifies assets or sites of exceptional cultural interest and national importance for which it is necessary and urgent to carry out organic interventions of protection, redevelopment, enhancement and cultural promotion, including for tourism purposes.“ It has yet to start, so we’ll see what it brings. However, in the final analysis, the 2015 budget contains a cash forecast that is about 60 million euros less than in 2014: thus, the cuts in the ministry’s appropriations do not stop. Those who would like to delve deeper into the budgets of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage can go to the State Accounting Department’s website and select ”budgets,“ then ”financial budget," or follow the links we have provided above.

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