DORSET’S joint archives service is expected to suffer another stand-still budget for the coming financial year - a real terms cut.

The Dorchester-based service now employs almost half the staff it had in 2006 while at the same time having more work. It is already one of the cheapest archives to run in the country.

Councillors on the joint archive board have now agreed a stand-still budget of £550,800, the sixth year in a row not to see any real-term growth. This represents a 20.8per cent cut measured against official inflation figures since 2012/13.

Despite the proposed ‘no increase’ budget the service will have to find a 2.75 per cent nationally agreed pay rise for staff in 2020 and a £3,000 increase in business rates. Pay is the biggest revenue cost for the service, expected to rise to £434,600 for 2020-21.

Although the service is a combined one with Dorset Council and the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, the joint board heard that Dorset Council has met all the capital costs associated with the Dorchester, Bridport Road building - including £200,000 of improvement work for the current financial year to improve storage space while at the same time reducing fuel costs by modernising the heating and ventilation system.

A report to the meeting concluded: “The joint archive service provides excellent value for money, generates significant income and delivers high quality work and projects.  Understanding the future scenario for the service is critical to its ability to best plan its future and to assess and prioritise its functions.  Any reduction in budget will necessarily have a direct and measurable negative impact on the service’s ability to meet the demands placed upon, particularly if it moves forward with a large capital project.”