The National Archives, PRO, and government as a whole
The subject of my last blog post was the size of the Civil Service, and it occurred to me that an interesting proxy for this was The National Archives itself. After all, it is somewhat of a rarity for a government body. Firstly, it has a very long history. Second, its responsibilities have remained largely the same. And third, its level of activity tends to reflect that of the people who create records. My question therefore is: to what extent does an organisation like ours represent in microcosm the wider history of the public sector? As the record keeper, we have been obliged to deal with the scale of the civil service throughout our history.
The simplest indicator for any organisation in the public sector is funding but, first, a brief comment on my methodology. As the funding record becomes patchier before the Public Records Act of 1958, I’ve focused on the period after this. There are moments during the 1970s when constructing our first Kew building clearly became too much for the chaps in finance so they just gave up giving any figures for administrative costs. We have had to estimate these from previous years, along with some significant and arbitrary property charges in the 1970s and 1990s.
Further, I have not grappled with depreciation and all these funding figures include it. While accounting treatment will have changed from year to year, on the average I assume it will all come out in the wash. From 2003, The National Archives has also taken on around £3 million of extra responsibilities. However, our revenue has also increased significantly. On that basis, the figures I am using are the net cost of The National Archives to the taxpayer.