EXPERTS are demanding reassurances that vital historical artifacts will be protected after job loses were announced at the trust tasked with protecting them.

Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT), which was set up as an independent charity in 2014 to take over the running of Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council assets, runs museums around the county including Winchester City Museum and the Westgate Museum.

But now the future of those artifacts is feared to be in doubt after trust revealed it will need to cut 10 per cent of its workforce in order to meet revised forecasts following a reduction in grants.

A letter sent to staff, seen by the Chronicle, shows that the number of redundancies relates to 13 full-time employees and that the trust will faces cuts in local authority funding over five years, starting with a loss of £436,000 in the year to April 2019, but this has not yet been confirmed by the trust.

Professor of medieval archaeology and director of the Winchester Research Unit, Martin Biddle criticised HCT chief executive Dr Janet Owen for her "opaque" comments following the news.

In a statement, she said: "In order to meet the planned reductions in local authority grants that were agreed when HCT was established, there will be an approximate 10% overall reduction in headcount. This is being delivered through a fitness for purpose organisational review which focuses more resources from central teams into delivering local benefit.

"We are replacing our current arrangement of central specialist subject curators and exhibition officers with cultural experience roles that will be responsible for curatorship and exhibitions within each work stream."

However, Prof Biddle said: "What I want to know is will HCT guarantee the knowledge and experience will not be lost. I hope it is possible, but they are using language I cannot understand. What the devil does it mean?

"I have not been able to get the assurances, I'm concerned with the opacity."

Those concerns were reiterated by former Hampshire county councillor Michael Woodhall, who said: "The organisations I'm involved in are very concerned. When we handed over to the Hampshire Cultural Trust the most important objective was to protect the collections."

The Chronicle understands that formal consultations over the job loses are due to finish this week.

Among the museums it manages are the Winchester City Museum, the Eastleigh Museum and the Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham.

The trust also looks after the Bursledon Windmill, Chilcomb House in Winchester, the Forest Arts Centre in New Milton and the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham.

A spokesperson on behalf of both Hampshire and Winchester councils said: “As founding partners, we strongly support Hampshire Cultural Trust’s mission to promote Hampshire as a great cultural county, to reinvigorate our museum collections, and make them more accessible to more local people.

“Like other organisations that receive public funding support, the Trust has to face the challenges that ongoing national austerity brings. However, residents should be reassured that we play a full and active role on the Board of Trustees, which has set a clear direction for the Trust to reach out to local communities and enhance our cultural heritage even more. We are confident that the Trust will continue to provide a strong cultural offer across the county and deliver great opportunities for the residents of Hampshire to enjoy.”