EXPERTS are demanding reassurances that vital historical artefacts will be protected after job losses 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 including Winchester City Museum and the Westgate Museum.

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

A letter sent to staff 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.

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 Echo 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:

“Like other organisations that receive public funding support, the trust has to face the challenges that ongoing national austerity brings.

"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.”