As socially and economically harmful austerity measures cut deeper and deeper into culture budgets, they are at least highlighting what can be done to prevent the complete disbandment of archaeological services.
First and foremost, while public archaeology is a good in and of itself, it is also a necessity. If the public doesn’t know we’re there, it won’t notice that we’ve gone, either. (And if the people who hold the purse strings don’t care that we’re there, they won’t care about cutting us off, either.) We need to make government attacks on our work obvious and embarrassing.
Second, while public archaeologists cannot condemn government attacks on them, their representatives can remind officials of their responsibilities (historic environment records (HER), archives, planning advice, etc.).
Nonetheless, even if services already have mostly externally-funded staff, these cuts will make it impossible for those services to fulfil their legal obligations (without yet more external funding). It’s a worrying precedent indeed, especially as there are still more cuts to come.
It’s a doubly (or triply) harmful act of stupidity/cunning, because the internally-funded staff secure the external funding for their workers. So, the cuts make the services both more dependent upon external funding and less able to get it (and thereby less visible and easier to cut again).
Hours, jobs and activities will be cut… And unpaid workers will be exploited to cover the gaps. People in archaeological services don’t want that to happen, but they consider it the lesser of two evils; the alternative is not providing any service at all.
Personally, I think that if the workers aren’t being paid, the work shouldn’t be done. Apart from anything else, if unpaid labour is exploited, that makes the harm less visible and more harm easier to inflict. Regardless, as much as we can limit the cuts, we can limit the exploitation of labour.