20-year rule and records of local interest

The Public Records Act 1958 required relevant government bodies and certain public sector organisations to select and transfer records of historical interest to The National Archives or places of deposit appointed by the Lord Chancellor (from December 2015, by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport) at or before the records reached 30 years old. In 2010, this period was amended to 20 years, and from 2013 this involved government departments transferring their records earlier to The National Archives under the new ’20-year Rule’.

On 1 January 2015 the 20-year rule was extended to include a range of local bodies covered by the Act. This means that the public sector organisations specified in Schedule 1 under the statutory instrument amending the Public Records Act (magistrates’ courts, prisons, coroners’ courts, NHS bodies and some arms-length bodies including the Environment Agency) are now obliged to transfer records selected for permanent preservation to a place of deposit at 20 years after their creation, rather than the previous 30 years. This change is being phased in over a 10 year transition period – so for 2015, records must be selected and transferred by 29 years after their creation (records up to 1986). It will reduce by a further year during each year of the transition period until 2024.

What this change means for places of deposit

Places of deposit should expect to accession increased volumes of public records from the public sector organisations listed in Schedule 1 during the transition period. During 2015 local places of deposit should receive records dating from 1985 and 1986. A further two years’ worth of public records will be transferred each year until 2024 when records from 2003 and 2004 will have been received. The policy is also likely to encourage the deposit of records which were due for transfer under the previous 30-year rule (historic material). To manage this increase, selection and transfer processes will need to be improved.

Training and guidance for transferring records to places of deposit

In collaboration with local places of deposit, The National Archives is running training courses aimed at the public sector organisations affected by the 20 year rule. The training covers the Public Records Act, the 20-year rule changes, and the standards and processes expected for the transfer of records. Details of booking will be posted here.

New guidance is also available for transferring organisations which outlines the necessary procedures for the transfer of records to places of deposit. This includes guidance regarding selection, appraisal, sensitivity review and preparation of records for transfer. Transferring organisations are being reminded that places of deposit may refuse to accept record transfers if they do not comply with national guidance or locally-agreed procedures.

We are also working with the ‘Places of Deposit Reference Group’, other government departments and public sector bodies to raise awareness of the changes, and to update existing sector-specific guidance, such as the NHS Records Management Code.

Places of deposit application

We have developed a new application to help map where NHS organisations, magistrates’ courts, coroners’ and other public sector organisations listed under schedule 1 should be depositing their records. It will also help places of deposit to identify organisations that should be depositing with them.

The application is in a Beta phase of construction. This means that it is ready to use but we are still implementing changes and therefore welcome feedback at this stage of its development. Some new organisations do not yet have a place of deposit appointed to hold their records. If there is an issue in your area, you wish to update your details, or you discover an organisation’s records are wrongly listed at a particular place of deposit please contact Archives Sector Development for further guidance. If, as a place of deposit, you wish to hold types of public records other than those for which you have been approved, you will need to contact us for approval.

Funding for local authority places of deposit

£6.6million of ‘New Burdens’ funding is being made available from central government to cover the increased activity for local authority places of deposit during the ten-year transition period, as well as smaller sums to assist coroners. Distributed via The National Archives, this sum will be divided equally across each year of transition (£660,000 in each year, for each of the ten years) and allocated to places of deposit in proportion to their share of total accessions of public records covered in Schedule 1 in the calendar year, rather than as a set sum per metre of records.

Funding will only be available to places of deposit which are run by or on behalf of local authorities or joint services where the local authority is a major partner. In order to make a claim for this funding, places of deposit will need to report the eligible volume of records for the past calendar year via their annual Accessions return to The National Archives. For consistency with current reporting of 20-year rule transfers from government departments to The National Archives, the reporting unit will be linear metres. For more guidance on eligibility for New Burdens funding, please see our FAQs.

Monitoring progress

In order to measure the progress of the transition to the 20-year rule for the selection and transfer of records to places of deposit, it is important that we monitor the movement of public records.

We will be asking the public sector organisations listed in schedule 1 to report to us the volume of records they have on site and transferred to places of deposit in the last calendar year via an online survey. Local authority places of deposit will be also be asked to provide us with information about the volume of their public records accessioned in their annual Accessions to Repositories return. Additional fields in a revised template will be added to the 2015 accessions survey to allow for this. More guidance about reporting accessions of public records will be made available on the Accessions to Repositories help page. The National Archives may contact archive services or transferring organisations for further information about their return.

Find out more

Further information about the 20 year rule policy is available in our FAQs below. Email us if you would like to find out more.

20-year rule FAQs (PDF, 0.31MB)

A brief guide to transferring Records of Local Interest (PDF, 0.31MB)

Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (2010): 20 year rule: records of local interest (PDF, 0.13MB)

You can find out more about the 20-year rule and how it is implemented across government departments on the following pages:

20-year rule

20-year rule: Record transfer report

NHS information governance toolkit