The Science Museum in London

Vaizey calls for BIS to help fund Science Museum Group

Rebecca Atkinson, 02.07.2013
MPs' inquiry also reveals Bradford museum was earmarked for closure
Ed Vaizey has told MPs that he has contacted the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss future funding for the Science Museum Group (SMG).

The culture minister was speaking at a culture, media and sport select committee inquiry into the future of the group, which also revealed that Bradford’s National Media Museum (NMM) was the northern site earmarked for closure. The other two sites in the north are the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the National Railway Museum in York.

Ian Blatchford, director of the SMG, revealed last month that one of its northern sites might close if funding was cut by 10% in the government’s spending review.

Although Vaizey later said that none of the three museums would close following a smaller-than-expected 5% cut in the spending review, the controversial issue sparked several campaigns to save the museums.

The select committee today heard evidence from Vaizey and Blatchford about SMG’s funding difficulties, the importance of each of its museums on a local and national basis, the potential for more commercial exploitation to make up the shortfall, and other possible funding sources.

Philip Davies, a member of the committee and the MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, asked Vaizey whether BIS might be able to offer a better funding settlement for the SMG than the department for culture.

Vaizey said it didn’t make sense to break up the portfolio of national museums, but that this didn’t preclude each museum from developing relationships with other departments.

“I have no obsession with territory and I would welcome partners across my portfolio who can help make things better," he said. "And so I welcome discussions with BIS to look at how they can work more closely with the SMG. It’s plain that BIS should be involved.”

Vaizey added that he had written to David Willetts, the minister for science, regarding the museum group.

Bradford

During the questioning, both Vaizey and Blatchford said falling visitor numbers at the NMM meant the site was a particular focus in discussions about a possible closure.

But Blatchford denied accusations that the fall in visitors numbers in Bradford was part of a strategy of “managed decline” to bring the museum to London.

"If we really felt the NMM needed to ebb away we would not have made management changes,” he said. “If we wanted it to fail then we would have done nothing. It is a sign of faith in Bradford, not an absence of commitment."

Vaizey said he regretted not speaking out earlier amid press and public “furore” about the proposed closure, and also that the event has given the perception of a north-south divide.

Tony Reeves, Kersten England and Vicky Rosin, the chief executives of Bradford, York and Manchester councils respectively, were also questioned during the committee’s enquiry.

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