Norwich Castle Museum could be part of merged services

Three services in East Anglia consider merging

Patrick Steel, Issue 111/06, p4, 01.06.2011
Norfolk, Colchester and Ipswich services could become a single trust
Museum services in Norfolk, Ipswich and Colchester could merge to become a single trust. Winckworth Sherwood has been commissioned to carry out an options appraisal on whether a full merger is viable.

The law firm is expected to make recommendations at the end of July. Vanessa Trevelyan, Norfolk’s head of museums, said: “The idea is to make the best economies of scale and build on our partnership.

“We would keep the advantages of our relationship with our local authority, which would continue to own the buildings and assets, but gain the advantages of being more independent.”

Operating as an independent trust would save Norfolk Museums £500,000 on rates, but Peter Berridge, museum manager at Colchester and Ipswich, said the economies of scale could even free up enough money to take on more staff.

“Although we are the smaller partner, we believe there are lots of benefits for all three services,” he said. “As the largest services in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, we can tell the story of the region.”

An independent trust would have more chance of becoming a core museum, Berridge acknowledged,  but he insisted it was not the main impetus behind the appraisal.

“If we do not become a core museum, we will need the partnership more than ever,” he said.

A source close to the services said sharing expertise would not be a problem, but it was not known whether they had the assets to generate enough income independent of their local authorities.