Stockport museums at risk as council consults on their future
Geraldine Kendall Adams, 07.11.2019
Staff on redundancy notice ahead of decision on restructure
Museums in Stockport face closure, reduced opening hours and increased admission fees if proposals by Stockport Council get the go-ahead next month.
The council is consulting the public on a major restructure of its museum service to make savings of £150,000. It needs to reduce its overall budget by £10m in 2020-21.
Staff at the council’s seven museum sites have reportedly been put on redundancy notice and given until 25 November to apply for voluntary redundancy. According to local press, staff have been informed that they will lose at least three hours’ work a week and may have to reapply for their jobs on reduced hours, with many fearing the council’s plans are a “done deal” in spite of the ongoing consultation.
The proposals include the closure of two museums: Stockport Museum and Chadkirk Chapel. Under the plans, Stockport Museum’s family gallery would be relocated to Stockport Town Hall, while local organisations would be given the opportunity to run Chadkirk Chapel as a visitor and refreshment venue without the museum offer.
The consultation says: “The Stockport Museum building, which opened in 2005, does not play a major role in the town’s heritage. With the exception of the popular family gallery, the site has struggled to establish itself either with residents or visitors to Stockport.”
It adds: “Chadkirk Chapel is a popular refreshment facility for walkers, but its offer as a museum is limited.”
The council is proposing to reduce opening hours at its other sites: Bramall Hall, Air Raid Shelters, the War Memorial Art Gallery, Staircase House, and the Hatworks Museum, the latter of which is closed for renovation until 2020.
Changes include reducing opening hours to weekends only at Staircase House, and to four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, at the council’s other museum sites. Schools and pre-booked visits would still take place outside of those times. The council also plans to cease opening on bank holidays at most of its sites.
Meanwhile, admission charges would be increased at the council’s fee-charging sites, and children under 16 would no longer go free. An admission charge would also be introduced at the currently free Hatworks site when it opens following its refurbishment.
The plans have sparked a backlash from the public, with more than 4,000 people signing a petition against the closure of Stockport Museum.
The public consultation closes on 18 November and the results will inform the council’s budget-setting meeting in December.
In a statement, Kate Butler, Stockport Council’s cabinet member for citizen focus and engagement, said: “With a savings target of £10m required for the next financial year, we regrettably have to put forward difficult proposals such as this, which proposes to reduce the museums budget by £150,000 per year.
“Along with this proposal, we’re consulting with museums staff on the broad proposals and separately with staff whose hours or working patterns might change should the proposals be implemented. The feedback from each of these consultation exercises will be evaluated and will be used to inform councillors’ decision-making in December 2019.”