Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead

Uncertain future for Wirral museums

Gareth Harris, 13.01.2014
Heritage group says cuts will close down service
Museum services in the Wirral, Merseyside, are at risk because of budget cuts proposed by the borough council, a local heritage group has warned.

In December, Wirral Council proposed cutting the funding to Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead by £250,000 in 2014/15 and £150,000 in 2015/16. The gallery shares a budget with the Birkenhead Priory, which it manages.

The council has also proposed cutting funding to the Wirral Tramway and Transport Museum by £124,000 for 2014/15.  

“The current annual budget of the Williamson and the Priory is in the region of £600,000, so a cut of £400,000 would leave just £200,000 per annum, which would in effect close down the service," a spokesman for the Wirral History and Heritage Association said.

The council's budget for 2014/15 is due to be finalised next month.

A council spokesman said: “The council is facing very challenging financial circumstances affecting all services. We are currently exploring options for the future running of the Williamson Art Gallery, but the intention is very much to keep the gallery open.”

A business plan for future operations is currently being developed, he added.

The local Labour MP, Frank Field, has helped to establish the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Action Group, which will focus on how the gallery is run.

Sharon Granville, executive director of collections and estate at National Museums Liverpool, and Colin Simpson, principal museums officer at Wirral Museums Service, are among the 10 members.

The council is also in discussions with a volunteer organisation about taking over the management of the Wirral Transport Museum.

Last summer the council announced plans to spend £1.3m on refurbishing the Williamson Art Gallery.

In October the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £393,100 to Birkenhead Priory, boosting plans to turn the historic site in to a multi-purpose community space.