Detail from LS Lowry's Huddersfield (c) Huddersfield Art Gallery

Kirklees Council debates future of heritage service

Patrick Steel, 16.09.2014
Collections could be separated from buildings
Kirklees Council, which announced last month that it may close three of its seven museums to meet budget savings of £531,000 by 2017-18, yesterday debated options for its culture service.

The report Your Heritage – Always on View, which formed the basis of the debate, suggested that “no matter what we raise in terms of income… not all the museums will survive as museums”.

Instead, it was suggested, the collections could be separated from the buildings and the council could think more creatively about ways in which to make collections more accessible to the public, including collections held in store.

The council is also testing “conscience charging” at Oakwell Hall Country Park, exploring partnerships with local artists’ groups and other local authorities in the region, and developing income-generating events.

Earlier this year councillors voted against reviewing the council’s artworks with a view to possible sales.

Asked whether this had been debated, Ruth Redfern, the director of communities, transformation and change at Kirklees Council, said: “It is not about selling the family treasures – we could only sell something once anyway, and that would plug a bit of a hole for one year.

“Instead it is about us recognising Kirklees’s position – we are not Venice, but we do have a fantastic history, and we have a strength with partners across West Yorkshire that can make us a destination.

“It is about us creatively taking the art and the collections to people and to groups, about treating the buildings as separate to the collections and thinking how they can best be used – weddings is an obvious example – but ultimately protecting our legacy.”

Public consultation on the broad principles of the budget options started on 8 September and runs for four weeks, closing on 3 October. A further public consultation on some of the specific budget options will run from 27 October to 5 December.