Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham council unveils 15% cut to museums

Rebecca Atkinson, 19.12.2014
Petition warns of “substantial reduction in public access”
Birmingham council has proposed cutting funding to Birmingham Museums Trust by £850,000 a year from April, with total cuts of £2.55m expected by 2017-18.

April’s 15% cut to funding will result in a “substantial reduction in public access” to one or more of the trust’s heritage sites, according to a petition set up to fight the proposals. Learning and outreach activities will also be hit.

The council is proposing to reduce staff numbers at the trust, increase fundraising and introduce “new arrangements for the management of the heritage sites”.  

In a factsheet detailing the proposals, the council said that there will be a reduction in public programming, loans and certain aspects of collections management.

“This suggested reduction in funding is likely to affect the scope of what Birmingham Museums Trust is able to offer as a museums service,” said Ellen McAdam, the director of Birmingham Museums Trust.

“We are now reviewing operational plans within the changing resources, and will continue to focus on income generation and growing audiences.”

Birmingham Museums Trust receives 33% of its funding from the council. It is also an arts council Major Partner Museum.

The £188m Library of Birmingham will see its funding slashed by 50% in the council’s proposals, with a £1.5m reduction in 2015-16, followed by cuts of £3.5m in 2016-17 and in 2017-18. The council wants to reduce the library’s opening hours from 73 to 40 hours a week, cut staff numbers and spend less money on new books.

The library’s outreach and community engagement work will cease, other than where external funding and resources can be identified.

Birmingham council, which is the UK’s largest local authority, will run a public consultation until 12 January. It plans to cut 6,000 jobs and make savings of more than £300m by 2017-18. In October, the council identified arts and museums as one of its highest priority services ahead of the public consultation.

Leeds council has also unveiled its budget proposals, which outline £76.1m of savings in 2015-16, including £380,000 across sport and culture. As well as reducing staff numbers and expenditure, the council wants to reduce the museum service's acquisitions budget by £40,000.

“I warned in October that the budget for next year was going to be the toughest yet and the proposals being put forward are as brutal as I feared,” said Keith Wakefield, the leader of Leeds City Council.

“Local authorities simply have nowhere else to go now but make the grim choices they have been avoiding for the last four years.”

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