Local authority museums hit by spending squeeze - Museums Association

Local authority museums hit by spending squeeze

Arts sector is expected to be required to bear brunt of government's 25 per cent funding cuts
Patrick Steel
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Local authority museums are being hit hard by the squeeze on public spending. A Museums Association (MA) survey of the nine Renaissance hubs paints a grim picture of the potential impact of cuts on jobs, services and programmes (see ).

MA director Mark Taylor said: “Local authorities are being asked to make 25 per cent cuts, so we can assume a disproportionate amount will come from the arts because they are not statutory.

“Many local authorities have been cutting and slicing in preparation for the pain ahead.”

The cuts are already being felt across the UK. The Highland Council is looking to save £400,000 by either closing one of the two museums it runs or stopping funding for other museums in the region.

This led to more than 100 people marching through the village of Newtonmore in July in support of the Highland Folk Museum.

In West Bromwich, the Public art gallery is in talks with Arts Council England (ACE) and Sandwell council over its funding for 2011, as a £3m ACE grant comes to an end in March.

Steve Eling, deputy leader of Sandwell council, which has refused to increase funding for the troubled venue, said: “The plan is that the Public should earn its keep.”

Linda Saunders, managing director of the Public, said: “To some extent, what we need depends on what ACE wants us to do. We are looking closely at our budgets and identifying income earning opportunities. It makes sense to start negotiations now, but no one can make promises until after the spending review.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Snoddy, director of the New Art Gallery Walsall, has said funding will be set back more than 10 years if cuts go ahead. He predicted that a best case scenario of 25 per cent cuts over four years, followed by four per cent annual rises, would not result in a return to current budget levels until 2021.

Lincolnshire County Council has announced that it is unlikely it will be able to run Church Farm, Stamford and Grantham museums in their current format beyond the spring of 2011.

A council statement said: “We are open to suggestions from organisations – be they public, private or third sector – about ways to ensure the sustainability of the heritage service in Lincolnshire, and we remain committed to achieving this.”

Local community groups are investigating the creation of a trust for Stamford Museum, as well as looking at ways of creating a volunteer-run service for Grantham Museum.

The council has suggested that some objects from Stamford Museum could be displayed in the town hall or library.

Image: Church Farm; Lincolnshire County Council is doubtful whether it can run the museum in its current form beyond the spring

News analysis: Renaissance cuts would be ruinous, Museums Journal September 2010, p15

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