Council cuts lead to reduced opening hours at William Morris Gallery - Museums Association

Council cuts lead to reduced opening hours at William Morris Gallery

Waltham Forest Council’s plans to cut £56,000 from its museum service, which includes the William Morris Gallery and the Vestry …
Patrick Steel
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Waltham Forest Council's plans to cut £56,000 from its museum service, which includes the William Morris Gallery and the Vestry House Museum, will mean reduced opening hours for both venues.

Currently the gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday and the first Sunday of every month, and the museum is open Monday to Saturday. Under the new proposals both venues will only open Thusrday and Friday afternoons and all day Saturday and Sunday.

The proposals will also mean new roles and reduced hours for staff at the two museums and the council is planning to have one team working across both sites.

David Gaimster, the general secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London, said: 'I understand that the proposal is for one curator to work across both collections. The gallery is the jewel in the crown of the arts and crafts movement. The proposals represent a severe reduction in curatorial care, and the society is concerned about future access to the collections for research and use.'

Martin Stuchfield, the chairman of the Friends of the William Morris Gallery, said that the plans had been put forward without consultation with staff or stakeholders. 'Morale amongst staff is incredibly low.
'The staff are low-paid as it is. If you cut their hours, they will not be able to afford to continue in employment. This level of cuts will inevitably lead to the museum's closure.'

Lorna Lee, the head of museums and galleries at Waltham Forest Council, said that the council was embarking on a consultation that would involve the staff. But she added: 'There could be redundancies because we don't know yet if people will want to go into the new roles.'

Chris Smith, the former culture secretary, has warned that the cuts could adversely affect a £4m bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Smith said: 'I hope that the HLF doesn't say the council is cutting back so we're not going to help. The William Morris Gallery is extremely important, especially in a part of London that has relatively few mu-seum or gallery facilities.'

The HLF bid, which is in the pre-application stage, would go towards providing disability access to Water House, and would also regenerate the park and grounds around the gallery.

Patrick Steel
www.keepourmuseumsopen.org.uk

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