Walsall Council proposes to close museum - Museums Association

Walsall Council proposes to close museum

But proposal could affect £50,000 HLF grant
Patrick Steel
Walsall Council is proposing to close Walsall Museum to make £70,000 in savings in its 2014/15 budget.

But the proposals have raised questions over the status of the museum’s permanent exhibition, The Changing Face of Walsall, which celebrates the history of the town and was installed in 2008 with a £50,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant. If the proposals go ahead then the HLF could claim the money back.

Councillor Anthony Harris, portfolio holder for leisure and culture for Walsall Council Coalition, said: “The budget savings put forward are only proposals at this stage, so we cannot yet confirm whether the museum will close.

"If it were to close we would look at ways to display some items from the collections at other venues throughout the borough as part of longer term plans to continue to share Walsall's history and heritage.

“Walsall’s museum service also includes the Local History Centre and the Leather Museum. Within the capital programme, the council is seeking to increase income for its museums service as a whole, whilst making additional savings across museums services through efficiencies of £29,700.”

An HLF spokesperson said: “It is disappointing news that Walsall Council may be considering closing Walsall Museum.

"HLF has a contract with the council and would - and could - only take action if the elements of the museum it had funded that were still under conditions were adversely affected. We are in regular contact with the council and will be discussing future plans further.”

The budget proposals would also see the deletion of the post of community engagement assistant at the New Art Gallery Walsall. The post is currently vacant.

New Art Gallery Walsall HLF bid

The New Art Gallery Walsall is bidding for around £400,000 of funding under the arts council’s Small Capital Grants scheme to buy new temperature control and lighting systems, create a new storage area, and refurbish the museum’s foyer to improve its retail offer.

If successful, director Stephen Snoddy predicts the gallery would save around £100,000 a year on maintenance and storage costs, making energy efficiencies, and increasing income.

If the bid is successful then the council would contribute £59,000 in 2014/15 and £41,000 in 2015/16 in capital funding. The outcome of the bid will be revealed in July 2014.

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