IWM London forced to close until July 2014

Unexpected infrastructure work to push up redevelopment costs
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Rebecca Atkinson
Imperial War Museum (IWM) London will close to visitors for the first six months of 2014 after ongoing building work unexpectedly revealed major infrastructure issues.

The museum reopened in July after being closed for the first half of 2013 while major refurbishment works took place.

But after work commenced on the infrastructure of the building, it was discovered that a number of systems, including the electrics, air conditioning, and digital media cabling, needed to be substantially upgraded.

The additional work will see the south London museum close from 6 January until July – one month before the official start of the first world war centenary commemorations.

The cost of the redevelopment project has been revised in light of the upgrade. The initial project budget was £35m, but the museum is now forecasting costs of £40m.  

A spokeswoman for IWM London said: “We continue to actively fundraise and have now secured £36.7m. The project is fully affordable and we are confident that we will raise the remaining £3.3m from our supporters.”

The museum group has also announced that it will outsource its visitor services and security across its five sites (IWM London, IWM North, IWM Duxford, Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast) from 1 April. About 100 staff are employed by the group in visitor services and security roles.

The three-year contract, which is worth between £11m, has been awarded to the Shield Group following a tender process. The company also has contracts for the Mansion House and the Guildhall in London.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, warned the privatisation would put the museum group’s reputation and first world war commemorations at risk.

"We believe that gifting this work to a profit-making company will lead to jobs and standards being cut, and risks a knowledge drain from these highly prized visitor attractions," he said.

In a statement, IWM said the decision to award the Sheild Group the contract was “based on ensuring that our long-term quality needs can be satisfied by a provider who delivers optimum value for money and also excellent career opportunities for staff”.

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