Museums face closure as councils set 2015-16 budgets

Museums in Newport, Walsall and Bromley among those at risk
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Councils across the UK are considering the closure of a number of museums in their draft budget proposals for 2015-16.

In Wales, Newport City Council is proposing to close Newport Museum and Art Gallery in its plans for the next financial year. The council needs to save £10m next year.

The closure proposal would see the museum’s collection moved out of the building and only exhibited at special events, and would result in 13 full-time posts being made redundant. The council is also considering a cut of £83,000 next year to the budget for its ongoing project to preserve and reassemble the medieval Newport Ship, which would result in the loss of two full-time posts.

A public consultation on the draft budget plan will open next week until the end of January 2015.

In the West Midlands, Walsall City Council, which needs to find savings of £86m over the next four years, is proposing to close Walsall Museum and move its collections into storage in order to save £70,000.

It is also planning to cut winter opening hours at Walsall New Art Gallery and reduce the city’s Local History Centre and Archive Service to “statutory requirements”.

Walsall Museum faced a similar threat last year but was saved after a public campaign against its closure. An online public consultation on the museum closure will run until 21 December.

Meanwhile in Bromley, London, more than 500 parents and teachers have signed a petition to prevent the closure of Bromley Museum, fearing it could be targeted in the council’s budget plans next year. The council needs to save £60m over the next four years and is running an online public survey until 7 December that will inform its budget priorities.

Bromley council abandoned a £2.5m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid to modernise the museum earlier this year, saying it could not commit to funding the museum in the long-term due to financial pressures.

Elsewhere, Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust sent a letter last month to Harrow Council in London objecting to its proposal to close Harrow Museum in order to save £150,000 a year.

The museum is currently subject to a Stage 2 HLF bid and has previously received substantial investment to restore its listed farm buildings. “We are nonplussed by the suggestion that this should effectively be thrown away by the closure of the museum,” wrote Rescue's secretary Jo Caruth.

Other councils have put forward further significant cuts to their museum services in the next financial year. In the north-west, Bolton Council has asked its museum and library service to cut between £300,000 and £500,000, saying that savings will be delivered through “reductions in staffing, cash budgets and the potential of a not-for-profit trust model”.

In the East of England, the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon is currently undergoing a move to trust status after being saved from closure last year.

In the south-east, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is planning to cut the budget for Tunbridge Wells Museum by £50,000. Under the council’s cost-saving plans, the museum will close two days a week and undergo a staff restructure.


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Harrow council has now agreed to support Harrow Museum next year. It will propose a business plan in its 2015-16 budget to explore alternative governance arrangements and make the museum self-financing within five years.

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