Council defeats motion to save Snibston - Museums Association

Council defeats motion to save Snibston

Friends group considers legal challenge
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
The closure of Snibston Discovery Museum has moved one step closer after Leicestershire County Council defeated a motion to save the museum at a council budget debate last week.

The motion, which received unanimous cross-party support from opposition councillors, called on the council to reverse its decision and to work with the Friends of Snibston, which is proposing an alternative plan to run the museum as an independent trust.

But the Conservative-run cabinet voted against the motion. In a statement after the meeting, council leader Nick Rushton said: “We cannot afford to keep running Snibston Discovery Museum in its current form at a time when we have to save £120m by 2019.

“Over the last year, we’ve given the Friends of Snibston ample time and information to progress their alternative proposals but, despite three attempts, their proposals remain financially unviable. This judgment is supported by an independent assessor.”

Brian Vollar, the chairman of the Friends of Snibston, said the outcome of the debate was “as expected” and the group would continue to fight the decision. Campaigners staged a protest rally outside the council hall as the meeting was taking place.

“We were heartened by the numbers and range of people who attended the rally and demonstration, with over 100 individuals, including children, parents, unionists, academics as well as local politicians,” Vollar said.

“Despite the vote we remain resolute in our determination to save the museum. A judicial review legal challenge is still being considered and we expect the pre-action protocol to begin very soon.”

Campaigners believe there are strong grounds for a judicial review based on the council’s decision-making process regarding Snibston.

Ahead of the budget debate, Labour councillor Terri Eynon released a statement on the local Labour website accusing the cabinet of “creative accounting” for including management costs shared by other council-run museums in the total figures for Snibston’s budget.

This inflated the museum’s costs to £900,000 in 2013/14, said Eynon, a significant rise on the actual cost of running the museum, which she said came to £331,342 that year.

“They have loaded the budget with nearly half a million of pounds worth of internal bureaucracy. It is not clear how they can magic these costs away by shutting Snibston's doors on the 31 July,” she said.

“None of Leicestershire's museums exists in isolation. Each requires curatorial support to keep its Accreditation and the whole service's Accreditation status intact. This budget suggests that, once Snibston is gone, the rest will be allowed to wither away."

Rushton refuted the figures cited by Eynon, saying the museum had cost a total of £780,000 to run last year and had made a loss of £331,000.

He said: “All the information referred to by Dr Eynon and the Friends has been provided consistently over a period of time – nothing has changed and nothing is new. Their sums don’t add up.”

A council spokeswoman said the council was moving ahead with proposals for a smaller mining museum adjacent to the Snibston site, which it says will save £580,000 per year. But she said the council would reassess this proposal in light of the new government’s comprehensive spending review later this year.

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