Cuts put regional museums at risk

Institutions in West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Shrewsbury are under threat
Nicola Sullivan
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A number of museums have been earmarked for closure as local authorities factor austerity cuts into future budgets.

Museums in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, are under threat as the local authority looks to make savings on the service of £531,000 by 2017-18.

Kirklees Council, which currently operates five museums and one art gallery, has proposed reducing the service to three institutions and cutting opening hours.

This means the future is uncertain for Tolson Museum, Oakwell Hall, Red House Museum, Bagshaw Museum and Dewsbury Museum.
 
According to local media, campaigners are also fighting to save the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire after Broxtowe Borough Council put the property up for rent. The move follows proposals last year to close the centre and comes despite a £20,000 investment from Arts Council England and the area’s Unesco city of literature status.

Shropshire Council is proposing to cut Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery’s budget from £290,000 in 2015-16 to £200,000 in 2016-17. The council’s financial strategy report has forecasted that the 2017-18 net budget for museums and tourism will be zero.  

The Durham Light Infantry Museum, which holds items covering 200 years of military history, will close on 1 April. There has been a high profile campaign to save it, but the council said low visitor numbers and austerity cuts were among the reasons behind its decision to close it.

The collection, which belongs to the museum’s trustees but is under the care of the council, will be moved to storage facilities in nearby Spennymoor in February. The council is in discussion with Durham University over the possibility of a five-year agreement that would see part of the collection on display at Palace Green Library.

Bede’s World in Jarrow closed its doors on 12 February due to a lack of funds. A statement on the museum’s website said: “Steps are being taken to put the company into administration through the appointment of an insolvency practitioner.

"The Trustee Board have made arrangements for the immediate care of the farm animals and the security of the site. The board would like thank all staff, volunteers and stakeholders for their hard work and dedication to Bedes World.”

According to an article in the Independent, writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has condemned the closure as “depressing” and another example of London giving the North a “kick in the teeth”.

The demolition of Coalville’s Snibston Discovery Museum, which closed in July after a legal challenge to save it failed, began this week. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that it will cost £180,000 to dismantle the site.


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