Council urged to reverse ‘shortsighted’ cuts to Erewash Museum
Campaigners are urging councillors to row back on a proposed £50,000 cut to Erewash Museum in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, warning the reduction will cause the service to “die a slow death”.
The cut was proposed at Erewash Borough Council's budget meeting last November but has only just emerged to the public. The Friends of Erewash Museum group say they and other stakeholders were not informed of the decision and there was no public consultation.
The budget reduction would see the museum’s opening times reduced from 24 to 15 hours per week, along with the loss of one and a half posts. This would mean the museum would only open for three days a week instead of four, and for one hour less per day.
The council has said visitor footfall at the museum is still half of what it was before the pandemic and it is reducing opening hours to focus on more popular times of day.
Museums Journal understands that one of the museum's two front-of-house staff has already left because they did not wish to compete with their colleague for the job. The post of museum manager is being reduced to a part-time role.
The cuts will make it difficult for the museum to generate income, run events or continue its community outreach work, said Kate Crossley, the chair of the Friends, who said the group had been “blindsided” to learn of the decision.
“It’s so shortsighted because the museum has so much more potential to generate income,” she told Museums Journal.
Crossley said the institution’s work with vulnerable members of the community, where it acts as a hub for people suffering from loneliness, isolation and mental health issues, “encapsulates everything that’s good about museums”.
The museum has been shortlisted for Community Engagement Programme of the Year at this year’s Museum + Heritage Awards for its Christmas Toy Bank scheme, which collected toys for local families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
The museum is also due to run a £100,000 programme of cultural events and activities over the next two years with money from the Shared Prosperity Fund, and is planning to submit a further funding bid to Arts Council England.
Crossley questioned how the museum would be able to continue with these plans with a skeleton staff, when capacity was already stretched to the limit.
“There’s a strong disconnect between the council’s pleasure in what culture and events can bring to the borough and the amount they’re willing to pay to professionalise the arts offer,” she said. “The resources have never been enough to get the outcomes they wanted.”
The Friends group has launched a petition calling on the council to reverse the planned cuts.
“My big concern is that we have so little time to fight the changes,” she said. The group intends to present the petition to council officials next week and hopes the upcoming council elections will help stall the decision. “If people live in the area, please write to your candidates for the local council,” she urged.
“We are disappointed to learn of Erewash Borough Council’s proposed cuts to Erewash Museum,” said India Divers, policy and campaigns officer at the Museums Association.
“We appreciate that this is a financially challenging time for local authorities and difficult decisions are having to be made to balance budgets. However, we would have liked to have seen a public consultation to allow local communities to have a say on matters that impact them.
“Erewash Museum does fantastic work with its local communities which is demonstrated by its programme, Christmas Toy Bank, being shortlisted for Community Engagement Programme of the Year at this year’s Museum + Heritage Awards.
“Reducing staffing and opening hours will have a detrimental effect on the museum’s local communities and limit the museum’s ability to do meaningful work that makes a positive difference to peoples’ lives. We urge the council to rethink its proposed cuts.”
Erewash Borough Council has been contacted for comment.
Absolutely the same with our museum in South Wales. Torfaen Museum has been hit with continued cuts since 2018 and now core-funding is at just £50k. From April 1st 2023 we will be open just 9 hours a week with Curator and Assistant Curator on reduced wages while the council’s forward plan highlights the value of places on heritage and culture. Very grateful to have received support and grants from Welsh Government and the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to enable us to carry out otherwise impossible community engagement work.