Displays at the Great North Museum

Newcastle's museums hit by massive council cuts

Rebecca Atkinson, 22.11.2012
City council announces £90m of cuts
Newcastle City Council has announced proposed cuts of £90m that will see it pull funding from the Great North Museum and halve subsidy to the rest of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums service (TWAM).

In a three-year budget proposal, the council says that government funding cuts, greater demand for services and rising cost pressures mean that it will need to cut more than one third of its overall revenue budget – on top of a £100m reduction over the past two years.

This includes a “substantial reduction” in funding for cultural institutions. The overall budget for cultural, library, leisure and customer service centres has been cut from £16.8m to £8.8m.

As a result the Great North Museum, which is run by TWAM but funded through the University of Newcastle, will lose its annual council grant of £150,000 by 2016 – equal to about 12% of its income.

Hatton Gallery will also see all its council funding withdrawn under the proposed cuts, while the Discovery Museum, Tyne and Wear Archives and the Laing Art Gallery will have their funding cut by 50% over the next three years.

Iain Watson, director of TWAM, said: “Obviously this will have an impact on the services we can deliver to people in the region – our learning programmes for schools and families, the exhibitions we stage and the work we do with community groups in the North East will all be looked at as we work to deal with reductions in funding.

“I understand that this is not a decision which Newcastle City Council wished to make but has been forced on it by the local government funding position. I sincerely believe in the positive impact that museums and galleries – and wider arts and culture – has on the local and regional economy, and the lives of people who live in the North East.”

The Laing and Discovery Museum have a total annual budget of £3.3m, which includes £1.9m of council money. They are also recipients of major partner funding from the Arts Council England (ACE). Their council funding will fall by 10% in 2013/14 and 2014/15 respectively, followed by a 30% cut in 2015/16.

TWAM is reviewing all the functions it offers in parallel with an external review of the service to see where savings can be made.

In its budget proposal, Newcastle City Council said: “The city benefits from vibrant and popular cultural institutions, but given the scale of government cuts it will not be possible for us to play as significant a role in their funding in the future.”

Funding to the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative culture programme will be completely cut.

The council said that the cuts will “weaken” all the organisations: “The fortunes of the larger organisations is more dependent on the ability of the arts council to continue to provide support (which is by no means certain) than on our funding.”

And some organisations – such as Seven Stories: the National Centre for the Children’s Books, which receives 13% of its income from council grants – are “particularly vulnerable” to closure, it warns.

Kate Edwards, chief executive at Seven Stories, said: “There are difficult times ahead, but we will work hard to find solutions and will work with our partners and supporters to build our fundraising and earn income.”

Ten of the city’s 18 libraries will be closed under the proposals, resulting in a reduction in front-line staff. Around 1,300 jobs will also be lost at the council as part of the cuts, with senior management posts halved.

Read Maurice Davies' on the impact of the cuts

Attend MA members' meeting North East on 30 November

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