Derby Museums is facing a 25% cut to its council funding in 2015-16

Derby Museums' petition prompts council rethink

Geraldine Kendall, 30.01.2015
Councillors acknowledge that the service "changes lives", but cuts still possible
Derby City Council is looking for ways “not to make cuts” to Derby Museums after receiving a petition signed by more than 6,600 members of the public highlighting the impact the service has on people’s lives.

The council is proposing to cut the museum trust’s budget by 25% in 2015-16. At a council debate yesterday, the Labour-run council voted to amend the wording of its budget proposal to read: “Council believes that Derby Museums change lives.

“Council agrees to support the Labour administration in its ongoing campaign for a fair deal for Derby from the Tory-led government, as it seeks to find ways to not make cuts to the museums’ current funding.”

Although the amended motion does not confirm that the council plans to reduce the cut, Tony Butler, the director of Derby Museums, said: “The motion that was passed was amended as a result of the petition, which specifically talked about how museums change lives.

“I’m pleased that the council have recognised the good work of the museums and given an indication that they would like to seek to reduce the cut.

“We’ve had a huge amount of public support and it is really good that people have recognised the value of museums to the community.”

The Museums Association has been running an ongoing campaign, Museums Change Lives, to encourage museums to focus on impact and highlight their social value to funders and stakeholders.

 “It's good news that Derby council has acknowledged the positive social impact that museums can have for their communities,” said the MA’s director Sharon Heal.

“This is a tough time for local authority museums and many face significant cuts that will hamper their ability to provide services to the public. Museums can influence decision makers if they campaign with the public to advocate their value to society.”

The council will make a final decision on the proposed cut in the first week of March.

Also during the debate, Paul Bayliss, the former leader of the council, suggested selling a £1m Lowry painting, Houses Near a Mill, from Derby’s collections and reinvesting the money in the city’s cultural offer.

Butler said he would oppose any move that violated the MA code of ethics and warned that disposing of the painting would risk the trust losing Accreditation and access to funding streams.

“Lowry ended his days in Derbyshire - in Glossop - and people really love this painting. It is going on permanent display when we redevelop Derby Silk Mill,” said Butler. “We have a code of ethics that we follow and if it is disposed of for financial gain I would oppose that. Bear in mind what happened in Northampton.”

Correction
30.01.2015


The article originally quoted Tony Butler as saying that Lowry ended his days in Derby. This should have said Derbyshire and has been corrected.

Comments

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Chris Wood
MA Member
04.02.2015, 18:59
This is encouraging, but surely we should be campaigning for the recognition of the intrinsic value of museums, as guardians of our heritage and inspirers of the future, more than the fact that they tick narrow social policy boxes? The 'Museums Change Lives' agenda risks giving people the message that the only role of museums is to provide 'social impact', just as some people have already come to believe that museums are only there for children. We do ourselves a disservice by acquiescing to such notions and by leaving unchallenged austerity policies that treat culture as a luxury.
Jack Kirby
MA Member
Head of Collections, MOSI
30.01.2015, 21:30
Something potentially significant has happened during the last couple of months. Two charitable trusts - Derby and Birmingham - have actively campaigned against cuts proposed by the local authorities from which they were spun off. Direct campaigning of this nature is not an option for museums still run directly by local authorities (although some have friends organisations that mount the nearest thing to an official campaign). This campaigning by trusts themselves seems to be a largely unforeseen consequence of trust status. Whether or not it actually results in partial reversal of proposed cuts remains to be seen, but if it does the consequences for skill sets are profound. Suddenly campaigning skills could become a desirable attribute for candidates working for trusts whose income contains a significant proportion of public funding. From back office staff campaigning via social media, to front of house staff asking visitors to sign a petition, this is quite at odds with museums whose staff must remain at least outwardly neutral in the face of impending cuts. There are also implications for trustees. As reductions in public funding continue indefinitely, it remains to be seen whether comparable organisations will follow the example that has been set.
David Fleming
MA Member
Director, National Museums Liverpool
30.01.2015, 12:40
Encouraging. This illustrates that museums need to be alerting the public to the very real threats to our sector rather than pretending that all is well and that we'll get by somehow.