Torquay Museum

Museums face cuts across UK

Patrick Steel, 31.01.2018
Cuts and redundancies in Stirling, Hampshire and Nottingham
As councils across the UK meet to decide their budgets for 2018-19, several museum services are under threat of cuts and redundancies.

Stirling

Stirling Council is proposing to cut funding to the Smith Art Gallery and Museum by 2023.

The proposal, which will be presented at a formal meeting of the council in February, would see the museum’s annual budget reduced from £242,000 to £100,000 in 2021-22, then cut completely in 2022-23.

According to the Friends of Stirling Smith, the first cut in 2021 would be enough to make the museum non-viable.

In an open letter to the council, the friends have called for the museum’s funding to continue, stating: “The Stirling Smith is a significant cultural asset that attracts over 40,000 visitors each year but also forms part of the unique cultural offering Stirling has for tourism - a key contributor to the economic, social and general wellbeing of visitors and residents alike.”

The friends are encouraging visitors and supporters to respond to the council’s survey, which closes on 5 February.

Hampshire

Hampshire Cultural Trust, which was established in 2014 to manage 24 venues formerly run by Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council, will see its grant from the councils (most of which is funded by Hampshire) cut by £450,000 in 2018-19.

When the trust was established it agreed to a 10% cut in its grant from the council in 2018-19, and a further 2% cut in 2019-20.

The trust is restructuring and is anticipating that 10% of its staff will be made redundant. As of 2016-17 it had 130 employees.

The trust would not confirm which posts will be made redundant, but a spokeswoman for the trust said: “Teams affected are ones that manage our venues as well as our central teams that manage exhibitions, collections and our education and outreach programmes.”

Jude Plouviez, the chairwoman of Rescue, a charity dedicated to supporting archaeology and the historic environment, wrote to Karen Murray, the director of culture, communities and business services at Hampshire County Council, saying: “We are aware that Hampshire County Council only transferred the assets and running of the Hampshire County and Winchester City museums to Hampshire Cultural Trust in 2014 and we are at a loss to understand why after such a short period these problems should have arisen, especially as the chief executive of the trust was formerly head of the museums service.

“We would like to know what safeguards the council put in place, should the trust prove not capable of running the service. What arrangements were made as to the ownership of and ultimate responsibility for the archaeological and museum collections?”

A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council said: “As founding partners, we strongly support Hampshire Cultural Trust’s mission to promote Hampshire as a great cultural county, to reinvigorate our museum collections, and make them more accessible to greater numbers of local people, and visitors to the county.

“Like other organisations that receive public funding support, the trust has to face the challenges that ongoing national austerity brings.

“From the very start, a five-year funding agreement was put in place with guaranteed revenue grants to support the trust. These grants taper over time, with a 10% reduction in year three, from £2.9m to £2.6m for 2018-19. This approach was designed to help the trust plan for the future as it seeks new revenue streams, as an independent charity.

“Furthermore, formal and mutually agreed legal agreements are in place with the trust, for the proper care and protection of the respective museum collections.

“We continue to play a full and active role on the board of trustees, which has set a clear direction for the trust to reach out to local communities and enhance our cultural heritage even more. We are confident that the trust will continue to provide a strong cultural offer across the county and deliver great opportunities for the residents of Hampshire, and its visitors, to enjoy.”

The trust’s total budget for 2018-19 is £7.5m.

Nottingham

Nottingham City Council is making 42 redundancies across its museum service as part of a restructure before Nottingham Castle closes until 2020 for a £29.4m refurbishment.

Of these posts, one curator will be made redundant through the merger of two posts into a new curator (human history) role. However, a new full time post of principal curator is being created, said a council spokesman, “so there is continuity of capacity overall… and expertise will not be ‘hollowed out’ by the proposals”.

A council spokesman: “The transformation of Nottingham Castle into a world-class attraction is a hugely significant project which will bring thousands of visitors to the city and boost the local economy. We are working towards it closing this spring and reopening in 2020.

“We are restructuring our museums service to take account of the changes underway at the castle, which results in a reduction of 42 full-time posts across the service. To minimise the impact on staff, at least half of this figure will be achieved by freezing vacancies, and we will offer the opportunity to apply for new jobs across the service, and voluntary redundancy. New job opportunities will be created following the completion of the project.

“We are in ongoing consultation with the 124 employees affected by these changes and so are not in a position to comment any further at this stage.”

Nottingham City Council received a grant of £13.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in November 2016 towards the Nottingham Castle Transformation Project.

Torbay

Torbay Council has rowed back on its proposal to entirely withdraw its £55,000 a year grant funding to Torquay and Brixham Museums and is now proposing that “the current level of grant to the museums is maintained in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020”.

“We were bracing ourselves for a potentially devastating 50% cut to Torquay Museum’s budget from Torbay Council for 2018-19, followed by a reduction in our budget to zero the year after,” said Basil Greenwood, Torquay Museum’s director.

“The £37,000 annual grant that we currently receive from Torbay Council (which was cut from £76,000 in 2016) is vital if Torquay Museum is to maintain its role as custodian of 350,000 artefacts in its collections, many of which are of international importance.

“But we’re not out of the woods yet, because the full council has to endorse the recommendation to maintain Torquay Museum’s grant at its current level.”

The proposals will be discussed at a council meeting on 8 February.

Comments

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Malcolm J Watkins
Director, Heritage Matters
15.02.2018, 11:47
Museums are in greater danger now than possibly ever. Even during periods of war the collections have been valued and protected as best they can, but we are seeing increasing loss of professionally-qualified staff and their replacement by people with no experience of museums or managing fragile, valuable and at-risk collections. An ill-considered decision can unravel decades or centuries of care, because some fool thinks it will be a good idea to try some whizzo idea out using the collections. How are museums that lose professional staff providing for emergencies such as fires or floods? How are the collections being checked for infestation or other forms of damage? Who is checking for evidence of thefts?
A museum exists for the collection. If that collection is not at the heart of everything, then the museum is unlikely to survive. For a collection to be safe it needs professionally-competent staff.
Still, I suppose it is likely to make opportunities for collectors as the country sells off the family silver - unfortunately, most of the collectors are likely to be abroad.
Sadly, part of the problem is that the MA has become political, jumping on various bandwagons that are strictly nothing to do with our core function as curators. Many years ago I remember Ray Singleton, then head of Museum Studies at Leicester, warning against political involvement, because once they become political footballs museums are in danger.
Ironically, there is more excitement and interest in antiques programmes than arguably ever before. Where, you might ask, are the programmes describing the hidden treasures of our provincial museums - not necessarily valuable financially, but because of what they reveal?
Tim Schadla-Hall
Reader in Public Archaeology, University College London
02.02.2018, 18:00
the case of Hampshire seems scandalous to me- surely the Chairman and Trustees should be answering all the questions raised?- although I gather that three Trustees have resigned recently! The rumours of job losses that are going round need to be clarified! and answered.



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