This article was originally published on National Museum Directors Councils’ Newsletter:
Lancashire Council has passed radical plans to close five of the 11 museums in its control and retain five others only on condition that they are self-sustaining through admissions takings. The Council had previously intended to earmark £1.2m for culture in 2015-16, increasing by 100k the following year. The revised budget brings all cultural spending down to just £98k, a 92% reduction. It also plans to halve its libraries from 74 to 34, saving £7m. The Council has already announced cost cutting of £152m over its whole budget for the next three years. Leader of Lancashire Council Jennifer Mein described the decisions as ‘heartbreaking’ but said “by 2017-18, we will only just have enough money to pay for our statutory services. At the same time, the government has made clear that it will make further substantial cuts to council budgets over the coming years.” There will now be a 12 week public consultation on the closures, which will include considering alternative models such as community run museums.
John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums at ACE, said that the Arts Council is in conversation with Lancashire Council, particularly as some of the collections in the museums earmarked for closure are Designated. HLF has invested substantially in two museums likely to close: £919,400 in the Museum of Lancashire and £720,000 in Helmshore Mills Textile Museum. It could potentially reclaim the money if Lancashire goes ahead with its plans. A local petition has been launched to save the textile museums.