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Council approve new trust to run Hampshire and Winchester museums
RADICAL plans to set up a new trust to run Hampshire and Winchester’s museums have been approved as both councils look to make major savings.
After lengthy negotiations – stretching back five years - Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council have agreed in principle to set up an independent trust to run museum, art and heritage services.
Tory county recreation and heritage boss, Cllr Keith Chapman, yesterday (Sept 25) approved proposals to merge museums services and establish Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust by 2014.
Southampton City Council pulled out in August as it was not prepared to guarantee funding for the next three years.
Cllr Chapman said: “I could choose to avoid this difficult decision and allow such services to decline in the face of steeply reduced finances. My view is that would result in untold damages to them and would represent a dereliction of duty on my behalf.”
He added: “I fully endorse this. I think it is the only way forward.”
The loss of Government Renaissance funding means the councils are looking to outside investment for funding and investment, including corporate sponsors.
Council chiefs argue setting up a charitable trust is the best way to avoid closing venues, mothballing services and further job losses.
In Winchester, the shake-up will affect the City Museum, Westgate Museum, the city council’s collections centre at Bar End and the county museums’ headquarters in Chilcomb House.
Meanwhile county museums involved include Milestones, Basing House, Willis Museum, all in Basingstoke, Westbury Manor in Fareham, Red House in Christchurch, Eastleigh Museum, Forest Arts in New Milton and Rockbourne Roman Villa in the New Forest.
Plans for Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust come after the county council’s cultural and heritage budget suffered a two per cent (£528,600) cut to its 2013-14 budget.
Museums and arts will receive county funding of £2.6m in the coming financial year compared to £3.4m in 2012-13. The city council contribution will be £390,000.
Both councils are looking to make budget savings of 18 per cent by 2018-19.
The councils will still own the museum collections – worth millions of pounds - but they will be on loan to the trust to manage. The local authorities will also still own the buildings and stump up for repairs.
The two councils will now consult with unions and staff involved. A report presented to Cllr Chapman said about 100 employees could transfer to the new trust in March 2014.
But opposition Liberal Democrat county councillors have objected to loss of democratic control There will only be two councillors on the trust board with the other 10 members appointed from the local business and arts community.
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