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Calls for council leader to apologise over ‘insulting’ remarks about St Fagans staff

19 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Inset Huw Thomas – Image: by Alex Seabrook.

Emily Price

Calls have been made for a council leader to apologise for making “insulting and unfounded” remarks about staff at St Fagans museum.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Culture, Heledd Fychan hit out at Cardiff Council Leader, Huw Thomas after they both appeared on S4C’s Y Byd Yn Ei Le on Thursday (April 18).

Cllr Thomas took part in a panel discussion about the current financial woes facing the cultural sector in Wales.

Fears were raised this week that the National Museum in Cardiff could close unless a maintenance backlog worth of tens of millions of pounds is addressed.

Amgueddfa Cymru, which manages the site, has been hit with a 10.5% cut as a result of a £700m hole in the Welsh Government’s budget.

The organisation is responsible for seven museums in Wales, including St Fagans National Museum of History.

During the programme, Cllr Thomas pointed out that more than £30 million had been spent on the open air museum five years ago.

He said: “But the staff who were managing the museum at the time must have been aware of the issues in the museum in Cardiff at the time.

“I’m perplexed why they didn’t prioritise at the time when there was more money to secure the building in Cardiff instead of spending on ‘nice to haves’ in St Fagans.”

The site on the outskirts of Cardiff is one of the largest open air museums in Europe.

It showcases historic buildings relocated from across Wales including a farm, tannery, mills, a school and a chapel.

In 2018, the museum underwent the most significant redevelopment in its history.

Grant

It included new galleries showcasing Wales’ history, improvements to the Iron Age farmstead, Bryn Eryr, and the Medieval Prince’s court, a refurbished main entrance building and a new restaurant.

The multimillion pound project was the largest grant ever awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Heledd Fychan has called for the council leader to apologise for his comments.

She said: “These are insulting and unfounded comments from the Labour Leader of Cardiff Council who frankly should know better.

“Just as is the case with the NHS, there is an emerging pattern of Labour politicians blaming staff whether in our Health Boards or our national institutions for their own inability to balance the books in a sustainable way.

“St Fagans is a jewel in the crown of our capital city’s offer to Welsh citizens and visitors alike.

“It is extraordinary to hear the Leader of Cardiff Council reference major developments at the site – which at the time was the largest ever Heritage Lottery Grant awarded to any organisation in Wales – as ‘nice to have.’

“The Leader of Cardiff Council should be the city’s most vocal supporter of culture. Instead we have someone who is happy to align with his party boss in Wales who this week astonishingly defended his government’s cuts to Amgueddfa Cymru, which further threatens Wales’ collective cultural memory.

“The very least Huw Thomas should do is reflect on his comments and apologise.”

Cllr Huw Thomas says Plaid Cymru’s calls were a “mischaracterisation” by a party “more interested in press releases than either serious scrutiny or the difficult choices of governing.”

In a statement he said: “Given that we now know the maintenance backlog at the National Museum Cardiff has been long-standing, and seemingly runs into the tens of millions of pounds, it’s fair to ask whether providing new facilities at St Fagans instead of addressing the maintenance issue at the museum was the right call. This is a pretty basic question of scrutiny.

“To be clear, I think the new facilities at St Fagans – supported by considerable Welsh Labour Government funding at the time – are wonderful, and my Council has worked closely with the museum in recent months to improve public transport access there. But that doesn’t preclude asking the question whether investments over the last decade have been prioritised effectively.

“Having met National Museum’s new Chief Executive this week, I have every confidence that with Welsh Government support, the issues at the Cathays Park site can be addressed, and I look forward to working with her and her team to deliver further enhancements to Cardiff’s cultural and heritage offer in the years to come.”


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Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Well said, PC. Welsh labour blaming the tories for all our woes has worn very thin and so they are now resorting to scapegoating our organisations and staff. Our museums ,and in particular St Fagans, are loved by many in Wales as well as by the many thousands of people from outside Wales who visit annually to learn about our rich culture. They should be praised and supported not derided. No doubt Welsh labour will next have to turn on themselves to apportion blame for their many failures and mismanagement. Hopefully this will herald a new and more successful era… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Even a philistine can be right once in a blue moon…meanwhile stuff is getting ruined!

Come on, the front of house bits are fun, fixing the roof ain’t…

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

I think St. Fagans is the greatest museum in britain, if not the world, as it is a celebration of how “ordinary” Cymry lived in the past, not kings and queens!

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

Clearly Cardiff Council should be asking why the Senedd are not seriously challenging Westminster over the cuts to Welsh funding rather than blaming any staff for shortfalls. Wales pays far more into the Westminster coffers than we receive via the Barnet formula. We are being ripped off right left and centre by them. Welsh politicians just roll over and do nothing while people here suffer.
St Fagans is a cherished resource all the better for being free. Good job St Fagans staff

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

I would love to see your figures for this assertion. Have you got a link? I am delighted about what you say about Barnet I am sick to death of hearing about how the NHS provision for Wales is higher than England.

Grievous
Grievous
1 month ago

I suspect Thomas will be looking for a new job come the next Welsh elections ,as will many other labour councillors and senydd labour politicians.

Last edited 1 month ago by Grievous

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