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Cardiff Council makes U-turn on plans to close museum

23 Feb 2023 4 minute read
Photo Seth Whales, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

Cardiff Council has made a U-turn on its controversial proposal to move a museum out of its historic home.

As part of its budget proposals for 2023-24, Cardiff Council revealed that it will look to keep the Museum of Cardiff in its current location at the Old Library on The Hayes for now.

When the council launched its budget consultation in December, it said it was looking at making the museum a mobile attraction to help it save more money as it faced a huge budget shortfall.

Trustees of the Museum of Cardiff called the development “extremely positive news”.

A spokesperson for the museum trustees said: “We will now undertake a detailed examination of the best way to ensure a stable future for the museum.

“This will be conducted by a working party of the authority’s officials and trustees with formal terms of reference.

“The working party will review the museum’s long-term finances and the possibility of moving to alternative permanent sites.

“The trustees wish to place on record their thanks to Councillors Huw Thomas, the council leader and Jennifer Burke and senior officers and members of the public for their acknowledgement of the value of the Museum for Cardiff’s civic life.”

The council’s initial proposal was criticised by a number of residents, museum-lovers and experts.

Create problems

Professor of conservation at Cardiff University, Jane Henderson, said the council’s proposal would create more problems than solutions, adding that making the museum mobile would be expensive and difficult.

After hearing the latest on the council’s budget proposals, Prof Henderson said: “I am delighted that the value of the Museum of Cardiff has been recognised as an integral part of Cardiff’s life and identity by the hundreds of citizens who wrote letters, signed petitions, marched, and spoke up.

“We are also delighted that their voice has been heard by Cardiff Council.

“Our attention must turn to building a more secure future for the museum that matches Cardiff’s ambitions to be stronger, fairer, greener, city.

“For this to succeed we need investment in displays, continued support for partnerships and return to collecting as these are all essential for the lifeblood of the museum.”

Despite a better than expected budget settlement from the Welsh Government, Cardiff Council is facing a budget gap of £23.5m.

When it launched its budget consultation, the council said turning the museum into a mobile attraction could save it £266,000 per year.

The authority also said the move could allow it to re-open the museum in a permanent home in the future, if a suitable location was found, and funding secured.

Enhanced development

Prof Henderson added: “In the longer term and in partnership with other services, user groups, and experts, options for an enhanced development of the museum can be considered.

“The museum has shown what it can do already – but like the recent announcements of massive investment in museums in Wrexham and Swansea we know that a museum can be a catalyst for growth, inspiration, and unity.

“I and many other museum professionals look forward to supporting the staff and trustees of the museum to deliver this for all of us.”

Protesters marched through Cardiff on Saturday, February 18, in opposition to the councils plans to move the museum, change library opening times and find an alternative way of operating St David’s Hall.

As part of its budget proposals, the council is looking to keep libraries and hubs open under the current arrangements.

However, plans to investigate a proposal by Academy Music Group (AMG) to take over St David’s Hall will still be considered.

Cllr Thomas said: “We have reflected on our residents’ views when deciding which consultation options to take forward.

“In respect of hubs and libraries, proposals to reduce opening hours and/or close on weekends have not been taken forward. Any changes are being limited to removing a small number of long-term vacant posts in the service.”

The council’s budget proposals will be brought to and discussed at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, March 2. If agreed by cabinet, full council will vote on the proposals on Thursday, March 9.

On the removal of the council’s original proposal for the Museum of Cardiff, Cllr Thomas added: “Instead, we will work with the trustees of the museum to secure a sustainable future, including looking at options for delivering the service at an alternative location.”

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