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Green light to trust to run Hampshire museums
RADICAL plans to set up a trust to run Hampshire and Winchester’s museums have been approved as councils look to make major savings.
After five years of talks, Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council have agreed in principle to establish a trust to run museum, art and heritage services.
The Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust will now be set up by next spring.
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.
Southampton City Council was also involved in the negotiations but pulled out in August as it was not prepared to guarantee funding for the next three years.
The loss of Government 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.
But opposition county councillors have slammed the move.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, Cllr Keith House, said: “This is privatising our arts and heritage potentially threatening sites and venues in the long term and disguising future cuts. Hampshire has a proud record in this area. This will put this record under threat.”
However Tory county recreation and heritage boss Cllr Keith 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 damage to them and would represent a dereliction of duty on my behalf. I fully endorse this. I think it is the only way forward.”
The shake-up will affect museums such as Winchester City Museum, Westgate Museum in Winchester, Westbury Manor in Fareham, Eastleigh Museum, Forest Arts in New Milton and Rockbourne Roman Villa in the New Forest.
Plans for the trust come after the county council’s cultural and heritage 2013-14 budget suffered a £528,600 cut.
The two councils will now consult with unions and staff involved. About 100 employees would transfer to the new trust next March.
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