MUSEUM RESCUE HOPES DASHED

AFTER months of uncertainty, it was confirmed this week that two of North Kirklees’ museums will be axed. 

Kirklees Council cabinet gave the green light to close Dewsbury Museum in Crow Nest Park and Red House Museum in Gomersal.

Campaigners pleaded with officials to make a u-turn on their expected decision to close the museums but their worst fears were confirmed at a meeting on Monday. Red House Museum

Funding for Dewsbury Museum and Red House runs out in March but both could close as early as next month.

Also included in the cuts was Tolson Museum in Huddersfield, although this will remain open in the short term to maintain a presence in South Kirklees before a new venue is found for some exhibits.

Oakwell Hall in Birstall and Bagshaw Museum in Batley will remain open.

The move is part of a plan to cut the “creative economy” budget at the council from £1.2m to just £371,000 from April.

Cabinet member for Creative Kirklees, Coun Graham Turner, said that due to budget cuts it was inevitable some museums would have to close.

“It is clear that many residents love and value the buildings we have, but if we do not close any of the sites it will be impossible to achieve the savings we need to make,” he said.

“With a constantly diminishing budget, we have to change the cultural offer but I believe the changes will ensure that we can deliver a service for the residents of Kirklees that tells our story, in a different and more up to date way.”

The council’s Labour cabinet agreed to move forward with their new vision, dubbed ‘Culture Kirklees’, which will also cut the council’s contribution to the Lawrence Batley Theatre, along with arts and events grants to community and music groups.

But Coun Turner believes the venues on offer across Kirklees will still satisfy visitors.

He said: “Changing lifestyles and increasing culture and leisure choices mean that the museum and galleries service needs to radically transform if it is to be relevant and resilient in the 21st century and make an impact on the district’s priorities.

“It is vital that Kirklees continues to support a strong cultural offer.

“The future resilience of towns and cities relies on mixed uses of retail, residential and culture and leisure opportunities.”

But Coun Turner said the council would be willing to discuss alternative uses and funding plans for the axed sites, or asset transfers to community groups.

Dewsbury & Mirfield MP Paula Sherriff admitted that although she was upset to see the museums close, she acknowleged the council had little option.

“I am really disappointed,” she said. “I am working with the council to ensure we keep some space at Dewsbury Museum that volunteer groups use, as it is really important we don’t shut them out.

“It is a blow but what is equally important is that we are aware of why the council is having to make these decisions.

“The unprecedented cuts which are disproportionally affecting northern councils are forcing them into making these decisions.”

Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt meanwhile accused the Kirklees Labour cabinet of cultural vandalism.

“I think that the Cabinet are treating the public of Kirklees and north Kirklees in particular with disdain,” he said.

“They expect the people to have forgotten their previous decision to close Dewsbury Museum in 1997/98, at a time when we had Labour in government and a majority Labour group in the town hall.

“At that time they claimed the streets were paved with gold, yet they still wanted to close museums. This is not a budget issue but a long-held political dogma to remove heritage and history from Kirklees.”

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