Wandsworth Museum under threat of closure

Budget cuts could mean loss of valued local facility

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Wandsworth Council is planning the closure of Wandsworth Museum as part of its budget cuts next year. The decision will be taken over the next few weeks, on the agenda of the Environment and Public Services Committee on 6th February and the Executive on 19th February 2007.

Val Bott, the first curator of the museum, said she was shocked that the Council could consider the complete closure of a service which had been built up over the last 20 years. She is saddened that such a move suggests that the Council does not value the contribution so many local people have made in donating objects, images and memories to the museum collection. In addition, she claims the staff team have developed detailed knowledge, impressive expertise, fantastic community links and a high reputation for their work - and it all seems likely to be wasted.

The Museum currently gets around 30,000 visitors a year which its supporters say is high in comparison with other borough museums. School groups make up 8,000 a year and the Museum has a good reputation for holiday activities with programmes tailored to the National Curriculum.

The Museum was set up in response to a campaign from local people and celebrated 20 years of existence last summer. From the start it has worked closely with community groups to record their history; the small staff team have a wide network of contacts locally, considerable local knowledge and impressive expertise. It was one of the first museums in Greater London to be awarded Accreditation, the new national standard for museums last year.

The collection of objects, pictures and memories which the Museum now holds has been built up almost entirely through donations from local people. Many of the objects are commonplace items rather than highly valuable ones, and would probably have been thrown away eventually if not placed in the museum. All of them come with local stories attached, about their former owners, makers and users - there is no other museum which could use them in the way the Wandsworth Museum can.

Leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Edward Lister blames a reduced grant from central government requiring cuts to be made due to rising service costs. He said, "Even if we raised the council tax by the full amount allowed by the Government, this would come nowhere near to bridging this gap. In these circumstances we are having to go through a painful exercise of examining all spending areas and looking for ways of ensuring that we can maintain funding for the most vital services on which people depend."

Justine Greening MP said, "Like many people I've visited the Wandsworth Museum, and thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about the local history of the area I live in.  The Museum is literally just outside the Putney constituency, but I'll be following up with the Council to find out exactly what is being proposed."

January 8, 2007