Concern for Bristol museums as council announces plans to cut funding by £400k

Bristol Museum's funding could be cut in the latest council budget. Credit: ITV West Country

Bristol City Council's plans to cut the amount it spends on the city's museums by £400k will impact the area for "years to come".

The council's next budget for the coming 12-month period will be put forward at full council next Tuesday but the proposed £436,000 cuts to museum services must be reversed according to a charity.

The Friends of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives says that it will jeopardise the city’s recovery with backroom employees such as curators taking the brunt of redundancies.

Unison also claims the full extent of the reductions have been “hidden” from the public because the savings are five times more than those in the original budget papers.

The council says balancing the budget and avoiding cuts to frontline services require savings to the culture service in line with other departments and that no final decisions have been made while a review is underway.

M Shed museum in the harbour in the city of Bristol. Credit: PA images

The Friends group says that despite Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees insisting it is a “no frontline cuts budget”, the impact for the cultural service will be enormous.

Chairwoman Sue Thurlow said: “The cuts will inevitably reduce the ability of the museums to put on big and successful exhibitions which bring visitors from the local area and beyond, such as the current Grayson Perry’s Art Club and the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

“The museums and galleries are vital to Bristol’s post-pandemic recovery, bringing people back into the city and attracting high-spending visitors to Bristol," she said.

“We fully understand the need to make budget savings at a time when many of our citizens are facing real financial hardship, and that councillors are facing really difficult choices in allocating scarce resources, but cuts to museums and galleries are a false economy which will affect the range and quality of services they can offer.

“The council must reconsider these planned cuts because the damage caused to the museums and archives will be felt across the city and beyond for years to come.”

The group said museum services were important for the city’s mental health and wellbeing, not only culturally but as safe spaces for people concerned about venturing out post-Covid.

It said: “Damage to museums is damage to the education of local children at a time when a balanced and informed knowledge of Bristol’s past is more important than ever.

“At a time when families across the city are facing serious financial stress, the city’s museums offer family-friendly outings free of charge.”

Credit: ITV West Country

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The cabinet has proposed a balanced budget that means we can avoid cuts to crucial front line services.

“Savings need to be made to the culture service in line with other savings being made by other departments.

“There is currently a review of the culture service and no final decisions have been made.”

He said the higher number in the budget papers going to full council was the total saving over three years. 

Museums & archives operates across seven visitor sites which are all currently free to enter – Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, M Shed, Blaise Museum, The Red Lodge Museum, The Georgian House Museum, Bristol Archives and Kings Weston Roman Villa.

Story from LDRS - Adam Postans