Records show otherwise

IN last week s Weston Mercury Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said that closure of the museum was 'never considered' and he wished to set the record straight without 'politicised debate'. Official records show otherwise.

IN last week's Weston Mercury Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said that closure of the museum was "never considered" and he wished to set the record straight without "politicised debate". Official records show otherwise.

North Somerset Council's Review Board investigated reducing revenue costs in four non-statutory facilities and on October 28 the council's executive "ruled out the option of closing any leisure centres, dual-use centres or the Playhouse". It gave no such assurance in regard to the fourth facility i.e. the museum, voting instead for the exploration of "innovative options".

Executive councillors complained about the museum being "Weston-centric", voted to slash �30,000 per annum from its budget and then on July 28 set an additional annual savings target of �70,000, trumpeting how it was "encouraged by the willingness of staff to respond positively" to something referred to in Town Hall jargon as "the direction of travel".

That same body had asked a "specialist advisor" to test the feasibility of "re-designing the museum service so it no longer had a permanent set of displays and exhibitions in Weston-super-Mare". It suggested a "new service that provided touring exhibitions for all of North Somerset .... in libraries, community centres and schools", with perhaps a residual "shop front" display in "a prominent location". What else but closure? Not of the museum service, but of the museum building.

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On December 16 last Cllr Ap Rees presented a report to the executive in which he stated in a rather self-congratulatory manner "Cllr Ap Rees' impact has been significant in steering the direction of the work of the board".

A further report said "the option of closing the Playhouse Theatre, ceasing to provide a museum service, withdrawing from the leisure management contract and closing the dual-use centres were discussed ... these options have 'mostly' been discounted".

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I'm not sure what is meant by 'mostly' but one thing is certain - closure of the museum was a discussed option and no matter how frequently executive councillors talk about retaining a museum "service" they never quite manage to stand up for the museum as a place and repository of locally accessible treasures.

The review board noted a significant increase in museum visitors and shop takings during the period of free entry following the Grand Pier fire. Be that as it may the executive then voted to review both opening hours and entry charges and to close the shop whilst "critically examining the building's assets".

I doubt many would criticise the council for reviewing its assets, museum included, nor for investigating potential charitable status or use of volunteer helpers but why must Cllr Ap Rees persist in the pretence that no one on his side has ever contemplated closing the museum?


Gerard Road


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