Derby Museums could be forced to close sites and introduce admission fees due to a proposed reduction in Council funding.
The City Council has asked Derby Museums to accept a £71,000 cut to its annual budget – 10% less than the usual amount – in order to reduce local authority spending during the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The charity is already expecting its electricity and gas costs to at least double within the coming months, leading Executive Director Tony Butler to fear that the cuts could have a ‘devastating effect’ on the services it provides.
“In the last few years, Derby Museums has done the right thing,” Mr Butler said, listing successful exhibitions and projects such as Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, Poppies: Weeping Window and the Derby Ram Trail.
“However, the current financial model leaves little headroom and as things stand, I fear we may ‘run out of road.’”
Derby Museums operates three venues within the city centre: its flagship Museum & Art Gallery, Pickford’s House and the Museum of Making, with the latter of which being selected as an Art Fund Museum of the Year finalist in 2022.
Recent Derby Museums projects have made an effort to put the spotlight on historically underrepresented groups within the city. This includes the Culture and Legacy collaboration with the Derby West Indian Community Association, which Mojatu called ‘a fascinating deep-dive into the history of the city’s Caribbean population’, and the ongoing History Makers exhibition, that focuses on the accomplishments of women and gender diverse people.
The Council’s financial plans outline that reducing its overall spending isn’t just a case of incrementally scaling the budget, and that the ‘financial resilience and sustainability of the council must remain front and centre’. As a result, other council-funded services are facing cuts of varying severity.
In addition to the museums, libraries are also at risk of losing funding – most notably the proposal to end the funding and staffing of all community-managed libraries in the city. For Council-managed libraries, a year-long reduction in spending on the purchase of new library books and on various library service resources has also been suggested. Money for the staffing of public parks and live events could also be reduced.
Jonathan Smale, Conservative Cabinet Member for Finance, Digital and Culture, described the Council’s current predicament as ‘a perfect storm of increasing costs and rising demand’ but iterated that the plans are a work in progress and the floor is open to community input.
“We’re facing some extremely tough choices, and some services will look very different,” Smale said. “We’ll continue to look to the future – our ambition for the city remains the same, even if we have to change how we go about it.”
Those who benefit from the museum, libraries, parks or other services subject to cuts can read the full details of the proposals on the Let’s Talk Derby website, and people have been able to share their own views via a questionnaire, which Derby Museums urged people to complete.
“Whether you live, work, visit or benefit from services in Derby you are entitled to respond to the consultation,” Mr Butler added.
“It has considerable impact on councillors if they know that people really care about particular services.”