The leader of Bradford Council fears the city’s National Media Museum is at risk of closure if the Government continues to slash its funding, after calling an emergency meeting over its future.
Councillor David Green vowed to lobby to secure more cash for the museum, which yesterday confirmed it was “assessing a range of ways” to balance its books in the face of budget cuts.
He last week held crisis talks with bosses from the Science Museums Group, which also runs the National Rail Museum in York and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, as well as the leaders of York and Manchester councils.
All three museums are predominantly funded by central Government through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but the authorities want them transferred to the Department for Business so they can focus on their educational and scientific work, with the possibility of extra funding.
It is believed their cash crisis could worsen when Chancellor George Osborne reveals his spending review later this month.
Coun Green said: “In terms of any closure threat to the museum, I think you can never say never. If faced with more massive cuts they will have to look at all options, but there are no plans for that at the moment.
“What we’re looking for is the recognition that spending on these museums is an investment beyond the tourist industry and are vital for the economy and developing skills in the district.
“We are expecting further funding cuts as part of the Chancellor’s spending review, as well as across public services. But the three local authorities, as well as those in London, want to develop policies and programmes to attract young people to science and technology and encourage them to look at careers in these areas.”
Bradford East MP David Ward was last night due to meet Business Secretary Vince Cable, urging him to back a move that would see the museum receive its funding through the Department for Business.
He said: “What we desperately need to do is get more young people into science, technology, engineering and manufacturing – what better way to do it than through the National Media Museum?”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said she believed the museum was “past its sell-by date” and needed to “reinvent” itself.
“I think it needs to look at how it attracts people into science so people can find a way into work,” she said.
But she also said the Council had reserves of £129 million and could use some of that to invest in the museum.
Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group, said he hoped the National Media Museum, the National Rail Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry would stay open, but “every organisation receiving Government funding must take a share of the need to find efficiency savings”.
Last October the Telegraph & Argus reported how the museum needed to slash its costs by 30 per cent as it revealed that visitor numbers have nearly halved in the past decade from a high of almost a million a year.
A National Media Museum spokesman said the Science Museum Group had to address a “large projected operating deficit” from 2014 onwards and was assessing a “range of options”.
“Despite making significant cost reductions across the group, we are still faced with a significant annual deficit in 2014/15 and beyond because of cuts in Grant in Aid.
“The Science Museum Group is assessing a range of ways to balance the books and to ensure that we continue to care for our collections and maintain our role in inspiring the next generation. We have already undertaken a range of cost saving initiatives since the Government cuts announced in October 2010, and we will continue to look at further efficiencies across the whole business.”