MPs have vowed to fight to save Bradford’s flagship National Media Museum after a warning was issued by its parent group that it could close in the face of devastating budget cuts.
Ian Blatchford, the head of the Science Museum Group, said yesterday that if the Government’s latest spending review this month amounted to a ten per cent cut there would be “little choice other than to close one of our museums” as its structural deficit would rise from £2 million to £6m a year.
As well as the Bradford museum, the group runs the Science Museum in London, the National Rail Museum in York and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
But fears have been raised about the Media Museum’s future because it spends 30 per cent more per visitor than any other museum in the group and it has already saved £250,000 since last year to safeguard its future after visitor numbers halved in a decade from a peak of a million.
Bradford South Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe has vowed to get behind a campaign with fellow MPs, business leaders and Bradford Council, to save the museum.
He has also called a meeting with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway, who has already tabled a parliamentary motion to try to secure the museum’s future, and is planning to be outside it at noon on Saturday to show his support as part of a planned rally that he hopes will attract hundreds of people.
“To lose the museum would be a catastrophe,” Mr Sutcliffe said.
“If those elements in the London Science Museum who believe the north to be a cultural wasteland not worthy of hosting these great museums think we’ll let go of our jewels easily then they are in for a nasty shock.
“This would be a major blow to us as we are making ouselves a city of Culture and Media.
“I was annoyed that the BBC pulled out this year and believe the museum did not do enough to keep them there. The exhibits have not been updated for the last couple of years.
“This is all part of the plan to close it and take it down to London. Bradford is the most expensive one and I don’t think they will move York or the well-established one in Manchester.”
Mr Galloway described the museum as a Bradford jewel, “a timeless and unique cultural artefact which we cannot afford to lose and we won’t”.
He said: “This cannot be about cash, it’s about heritage and hope for the future. If the city centre is to revive, it is vital that investment is put into establishing a cultural quarter in which the National Media Museum will be a centrepiece.
“The museum needs more investment, not less.”
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “I have spoken to Gerry about this and we will work closely together – and with the other local MPs – to do our very best for the Bradford district.
“Gerry and I are also both on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and Telegraph & Argus readers can be assured that we will both use our position on there to do our best to save the National Media Museum.”
Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins added: “I see no reason whatsoever why it should be closed.
“I will be speaking to Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, with a request that the Government moves to ease any concerns that have been expressed.”
Bradford Council leader David Green said that his priority was saving all three museums and getting them under the Department for Business umbrella rather than Department for Culture, Media and Sport in a bid to access more funding.
He held crisis talks to that effect with leaders of York and Manchester councils and bosses from the Science Museum Group last week.
“We have three weeks to put forward our argument and lobby hard,” he said.
“That is what we are trying to do and not giving up the fight. We are in close contact with all the MPs and are fighting a concerted campaign from Bradford.
“There is a threat to the whole Science Museum Group if the government go ahead with the level of cuts being talked about.
“We will fight to keep the museum open in Bradford and we have been working with the museum director to see how to boost those numbers. I think locals are recognising if we don’t use it there is potential we will lose it.”
Bradford East Liberal Democrats MP David Ward met Business Secretary Vince Cable this week to garner support for that.
Mr Ward said.: “He indicated that anything science related would have a better chance of surviving budget reductions and I think it would be a tragedy if the museum did go.”