Lancashire County Council has made the decision to close five museums at the end of September 2016, but four organisations have come forward with bids to run them. One organisation is looking to run both Helmshore and Queen Street Mills, and the Museum of Lancashire, Fleetwood Maritime Museum and Judges’ Lodgings Museum each have one different organization bidding to run each of them. The best case scenario is that these bids would be successful and the running of museums transferred over to these organisations by the start of January 2017. At this time it is not clear who has been bidding to run the museums. That knowledge is not in the public domain, it’s known only by Lancashire County Council.
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Below is an edited version of the Lancashire County Council’s report on the Evaluation of Detailed Applications for Museums
23 August 2016
The Cabinet Member for Environment, Planning and Cultural Services is recommended to agree:
- to the closure of the 5 museums (Judges’ Lodgings in Lancaster, the Maritime Museum in Fleetwood, the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, Queen Street Mill in Burnley and the Helmshore Mill in Rossendale) on 30 September 2016, and move all of the 5 museums into a ‘care and maintenance’ regime
- that negotiations commence with the organisations who have submitted applications in respect of taking over the museums
- that the negotiations …. be concluded as quickly as possible, with a view to effecting transfers as soon as practicable, with a target date of 31 December 2016
Organisation 1 (for the Judges’ Lodgings) This application is of very high quality, and has been deemed by the officers undertaking the evaluation as an exemplar offer. The applicants have articulated their vision for the future of the museum very clearly, and their business plan for the future stands up to scrutiny. They have clear financial objectives and have not requested any ongoing financial support from the County Council. Their business model is based on the use of volunteers, with some paid staff, and the group contains a wide ranging mix of professionals and experts in the field. They have identified a wide variety of income generating opportunities and have a very clear understanding of the community need and how they will meet it. The recommendation in respect of this application is for officers to proceed immediately with negotiations to effect a transfer, with a view to concluding negotiations by 31 December 2016. The museum will move into a ‘care and maintenance’ regime from 1 October 2016, whilst negotiations take place. One of the key features of the negotiations will be the arrangements for the current contents of the museum, which include a valuable collection of furniture, which the County Council and the applicants are seeking to cover by a lease arrangement.
Organisation 2 (for the Maritime Museum in Fleetwood)
This application is also of very high quality. The applicants have a very good understanding of community need and have identified a number of opportunities to enhance the existing service. They have already obtained additional funding from the Parish Council and their financial position is stable. …
The recommendation in respect of this application is for officers to proceed immediately with negotiations to effect a transfer, with a view to concluding negotiations by 31 December 2016.
Organisation 3 (for the Museum of Lancashire)
This application is based on a consortium. The offer demonstrates a good understanding of community need and contains a number of potential opportunities to enhance the current service. The offer is based on a business case which has been prepared on behalf of the consortium by a consultant. The business case contains four possible business models, based on the transfer of a number of buildings on the site, and the possible merger of the museum with another north west based museum (for operational management purposes). The main concern with each of the business models on offer is that each of them requires an ongoing revenue contribution from the County Council (and Preston City Council). This was not the basis of the invitation for expressions of interest, which was on the basis of no ongoing financial liability for the County Council. However, officers’ assessment of the offer is that the staffing costs contained within the business case could be reduced, with greater use of volunteers, and some of the other costs (operational running costs) could also be reduced.
The recommendation in respect of this application is for officers to proceed immediately with discussions with the consortium, with a view to a better understanding of the financial position of the offer. If the offer is wholly reliant on a financial contribution from the County Council then the recommendation is to halt the negotiations and assess the position at that point.
If the financial position can be revised, resulting in no on going costs for the County Council, then the recommendation is to conclude negotiations for a transfer by 31 December 2016. The museum will move into a ‘care and maintenance’ regime from 1 October 2016, whilst negotiations take place. Arrangements for the current contents of the museum will also need to be considered, with a view to entering into a lease arrangement for the current contents that belong to the County Council.
Organisation 4 (for the Queen Street and Helmshore Textile Mills)
No detailed applications have been received in respect of the two mills. However the Chief Executive of a national body has written to the Chief Executive of the County Council to request that further time be given for their Board to consider putting forward an offer for the mills. The Board is due to meet in September. If the outcome of the meeting is positive and an application is received then the recommendation in respect of the 2 mills is for officers to commence detailed negotiations with the national body in September, with a view to effecting a transfer of the mill museums as soon as practicable, on terms acceptable to the County Council.
Lancashire County Council website Evaluation of Detailed Applications for Museums:
http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=9161 (accessed 20/9/16)