Hopes Of Saving Dudley Museum Dashed At Scrutiny Meeting

Controversial plans to relocate Dudley Museum and Art Gallery to the borough archives in Tipton Road are set to go ahead after a scrutiny board councillors backed the move.

During a meeting on Monday July 18th, the overview and scrutiny management board, which includes a cross-section of councillors from Dudley’s three main parties, “overwhelmingly” voted in favour of the relocation, despite thousands of people signing a petition in opposition.

The move, which was already agreed on by cabinet, is set to save the council £150,000 a year in operating costs, which is the same estimated sum that the cash-strapped authority will pay out to transfer the artefacts to the archives centre.

Representatives from Dudley Civic Society – who started the petition against the museum closure – attended the meeting and put forward their views on how the group could take over the running of the museum from the council, saving the cash-strapped authority £205,000 each year.

Conservative Councillor Les Jones said he would like the society to be given a short time frame of three to six months to develop a workable business plan, but not allow a decision to “drag on like the Hippodrome”. However, Labour Councillor Alan Finch said a decision needed to be made now and it would take the society at least a year to raise the money to take the museum on.

Speaking after the meeting, Conservative Councillor Steve Clark, vice-chairman of the board, said:

“We have accepted the report and have recommended to close the museum. We are all trying to do the right thing for the people of Dudley.

“Although the savings aren’t particularly there, moving to the archives would give the people a quality museum with a better future.”

Even though he backed closure of the museum as board chairman, Cllr Perks criticised the “democratic process” of the decision, saying the board should have been able to discuss the proposals before a decision was made by cabinet. He said:

“I think this is a farce. I have spoken to both Conservative and Labour councillors on this board who also think the same.

“We did vote overwhelmingly in favour of the move and I think that after listening to everything there seems to be very little choice, but we could have made a lot of good recommendations.

“These could have been in support or against the move, but the process has been rushed through without giving us the exact facts and figures before we could make our recommendation.”

Discussions as to what the future holds for the museum building will now take place, with one of the popular options being to relocate Saltwells Education Centre to the red-brick town centre site.

Cllr Perks added: “Personally, I would have liked to see the artwork remain in a section of the building open to the public, as well as incorporating Saltwells into it. Whether that would have been cost effective enough I’m not sure.

“But I do think the crown jewels of the museum, the geological collection, should be moved to the archive centre as that will be a massive boost to the site and does seem to make a lot of sense.”


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