New council leader scraps museum closure plans

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The new leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Ronnie Nicholson has ordered the scrapping of proposals that could have seen museums and art galleries across the region close.

The proposals, which were developed by council officers under the previous council administration, were due to go out to public consultation this week. However, following the establishment of the Labour SNP coalition, Councillor Nicholson has made clear that the closure of art galleries and museums won’t be part of the new administration’s budget, due to be publsihed later in the year.

Mr Nicholson said: “The document on so called museum closures was never shared with Labour councillors and was produced under the previous council administration. I think it is important the council are frank with the public about the budget challenges we face, but some of the suggestions that were made were frankly crazy and a council led by me wouldn’t touch some of those options with a barge pole.

“We now have a new council administration and retaining our museums and art galleries is an absolute key priority for the Labour SNP coalition. That’s why one of my first actions as council leader is to scrap the proposals on closures. Many of the buildings in questions are grade 1 listed or held by common good funds. Even if they were closed, they couldn’t be used for anything else, so would simply sit empty and that would be a completely unacceptable.”

“At the end of the day we can’t lose sight of the fact that the reason the council were producing documents such as this under the previous administration is a direct result of the massive cuts being imposed by the government. The council will need to find £36m of savings over the next three years and that won’t be easy. However, I firmly believe these savings can be found without the need for widespread closures and that’s why I have scrapped the proposals. There needs to be proper engagement with the community on the way forward for arts and museums and simply handing out a list of closures is not the way to do that. The new administration have already developed alternative proposals for savfinsg and we wnatto see a long term approach to culture adopted.We will be setting this out for consultation as part of our draft budget later in the year.”