Trust plans for Norfolk’s museum service facing defeat as councillors battle to keep landmarks including Norwich Castle in public control

Proposals to remove Norfolk's museum service out of direct public control are facing defeat after councillors today voted unanimously against creating a charitable trust.

Consultants had recommended Norfolk County Council to pursue the idea as the only way to prevent cuts to the museums.

This plan would involve transferring sites, including Norwich Castle and Strangers' Hall, to a trust to help it save �161,000 by 2013/14.

But councillors, museum volunteers, staff and the public united together to oppose the idea.

The authority was urged to leave the service in the hands of the public during this afternoon's Norfolk Joint Museums and Archaeology Committee at County Hall, Norwich.

George Nobbs, Labour group leader at the county council, said: 'It's a triumph when you get an unanimous result from all those people - the district councils and all four political parties.

'Every single person savaged the report. I guarantee the trust idea is dead now.'

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James Carswell, Conservative cabinet member for cultural services, said he will not be recommending the creation of a trust to his cabinet colleagues.

He added alternative plans to raise extra cash and cut costs will be investigated.

Officials have warned something has to be done otherwise it could mean the quality of museums and opening hours will be reduced.

Vanessa Trevelyan, head of Norfolk museums and archaeology service, told the committee there would be an 'inevitable decline in service' if no action was taken.

But rather than accept recommendations of creating a trust, made in a report by legal firm Winckworth Sherwood, councillor after councillor criticised the proposal.

Concerns included a lack of information about alternatives and councillors losing control of the service.

Charitable trust rules only allow 20pc of trustees to be councillors. This was expected to leave elected members just three of the 16 positions.

James Joyce, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Reepham, said: 'Maybe it's me but I don't trust trusts.'

Jennifer Toms, Green councillor for Norwich Sewell, said the report had been a 'big waste of time and a big waste of money'.

Now, further work will take place on choosing how to develop the museum service.

Councillors expressed their confidence in the service's current set-up and suggested it needs to be tweaked rather than overhauled to make the required savings.

One possibility includes hiring a commercial manager.

If successful, this position is expected to help museums make more money and meet the council's savings target.