Calls for Norfolk museums trust plan to be thrown out

Concerned councillors insist plans to save cash by taking Norfolk's museum service out of direct public control must be rejected.

Norfolk County Council has been recommended to transfer the sites, including Norwich Castle and Strangers' Hall, to a specially created charitable trust.

Consultants believe this is the best way for the region's museum service to save �161,000 by 2013/14, to meet its overall four-year cost-cutting target of �656,000.

Vanessa Trevelyan, head of Norfolk museums and archaeology service, warned yesterday there will be an 'inevitable decline in services' if no changes are made.

But the Norwich Area Museums Committee urged the county council to find ways of saving the remaining money by adapting the current system rather than making a drastic overhaul.

Mrs Trevelyan said: 'The trust is just one option available. The consultants recommended that but it's not to say other options should not be considered in the future.'

Mrs Trevelyan suggested her personal preference involves the local authority largely retaining control, with a council-controlled company created to find extra ways of making money.

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George Nobbs, committee member and Labour county councillor, said there was a lack of evidence proving the trust option will be successful.

Concerns were also raised about the lack of control over the trust by publicly elected people.

Rules for charitable trusts allow councillors to hold 20pc of the trustee positions.

This would result councillors taking just three positions on a 16-person board.

Bert Bremner, a Labour city and county councillor, said the museums were working really well but needed to be protected as they were Norwich's 'jewels in the crown'.

John Ward, Conservative county councillor, added: 'I wouldn't like to see anything that will damage the museums. The more I hear about the trust, the more doubts I have.'

Charlotte Crawley, of the East Anglia Arts Fund, said charitable trusts could be successful, with the Norwich Theatre Royal a 'shining example'.

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