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Closing museums not an option despite pandemic ‘significant uncertainty’

PUBLISHED: 05:57 31 October 2020

A Bronze Age gold torc found in Great Dunham will go on display at Norwich Castle in 2020. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

A Bronze Age gold torc found in Great Dunham will go on display at Norwich Castle in 2020. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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Closures of Norfolk museums are not being considered, despite the attractions facing “significant financial uncertainty” due to the Covid-19 crisis and council cuts.

Museums in the county have been unable to operate as normal since March due to the coronavirus outbreak and safety restrictions.

And despite Norwich Castle reopening earlier this month, the service has overspent by more than £1.383m already this year.

But the head of the county’s museums service has pledged that despite the county council having to make savings worth £26m, closures are not being considered.

At a meeting of the joint museums committee, held on Friday, October 30, Steve Miller said: “We continue to sail through fairly uncharted waters. The significant overspend which, as reported, is over £1.3m, is very much down to the fact that we haven’t been able to operate like anything close to normal since the beginning of the financial year.

READ MORE: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery to reopen

“Whilst we have returned to a degree of opening we’re clearly far from back to normal and that’s likely to continue until at least the end of the financial year.”

Other attractions which have also reopened are the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse near Dereham and Lynn Museum, while the service’s six other sites will reopen when safe to do so.

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Mr Miller, director of culture and heritage, added: “We have reduced that overspend to a little over £1m. It’s not where we would like it to be but it’s much better.

“We have financial pressures coming down the line - the most significant is reductions in local authority funding.”

READ MORE: Museums close doors in light of coronavirus concerns

He said the service was asked to model savings, and said: “It’s fair to say that’s a pretty significant set of decisions to make.

“The current modelling is that we will not be looking at closures and we will not be looking at a reduction in opening hours across any of our 10 museums in terms of making savings.”

A report published ahead of the meeting stated: “The service is currently facing significant uncertainty in relation to its financial position.

The forecast over-spend is most significantly due to the predicted loss of income for the service during the extended period of closure and a reduction in normal visitor numbers following site re-openings.”

The museums service applied for Arts Council coronavirus funds but was unsuccessful.

READ MORE: £3.2 million ‘lifeline’ boost for the arts in Norfolk and Waveney


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