Miranda Dobson

Leeds City leaders rally against Science Museum cuts

Leeds City Region Leaders have collaborated on a protest letter to the Chancellor, asking to prevent cuts to the national Science Museum Group’s funding.

Concerns have been raised in the media and by the public, after Science Museum Group’s chief Ian Blatchford confirmed that one of its museums could close if cuts of 10% were made in the Government’s next spending review at the end of June.

The group owns the National Media Museum in Bradford, the National Railway Museum in York, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the National Science Museum in London.

Cllr Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council and chair of the Leeds City Region Leaders Board, said: “In our letter to the Chancellor we propose that funding for the Science Museum Group is moved from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“Also that the current level of funding is protected, in the long term interests of our northern cities and the nation as a whole.”

The group has already dealt with 25% cuts since 2010, and is now faced with a large projected deficit from 2014 onwards.

Their year-on-year financial deficit would rise to between £2m and £6m if the anticipated cuts are made, resulting in the closure of one of its Northern museums.

Bradford’s National Media Museum contributes more than £24m a year to the city and district’s economy in indirect, off-site expenditure, and employs 130 people while generating approximately £3.7m of GVA.

The National Railway Museum in York is said to be “the heart of tourism” in the region, with 700,000 visitors a year and an economic impact of between £40m and £50m.

Leeds Council leaders are equally concerned about the potential loss of Manchester museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, which supports nearly 150 jobs and generates around £8m in GVA.

Leader of Bradford Council, Cllr David Green, said: “Meetings have taken place between Bradford, York and Manchester councils and with the Science Museum Group to discuss how we might support the future of the national science museums in our cities.

“Clearly, the economic and cultural impact of closing a national science museum in Bradford, York or Manchester would be devastating.”

Funding cuts are also rumoured for the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, which is now contracted through the Science Museum Group.

This funding is ring-fenced until 2015, but the council fears the Science Museum Group will not be able to match funding after this date.

Cllr James Alexander, leader of City of York Council, commented: “The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has a £13 million ‘science and society’ programme and spends its money on a plethora of initiatives, but not on the Science Museum Group.

“This does not make sense because the science museums are trusted by the public and teachers and have the best experience of presenting science with the greatest impact and reach across the country.”

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