Ipswich: Museum remains defiant despite losing key funding

IPSWICH: Bosses at the town’s museum service today promised there would be no major changes – despite the loss of a huge annual grant from the Arts Council.

And they insisted the loss would not harm their bid to develop a major new cultural centre on the site of the High Street Museum.

Ipswich and Colchester Museums service missed out on a bid for funding from the Arts Council’s major grants programme.

This would have replaced the “renaissance” programme that has been providing regular funding to the service since 2003 – in 2011/12 it was worth �774,000.

Museum manager Peter Berridge said the loss had seemed very serious when first announced – but after further discussions with the Arts Council the situation seemed brighter.

He said: “There is some transitional help which should amount to �400,000 this year and then there is a new fund we can apply to in the autumn.

“This will not mean there are any changes to the way the museum operates so far as visitors are concerned. The hours will remain unchanged and there will be no charge for visitors to museums in Ipswich.”

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There would need to be some changes to staffing arrangements, but Mr Berridge was hopeful this could be completed without any need for compulsory redundancies.

He said: “One of the advantages of having a joint museums service between Ipswich and Colchester is that it is much easier to absorb staffing changes like this.”

The Arts Council was going to fund a member of staff to draw up the Heritage Lottery Fund bid that would transform the High Street museum, the former Ipswich Art School, and the New Wolsey’s studio theatre.

However, Ipswich councillor with responsibility for heritage, Bryony Rudkin, said she was not happy about the situation.

She said: “I am very pleased with the way the managers and staff at the museums are dealing with the situation, but there is no doubt this is a major cut for the heritage services in Ipswich from the Arts Council.

“Again, I don’t blame the Arts Council. It has had its budget slashed by the government – but this is a major blow and the staff are doing very well to minimise the effect on the town.”

n How serious is the funding loss? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk