Lifeline offers hope for museum’s future

Reprieved: deal saves Ilkley museum for a year

Ilkley's Manor House museum

Chairman of Ilkley Parish Council, councillor Mike Gibbons, who has spear-headed a plan to save Ilkley’s Manor House Museum

First published in News Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

An “eleventh hour” deal by Ilkley Parish Council to plough thousands of pounds into a rescue package could save the threatened Manor House Museum and Art Gallery.

Parish council chairman, Mike Gibbons, has negotiated a £13,000 deal which would keep the museum’s doors open for further year.

The aim is to give community organisations time to come up with a long-term plan to take over the management of the museum from Bradford Council.

The Parish Council is expected to decide on the funding proposal at its March meeting, but councillors have indicated they would be in favour of supporting the deal.

Councillor Gibbons, who is also a Bradford councillor, held talks with Bradford Council officers in recent days in the hope of stalling plans to pull staff out of the museum - and potentially close it - under extensive local authority cutbacks.

He told an Ilkley Parish Council meeting this week Bradford Council officers had agreed it would be possible to cut everyday running costs down from more than £50,000 to £26,000, in what he described as an “eleventh hour deal”.

If parish councillors agree to provide £13,000, the museum will stay open for the next financial year.

The rescue package – still under discussion – also counts on the help of more than 40 Ilkley people who have stepped forward and offered to volunteer at the museum, working alongside paid Bradford Council staff.

Coun Gibbons believes the year’s breathing space will give the community a chance to work out how it can take over the museum – but also push interested parties to take the step of formulating a plan quickly.

He said: “I think it will galvanise those people who really do need to get on with it, because any longer than that and it would be perhaps easier to sit back and say they’ll do it at some stage in future.”

Friends of the Manor House chairman, John Cockshott, said there were definitely “embryonic thoughts” being discussed in the community.

However, a Friends of the Manor House campaigner this week poured cold water on the plan to entirely hand the running of the museum to volunteers.

Speaking at a Bradford Council Executive meeting on Tuesday, Liz Bowen said the group did not feel able to take it on.

She told the meeting it was “highly unlikely that a suitable volunteer group would come forward” because of the level of responsibility involved in maintaining a Grade I-listed building.

She praised the work of the Council staff at the Manor House, and said it was regularly visited by schools from all over Bradford.

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, executive member for culture, said: “The cuts are no reflection on the value or quality of these services. We know they are valuable, we know people enjoy them.”

Council leader Coun David Green asked officers to draw up a report looking at all the possible options in more detail.

He said: “Hopefully we can find a way forward.”

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