Call to close

By Liz HearnshawAN ailing museum that is costing the public more than £250,000 a year to run should be shut to ease the burden on taxpayers, a councillor has urged.

By Liz Hearnshaw

AN ailing museum that is costing the public more than £250,000 a year to run should be shut to ease the burden on taxpayers, a councillor has urged.

David Nettleton said the Manor House in Bury St Edmunds failed to live up to expectations outlined in its business plan when it was opened in 1993.

Mr Nettleton, leader of the Real Independent group on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, urged it to take decisive action on the museum's future.

His call came after it was revealed the museum cost taxpayers £267,000 last year - about £7.40 per band D household - with the bill for this financial year estimated at £243,000.

“The council should sell the Manor House and if it can't sell it, then close it,” said Mr Nettleton.

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“When the project first came up, there was a business plan which showed the museum was going to make a lot of money, with people flocking through the doors to look at clocks.

“We, as a council, are obviously trying to bridge the gap so we do not have to put council tax up, so we have to make tough decisions.

“Nothing is sacrosanct and we have to look at all aspects of public expenditure. The Manor House is not a statutory duty and is really a discretionary matter. I have been advocating it is shut for some time.

“Private companies review their income and outgoings all the time and I do not see why local authorities should have to be exempt just because we can force money out of people through council tax.”

The Georgian building, formerly a home of the Hervey family, was bought by the council in 1988 and, following extensive restoration, opened as a museum in 1993.

It now houses a collection of clocks and costumes dating from the 17th Century to the present day.

But its future has been in doubt for some time, with speculation about a possible sell-off growing because of a wide-ranging review examining the council's heritage provision.

However, a council spokesman said: “The cost for running the Manor House Museum in 2004/5 was £267,388, for 2005/6 the budget is £243,100.

“The museum generates an income, for example from venue hire for weddings and corporate events, commission from exhibitions and rental of space.

“We are carrying out a review of our heritage services, which includes Manor House museum, Moyse's Hall, Haverhill Local History Centre and West Stow Country Park and the results will be reported to the cabinet in November.

“The aim of the review to increase access, reduce costs and provide a vision for the future.

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