On Saturday Ludlow constituency’s MP, Philip Dunne, was in Much Wenlock for one of his frequent advice surgeries. I took the opportunity to discuss with him the future of the museum. Shropshire Council may soon withdraw funding from its museum service as it seeks to set a legal budget for the next year against the background of very tight financial constraints.
There are a number of issues which Shropshire Council needs to address in this proposal.
- First of all, the museum, a tribute to Much Wenlock’s pioneering William Penny Brookes, attracts visitors from all over the world. Its value in educational and tourism terms cannot be underestimated.
- Secondly, some £500,000 of Heritage Lottery funding was used in refurbishing the museum ahead of the 2012 London Olympics; the clawback provisions of the grant are onerous, and
- Thirdly, the freehold of the premises housing the museum is owned by Much Wenlock Town Council. The lease to Shropshire Council has a further twenty years to run at a headline market rent of £12,250. The Town Council, recognising the benefit the museum brings to the town, makes a significant and conditional discount, so Shropshire Council pays only £4,000 p.a.
Very careful consideration needs to be given by all concerned before a decision is taken about the museum’s future, and who might run it. The response to public consultation locally this summer must undergo the most careful appraisal.