After the whirl of activity that led to the presentation of the petition to Cambridgeshire County Council, the campaign has been on hold. Here is an update to let you know how things stand at present – and what the next steps are.
As you will be aware, the fact that the petition reached nearly 4,000 signatures meant that the sought after debate at the full meeting of the Council was achieved.
This meeting took place on the 18 February. The spokesperson for the Friends, Bob Pugh, was invited to speak, to represent the case against the proposed budgetary cut in 2015/16 that would inevitably have led to the closure of the Museum.
In a very effective, short speech, Bob stressed to Councillors the historical importance of the Museum and its collection, as well as the benefits it brings to Huntingdon and the wider local economy.
The issue was then debated. The chairman of the Museum’s management committee, Peter Downes, declared that it would be unthinkable for the Museum to close and argued for more time for solutions to be sought. In response, the Cabinet member with responsibility for the Museum, David Harty, acknowledged the weight of opinion against the proposed funding cut.
In the subsequent budget debate, an amendment that funding be extended for a further twelve months until 2016-17 was proposed and carried by 57 votes to 4.
Forcing the debate and making the Council reconsider its decision represents a huge achievement by the campaign. We would like to thank all of you again for your support. However, the Museum’s future is still far from certain.
A consultant, paid for by an external grant, is currently reviewing options for alternative governance (i.e. seeking another body to run the Museum other than the Council). The consultant will report in April. It is undoubtedly going to be extremely challenging to find a viable solution for sustainable funding, but the additional year will make a huge difference in trying to secure the Museum’s future.
We will let you all know what the consultant has proposed, and how things progress from there, as soon as possible.