Cuts could hit Luton’s museums

Wardown Park Museum may be closed on weekdays due to budget cuts
Wardown Park Museum may be closed on weekdays due to budget cuts

WARDOWN Park Museum could be closed on weekdays as part of a plan to cut costs at the charitable trust that runs Luton’s museums and libraries.

Luton Culture receives two-thirds of its funding from Luton Borough Council and has been told that it must save money, despite already cutting costs by £900,000 since it was formed in 2008.

Next year the trust will lose nearly £1million of funding when the Renaissance in the Regions museums scheme comes to an end and its Arts Council funding stops.

The plan set out by council officers includes closing Wardown Park Museum on weekdays during term time from April 2012, excluding pre-booked tours, saving up to £53,000 a year. Also proposed is the relocation of the annual fireworks display from Pope’s Meadow to Stopsley Common next year, plus charging £5 per car for parking at the new aquatic centre site, in order to reduce the subsidy for the event.

Officers also want the annual summer festival held in St George’s Square to be cut, a move that would save £25,000.

The final proposal is for the John Dony Field Centre to be closed, with activities to be relocated to Stockwood Discovery Centre.

All of the measures are set to go to public consultation, but former councillor Barry Neale, a member of the Friends of Luton Museums, said he had already had concerns.

“My personal view is that museums should be open to the public as much as possible,” he said. “The new generation should understand how Luton developed and how our rich history can be explained.

“Realistically they are facing a difficult financial situation but anything that reduces the access of the community to assets like museums would be a retrograde step.”

A Facebook group has been started in protest at the proposed cuts – click here to join and have your say.