Friday, 17 June 2016

Changes Ahead For Lancaster's Museums? New Report suggests closing Martime and Cottage Musuems

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman


(Updated 9th July 2016): A major new report with recommendations on the future of Lancaster City Council’s museums has just been published (PDF link), making recommendations on future museum provision, including proposals to close the Maritime and Cottage Museums - and moving the Visitor Information Centre into the City Museum.

Despite a need to save on costs in part driving the report for the Council, it also suggests building an all-new facility on Morecambe Seafront.

Currently, Lancaster City Council’s museum collections reside in the City Museum located in the Old Town Hall in the Market Square, the Cottage Museum adjacent to the Castle, the Maritime Museum in the Port of Lancaster Custom House and adjacent Warehouse on St George’s Quay, and an out-of-District store in Preston. The three museums are managed by Lancashire County Council under an agreement with the City although the buildings and the objects (with the sole exception of those of the King’s Own Regimental Museum which occupies space within the City Museum) remain the property of the City Council.

During the financial year 2015-2016 Lancashire County Council reports the The City Museum had 46,620 visitors (down from 50,316 in 2014/15 -PDF link), the Cottage Museum 4,800 (up from 4,398 in 2014/15) and the Maritime Museum 8,038 (but has been closed since October 2015).

(Less publicity for the museums offering and activities may, in part, be a reason behind these visitors numbers. Lancaster Castle and the Judges' Lodgings have also seen reductions year on year. Nationally, as council budgets have been cut, while visitor numbers for museums and galleries have risen steadily in recent years, reaching over 50,840,545 in 2014/15, government figures indicate they declined in 2015/16 to 47,621, 523. In May 2016 there were a total of 3.6 million visits to the DCMS sponsored museums and galleries, 17.2 per cent lower in May 2016 compared to May 2015 (a decrease of 747,790 visits).).

The report on the future for the Council-owned local museums, compiled by locally-based museum consultant Robert Aitken and London-based Prince and Pearce Ltd, who the Council previously Council consulted back in 2012, presents ideas for a complete redesign of the city council’s museums, but is unlikely to be popular with locals already dismayed by the impending closure of the Judges' Lodgings Museum, which is run by Lancashire County Council.

It comes as councils across the country are facing cuts in services and are looking at ways to save money - and the museums are just one service in the firing line, along with libraries at County level.

Their vision for the future includes a radical revamp of the City Museum as the central hub of a new and reinvigorated museums service that can provide an enhanced cultural offer and much improved public access.

The report that cost £9500 from Prince + Pearce, which had a £6.5 million turnover last year and has previously consulted on the future of the Royal Yacht Britannia and the National Army Museum, suggests the museum could potentially act as a gateway to the city and the wider district and could include the Lancaster Visitor Information Centre (currently in The Storey), retail and catering alongside frequently refreshed collections and exhibitions.

Another recommendation the report makes is the longer term development of a new multi-use facility at Morecambe Seafront with a museums and cultural dimension. This would bring together the interests of many partners around culture, heritage, ecology, wildlife and outdoor pursuits.

The report also deals with the future of the city council’s two other museums – the Maritime and Cottage, recommending they should be closed as maintaining them would be costly and risk the viability of the museum service as a whole.

Despite this grim proposal, the report does suggest the Customs House part of the Maritime Museum, could simply be ‘mothballed’, in case the building is needed in connection with the interpretation of the Roman finds found recently in Quay Meadow.

A large proportion of the collections within the Maritime Museum relate to Morecambe and the Bay area and the reports suggests there may also be opportunities for temporary exhibitions in venues such as the Platform.

When not on display, the report recommends that new improved storage facilities are needed for collections from all the museums.

“All local authorities are faced with having to reduce expenditure and make savings whilst also striving to ensure that services remain relevant and fit for purpose," says Robert Aitken, one of the authors of the report.

“These challenging circumstances need to be embraced and they provide a golden opportunity for the city council to re-invent its museums and bring them into the 21st century."

“As someone who lives locally, I’m passionate about the future of our culture heritage and how it can inspire future generations," he says. “There is much work to do on many of the options we have presented, but with a bold vision the district will be able to safeguard and display its cultural assets for many generations to come.”

Cabinet members will consider the report when they next meet on Tuesday 28th June 2016. No decisions will be taken in respect of which recommendations to pursue, but they will be asked to authorise that further work takes place to test the options.

Aitken, Prince + Pearce (AP+P) were asked to review their earlier recommendations set out in an options appraisal for Lancaster City Museum prepared in 2012, and to address the new brief by producing further options for the District museums service. This includes the City Museum, Maritime Museum and the Cottage Museum.

The Judges’ Lodgings, owned by Lancashire County Council, and Lancaster Castle, owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, were not included in the review.

Among other recommendations, the report from Aitken, Prince and Pearce suggests:

  • The City Museum could potentially act as a gateway to the city and the wider district and could include the Visitor Information Centre, retail and catering alongside frequently refreshed collections and exhibitions
  • In the longer term the development of a new multi-use facility at Morecambe Seafront, with a museums and cultural dimension, should be looked into. This would bring together the interests of many partners around culture, heritage, ecology, wildlife and outdoor pursuits
  • The Maritime and Cottage museums should be closed as maintaining them would be costly and risk the viability of the museum service as a whole. The Customs House part of the Maritime Museum, however, could be ‘mothballed’ in case the building is needed in connection with the interpretation of the Roman finds found recently in Quay Meadow
  • New improved storage facilities are needed so collections from all the museums are consolidated and conserved in a new store
You can read the Report online here. There are no costings in the report in terms of how much it would cost to close the two museums, or how much it would cost to build an all-new facility in Morecambe

Lancashire County Council: figures for visits to attractions in Lancashire, 2014/15 (PDF)

• The Museums Asscociation has details of national visitor numbers to museums for comparison here and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport posts details of visitor numbers to DCMS sponsored museums and galleries here

Association of Leading Visitor Attractions - Visitor Number Data 2015

12 comments:

AntiStupid 124 said...

A "grim report"??? Looks remarkably positive to me in the circumstances. But then, VL often conflates 'potential change' with 'certain disaster'. The council doesn't seem to be able to make any suggestions for investigation without someone on this blog taking the negative view. How can the council justify the expense in keeping open a museum like the Maritime Museum which gets a grand total of 35 people a day according to the report? Most of them don't pay if they're local. When I've been there (the odd occasion) the staff look bored to tears. It's nothing to do with marketing - it's in the wrong place, it's offer is static.

The report makes sense - consolidate the collection and offer for Lancaster and make the collection available and more relevant to other parts of the District (Morecambe and Rural areas) which can then be better served in terms of access to their own heritage and interests. Should also help refresh things for Visitors as well.

Virtual Lancaster said...

What intrigues us about this report is it's "blue sky thinking" in some respects. Also, because the County run the Judges' Lodgings and the Duchy run the Castle, they couldn't include them in their "grand plan" - or the Storey, come to that. Surely if you are going to revise the City's cultural offer so radically, you have to consider a plan that works with all those offering similar services, with a view to sharing costs - particularly given the funding cuts faced?

There's nothing wrong with the ideas to revamp the City Museum - they're on similar lines, I believe, to those proposed by the same company back in 2012 (I haven't found that report yet - presumably these consultants got paid a similar fee as they have for, in part, regurgitating them in 2016?). But instead of building a new building, what about utilising existing ones? Making a Morecambe Maritime Museum part of the Winter Gardens, for example, by working with the Trust that runs it?

What about working with the County and Duchy to keep the Cottage Museums open as part of an extension to the expected development of the Castle experience rather than selling them off?

And marketing IS an issue - if people don't know something is there, they aren't going to go, and spending in that area has declined markedly in recent years - resulting in declining numbers of visitors. You only have to watch any TV channel to see how often they feel the need to remind their viewers of a new show or ongoing series to keep an audience. The same applies to the "static" museums of Lancaster (and other attractions). Perhaps spending £10K on promoting what you have rather than what you don't (rather than £9500 on this report) would have better served those attractions? Not TV ads, but basic improvements to getting out the information about what's on.

Actually, that wouldn't even cost any money, just a requirement for someone to do their job properly.

Case in point on the County side, when the County decided to keep the Judges' Lodgings open, no-one bothered to tell local schools so bookings for school visits are well down.

Oh, and if we're talking radical thinking, what about moving all museum services into Lancaster Town Hall? Yes, it's a listed building but being listed doesn't mean you can't change things. I doubt the Town Hall has had a lift since it was opened for example. It might takes longer to get changes approved, but might be better than spending out on a whole new building. Morecambe Town Hall would of course be an alternative to building an all-new shiny museum at undisclosed cost but of course it's already costing a fortune to keep open and in a safe condition.

AntiStupid 124 said...

Of course you haven't read the report properly. The Storey is mentioned in the report as a space that the Museums service could add value (as well as other public spaces) -the question to ask is why doesn't it already? That is the static nature of the current service and the way it faces (inwardly and focussed on the buildings). The City has to put its own house in order first and must first sort out the things within its control. It's all very well asking to work with other bodies - however, there has to be a basis and strategy to work from otherwise all is blather and easy to say. And of course, everyone assumes there are marketing people simply sitting round doing nothing rather than stretched to breaking point already by the demands on them.

Again, you haven't read the report. Better use of public spaces and 3rd party spaces through a revamped way of hosting and distributing the collections is a crux of the report. You are the one that is fetishising about buildings when the real issue is presenting a collection and interpretation fit for where and the way people live their lives not what a few people think they wanyt. You may have noticed that the Town Halls are still in use as ...erm ... Town Halls. I consider it highly unlikely Lancaster Town Hall could be repurposed at anything other than astronomical cost. Morecambe Town Hall may have alternative uses if its not required as a Town Hall - but that hasn't been mooted. It's not exactly accessibly anyway.

Always the same isn't it - "Why not spend money on this, that the other" rather than see the value in professional input and new ideas. Who would have come up with the idea of releasing valuable real estate on the Quay and taking the collection to a fit for purpose storage facility? This then releases the collection to be used in many different ways. Perhaps taking the collection to schools is better than dragging them into town? Ever thought of that?

As if the council isn't talking to key partners! Of course it will be. But it's likely not that simple. And when it comes to the crunch it's probably not straightforward to dovetail agendas and budgets without a lot of professional input. Best work with what's in front of you and dovetail where you can. It's called pragmatism ...but in VL Towers where ideological purity seems to be the rule, everything has to be perfect and aligned before anything can happen. Got news for you chum...life doesn't work like that. It's messy, full of compromises, negotiation and decisions which luckily you'll never have to be in apposition to make. "Why oh why oh why oh why can't we have everything" says VL ... reality, that's why.

The thing is, none of your thinking is actually 'radical'. You actually consider that the Museums Service is simply the buildings. Building uses change, they're not static or pickled. The radical idea that you've missed is that a Museums Service need not actually be about core buildings or fixed displays full of 'worthy' stuff. Spaces are needed but they don't have to be just about objects or necessarily labelled 'Museum'. The key to the report and the freeing up of all options - perhaps even the options you describe is actually the idea of the new collections store. But, you can't see the wood for the trees.

John Freeman said...

Dear Anti Stupid, while you make some interesting points, unless you're prepared to decloak and reveal who you are, instead of hiding behind a stupid alias, I won't be approving any more. Please don't put words in my mouth or assume things that aren't simply aren't true about what I have or haven't done. This is the classic practice of most internet trolls. Come out from under the bridge or go away.

John Freeman said...

Now I've calmed down a bit after reading your patronising "I know better than you, but I'm not prepared to say who I actually am" comments...

PART ONE

"Of course you haven't read the report properly."

Yes, I have,

"The Storey is mentioned in the report as a space that the Museums service could add value (as well as other public spaces) -the question to ask is why doesn't it already?"

Yes that is, a good question - and one the report doesn't actually offer any solution to. In fact, if you read the publicly available report, the Storey is mentioned in passing just FOUR times. There is no detail, there is mention of its potential use as an exhibition space, utilising already existent space... but hang on, funding for the organisations that run that space was cut some time back. Yes, national funding bodies have already sabotaged awareness of this space - despite its location nearer the Castle, which undoubtedly could increasingly become a hub for the City's heritage offerings (which is what the Duchy proposes - you may have read their plans).

The Storey is a smashing facility, but we've already seen how badly it has been run as a business centre (leading to painful decision making by the Council in July 2012 - Council minutes here: https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=5877&Ver=4). This is one of the reasons virtual-lancaster has been critical of SOME Council projects (the shocking poor judgement over choice of potential partner for Lancaster Market building when the Council tried to sell it to a dodgy and now disappeared company simple internet search would have revealed as dubious, for example), while extolling the vision of others - for example the Square Routes project, sadly compromised by some practical choices post design phase (choice of paving material) and its complex management (trying to book the use of the Plinth). Would The Storey be better run as a tourist centre - and, if it IS to be run as a tourist centre, would the VIC need to be moved? That is not addressed in the report.

FYI The City Council reduced its commitment to actively promoting the gallery space at the The Storey in 2012, the City Cabinet resolving that a grant be no longer allocated to the Storey Gallery company but used to support the future management and operation of the Storey Gallery space as it is essential for the management of this space. https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=297&MId=5903&Ver=4.

John Freeman said...

PART TWO

"That is the static nature of the current service and the way it faces (inwardly and focussed on the buildings). The City has to put its own house in order first and must first sort out the things within its control. It's all very well asking to work with other bodies - however, there has to be a basis and strategy to work from otherwise all is blather and easy to say."

Which is all fine and dandy, but if you read the report, you'd perhaps notice that all three museums (the City, the Cottage and the Maritime) ARE MANAGED BY LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL under an agreement, since 2003, with the City although the buildings and the objects (with the sole exception of those of the King’s Own Regimental Museum which occupies space within the CityMuseum) remain the property of the City Council. So discussion with Lancashire County Council is a vital part of any change of use discussions... so why not also include the Judges' Lodgings?

I'm aware, however, that one of the basis for the report's finding was perhaps already established in the report was perhaps already part of the brief, although you may perhaps be aware that Aitken, Prince + Pearce DID actually consider the City's Museum's offering in a wider context, in partnership with the County Council in 2012 - and costs were provided for an revamp. See https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/documents/s39981/RobertAitkenMuseums.pdf.

As an aside it's a shame that trying to find past documents on the City Council web site has become such a chore since its change to a utilitarian look (similar to that of Lancashire County Council). You might be forgiven for thinking that the Council wanted to make it hard for those interested in their work to find such things.

"And of course, everyone assumes there are marketing people simply sitting round doing nothing rather than stretched to breaking point already by the demands on them."

No, I don't assume that. I know how hard both the press team at Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council work and the fine job they do despite budget cuts. This was an instance of your comments putting words in my mouth, I felt. I cited a specific instance of an unfortunate oversight at County Council level as regards simply boosting numbers to the Judges' Lodgings. And, if the staff are "stretched to breaking point" then this simply confirms how little that work is unappreciated and poorly funded, to the detriment of promoting the services offered. That comment simply confirms what I argued - that reduced marketing reduces footfall. We've seen it at national level for museums and galleries too, so I'm aware this is not just an issue for Lancaster City Council.

John Freeman said...

PART THREE

"Again, you haven't read the report. Better use of public spaces and 3rd party spaces through a revamped way of hosting and distributing the collections is a crux of the report. You are the one that is fetishising about buildings when the real issue is presenting a collection and interpretation fit for where and the way people live their lives not what a few people think they wanyt. You may have noticed that the Town Halls are still in use as ...erm ... Town Halls. I consider it highly unlikely Lancaster Town Hall could be repurposed at anything other than astronomical cost.”

Except the Council has previously discussed losing one Town Hall for cost reasons in the past but the Council has voted against it. That was a "bold vision" idea that like many others, was dismissed for political rather than practical reasons. And, if we're dismissing the re-purposing of the Town Hall because of "astronomical cost", surely that rather puts paid to the proposal for a new facility on Morecambe sea front for the very same reason?

"Morecambe Town Hall may have alternative uses if its not required as a Town Hall - but that hasn't been mooted. It's not exactly accessibly anyway."

Really? Yes, we all know the problems facing Morecambe Town Hall. Its upkeep is surely a nightmare for the Council, just to keep it safe for continued use. But accessibility is surely one problem - given its location right on Morecambe sea front - that it doesn't have.

John Freeman said...

PART FOUR

"Always the same isn't it - 'Why not spend money on this, that the other' rather than see the value in professional input and new ideas."

See above. The trouble is, AntiStupid, the Council's history is littered with "professional input" and "new Ideas" put forward by various organisations that have ultimately proven nothing but a talking shop with very little to show for that talking. You'll have to forgive me, then, for being somewhat sceptical of another report proposing a "bold vision"
when the Council's Cabinet itself decided to defer discussion of the 2012 report (see https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=297&MId=5903&Ver=4), arguing "Management of the Museums is an important element of the Council’s priorities of Economic Regeneration – and is cited within the Corporate Plan ‘An improved future for the district’s museums is secured’. The decision to defer this item will enable Cabinet to consider further the options available when the report is re-submitted."

Scouring through minutes of subsequent meetings on the Council's web site, the City's Cabinet has since discussed Museum Services with a view to potentially buying the "Silverdale Hoard" in May 2013 (https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=28566 - it decided against); oh, and decided in January 2014 you argued is complicated - that of a "shared service" to enable shared management and expertise, responding to this report https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/documents/s45557/1a.%20Appendix%20A%20-%20Lancashire%20Museum%20Services%20-%20workshop%20report-final%20.pdf.pdf. The decision noted "However, governance arrangements will enable each authority to determine the overall scope of service provision for their museums" (see: https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=297&MId=6177&Ver=4).

The future of Museum Services was of course discussed last month (https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=297&MId=6736) with a view "To advise Cabinet on the findings of a high level review of the current museums service and to propose an overall strategy and actions to develop a more sustainable museums service for the future" (detail at https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=36664)

At Council level, the 2012 Aitken report seems not to have had any attention, although Councillor Sands reported in 2015 that the council continued to work with the County Council to refine the Museums offer in the district and link it more effectively with the districts visitor economy. See: https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=6358&Ver=4 and https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/documents/s49918/cllr%20sands%20exec%20report%202014-15%20final.pdf and was questioned about the work by Councillor Mace. (Regrettably, VL does not have the person power to have someone attend council meetings).

John Freeman said...

PART FIVE

(Sorry about this piecemeal response, it's a limitation of Blogger).

In September 2015 Council Leader Eileen Blamire reported to Council that Lancaster Museums Joint Steering Group met on Friday 24 July (the minutes of this Group do not appear to feature on the Council;'s web site, presumably because much discussion might be about staffing and, perhaps, "commerically sensitive" matters). Here report states: "The new opening hours for the City Museum are now in place and will be monitored to see how the change affects visitor numbers. The City Museum Redevelopment proposals have been agreed and essential works are to start in late September. A new boiler has now been costed and should be in place soon. A feasibility study to assess the potential to connect the Museum and the Lancaster Library is being looked at. We need to develop and approve the vision statement for the proposed redevelopment in line with Lancaster as a heritage city."

This would appear to be the first time the 2012 Aitken report has potentially been alluded to at Council level since it was first presented in 2012. So let's think about that for a moment - the Council commissioned a report, presumably costing around the same amount as the current one (perhaps more, as it offers detailed costings) - and then neither Cabinet or Council have discussed it since?

Further scouring reveals that in January 2016 Council agreed that the Council’s Veterans’ Champion, Councillor Scott, be appointed as an ex officio trustee of the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum (https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=6764&Ver=4).

Most importantly, of course, flying in the face (again) of your claim that its is "complex" for the City and County to work together, Full Council decided in February 2016 (https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=6546&Ver=4):

1) The Council asks the Chief Executive to write to the County Council by 12th February 2016 to request the following:

a) that the County Council review the option of supporting the creation of a financially sustainable Lancaster-wide museum organisation of some kind (for example a charitable Trust). This review should include appropriate consultation with partner organisations (including the City Council, the Duchy of Lancaster and existing Friends Groups) and a full review of the service model for the museums

b) to not dispose of the Judges Lodgings building or relocate its contents until this option has been fully investigated

2) The City Council supports the principle of investigating the creation of a financially sustainable Lancaster-wide museums organisation, initially to include the Judges Lodgings with the Maritime, City Museum and the Cottage Museum and to include when practicable such access to Lancaster Castle as may be negotiated with the Duchy.

The full minute is here: https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=35176

So, clearly, Full Council HAS decided working with the County is advisable in the context of Museum Services, building on the work, presumably, of Councillor Sands and the Lancaster Museums Joint Steering Group, over several years and since 2012. NOW the Council is being asked to consider a 'radical' option, throwing out that course in response to a bold and uncosted 'vision'. Perhaps by now you'll see why I'm concerned by the proposals outlined?

John Freeman said...

PART SIX

On 13th April 2016, Councillor Roger Mace asked Councillor Clifford about VAT options for Museums, which he responded to clearly (https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/documents/s60974/QUESTIONS%20AND%20ANSWERS%20FOR%20APPENDING%20TO%20COUNCIL%20MINUTES.pdf); that he would be happy to join Councillor Mace in drawing attention that our museums are not purpose built
and write to the Chancellor and Minister, copying in Cat Smith MP to ask for support for museums which are listed buildings to help them stay open.

Of course, Museum Services will have been discussed in the wider context of Council budgets, but above I am citing only specific mentions in Cabinet or Council minutes, which is all we have, as council tax payers, to go on.

John Freeman said...

PART SEVEN

"Who would have come up with the idea of releasing valuable real estate on the Quay and taking the collection to a fit for purpose storage facility? This then releases the collection to be used in many different ways. Perhaps taking the collection to schools is better than dragging them into town? Ever thought of that?"

It’s great that the Council at least has £9500 to spend on a report to come up with ideas for the Museums. Unfortunately, what comes across from public comment on this report so far from some councillors is that this is a report that in part (understandably given the situation faced) is more of a response to the sorry state of affairs brought upon a council that has seen its budget slashed by 50 per cent and is jumping in response to continued pressures - and then proposing to spend even more money on a new facility which will have its own ongoing costs. That doesn't seem to make sense, until we see the costings for such options.

Plus, given current uncertainties regarding the sale of commercial property nationally, selling real estate might be considered inadvisable at this time.

"As if the council isn't talking to key partners! Of course it will be. But it's likely not that simple. And when it comes to the crunch it's probably not straightforward to dovetail agendas and budgets without a lot of professional input. Best work with what's in front of you and dovetail where you can. It's called pragmatism ..."

See above, past council policy clearly indicating the City's preferred route has, since 2003, and reinforced in 2016, to be to work closely with other organisations to maximise the appeal of City's heritage offering. I don't think you can view the future of the three Museums under discussion isolation; the Council hasn't in the past and neither should they now.

I'm all for the kind of "bold vision" talked about in the report - and am fully aware of that changing direction will not just be about looking at the building alone, but staffing, too. I don't see how you can't discuss or propose a 'bold vision' for the City's heritage offering if you don't involve all those offering elements of the offering - some of whom you already work closely with.

The County and City Councils have 'swapped' responsibility for various services in Lancaster and Morecambe numerous times (from the museums to canal foot bridges). Please don't give the impression any further discussion is complicated when it has been happening for over a decade in this context.

John Freeman said...

FINALY - PART EIGHT

"but in VL Towers where ideological purity seems to be the rule, everything has to be perfect and aligned before anything can happen. Got news for you chum...life doesn't work like that. It's messy, full of compromises, negotiation and decisions which luckily you'll never have to be in apposition to make. 'Why oh why oh why oh why can't we have everything' says VL ... reality, that's why. "

Please don't assume my 'ideological standpoint'. This is troll behaviour. The brutal reality of the Council's situation in the face of continued financial pressure is apparent - we've been reporting on it for the past few years. I hope I have outlined more clearly the concerns I have with the report, which appears to fly in the face of established Council decisions.

"The thing is, none of your thinking is actually 'radical'. You actually consider that the Museums Service is simply the buildings. Building uses change, they're not static or pickled. The radical idea that you've missed is that a Museums Service need not actually be about core buildings or fixed displays full of 'worthy' stuff. Spaces are needed but they don't have to be just about objects or necessarily labelled 'Museum'. The key to the report and the freeing up of all options - perhaps even the options you describe is actually the idea of the new collections store. But, you can't see the wood for the trees."

I think the wood was one created by the Council itself. Yes, building use can change. The VIC has moved several times in the last 30 years around Lancaster. The consideration of "options" is welcome - but let's be even bolder and work with partner organisations, rather than in isolation.