Leeds City Region Leaders� concerns about cuts to science museums


Council Leaders from across the Leeds City Region have sent a letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne, expressing their concerns about potential further cuts to the national Science Museum Group’s funding, following the Government’s spending review at the end of June.

The National Media Museum in Bradford, the National Railway Museum in York, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the National Science Museum in London are run by the Science Museum Group.

The Science Museum Group, which has already made 25 per cent cuts since 2010, has to address a large projected financial deficit from 2014 onwards. The Science Museum Group has said that if an additional 10 per cent cut is made in the spending review at the end of this month, they would have very little choice than to close one of the northern national science museums, as their year-on-year financial deficit would rise from £2 million to £6 million.

These northern national museums play a crucial role in educating and inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers, to drive our country’s economy and its international competitiveness. The museums are also vital to the local and regional economies of Bradford, York and Manchester.

The National Media Museum in Bradford contributes over £24 million per annum to the city and district’s economy in indirect offsite expenditure. As an employer of 103 full time equivalent (FTE) staff it generates GVA (Gross Value Added) of around £3.7 million.

The National Railway Museum in York is at the heart of tourism in the city attracting 700,000 visitors a year with an economic impact of between £40-50 million GVA: a critical part of York’s visitor offer planned to be a significant factor in the city’s plans to double the value of tourism in ten years.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester provides a direct GVA, benefit of over £7 million as a direct employer and purchaser (supporting nearly 150 FTE jobs) and indirect offsite expenditure of nearly £28 million, generating GVA of nearly £8 million.

The Council Leaders are equally concerned about potential funding cuts to the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield. Funding for the National Coal Mining Museum is now contracted through the Science Museum Group. This funding is ring-fenced until 2015, but after then it’s up to the Science Museum Group how much funding the National Coal Mining Museum receives, so any further cuts to the Group will inevitably affect its future viability.

Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the Leeds City Region Leaders Board, said: "In our letter to the Chancellor we propose that funding for the Science Museum Group is moved from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Also that the current level of funding is protected, in the long term interests of our northern cities and the nation as a whole.”

Cllr James Alexander, Leader of City of York Council, said: "The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has a £13 million ‘science and society’ programme and spends its money on a plethora of initiatives, but not on the Science Museum Group. This does not make sense because the science museums are trusted by the public and teachers and have the best experience of presenting science with the greatest impact and reach across the country.”

Cllr David Green, Leader of Bradford Council, said: "Meetings have taken place between Bradford, York and Manchester councils and with the Science Museum Group to discuss how we might support the future of the national science museums in our cities. Clearly, the economic and cultural impact of closing a national science museum in Bradford, York or Manchester would be devastating.”

Roger Marsh, incoming Chair of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The National Media Museum, National Railway Museum, and National Coal Mining Museum for England attract thousands of visitors to our region ever year, and together generate up to £80m for the UK visitor economy. The LEP fully supports council leaders’ proposals and urges the government to look again at the future funding of these organisations. As national museums, the loss of any one would be a detriment not just to the Leeds City Region economy but to the UK’s heritage and cultural life.”