Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Councils Plan to Privatise Art and Culture

Bursledon Windmill's Future at Stake 
Museums and Art Galleries across Hampshire and Southampton could be run by a massive "charitable company" following a consultation which started on 22nd June and runs until the end of July.

In what looks like a privatisation, three councils' heritage, artistic and cultural sites would be taken out of democratic control and merged into a single organisation

Conservative Cllr Keith Chapman, Hampshire County Council Executive Member for Culture and Recreation, is gung-ho about the proposal, stating: "At a time when local government finances continue to face pressure, the merger could be an exciting longer term development to help safeguard the future of arts, museums and heritage services."  A position which could be decoded as "The County Council is still desperate to find ways to save money in the face of  massive Coalition cuts to funding from central government, and the arts and culture are a soft target".

Councillor Warwick Payne, Cabinet Member for Housing and Leisure Services in newly Labour Southampton describes it as one of "several proposals in Southampton in regards to arts and heritage" and "urges residents to have their say on this important issue because it is vital that we make the right decision."

Winchester's Conservative Cllr Patricia Stallard is even less enthusiastic:  "We first have to explore whether there is even a viable business case for a merger, and it's important that we ask the public for their views on the proposals as part of this process."

Bursledon Windmill, Eastleigh Museum (which is already being handed over to 1Community for day to day management) and Manor Farm would all be in line for privatisation under the scheme, as would Southampton's excellent art collection, much of which came from donations from benefactors who thought they were supporting a publicly-owned institution.  It would be tragic if the proposed "charitable company" proved to be a ruse to enable those works to be sold off.

There's not a lot of detail available at the moment about how the proposed company would be incorporated and funded, and how democratic accountability would be retained.  Privatisations of trains, buses, water and energy companies have proved disastrous for their customers and consumers while lining the pockets of private businessmen.  It would be understandable if people interested in our arts, culture and heritage, were suspicious of these proposals.

Details about the consultation are on Hampshire's web site.

1 comment:

  1. does this mean it's going to be even harder to complain about arts policy e.g. pole dancing classes in local arts centres?!