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LETTER: ‘Profound misgivings’ over leisure services in Peterborough

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CambsNews received this ‘open letter’ today from Stuart Orme, chair, Peterborough Museum Society

We are writing to express our profound misgivings regarding the proposals put forward by Peterborough City Council for the future management of leisure services in Peterborough (to include Peterborough Museum and Flag Fen) by a subsidiary company of Peterborough Limited.

The society was founded in 1871 and originally established Peterborough Museum and its collections, handing this over as a charitable trust to the city council in 1968.

This trust has subsequently taken on the ownership of the archaeological park at Flag Fen.

Over the last three years the museum society has constructively engaged with the city council, along with Peterborough Civic Society, to try to find a long-term future for these valuable heritage assets since the collapse of Vivacity during the pandemic.

We have met regularly, provided expertise and advice free of charge, and tried to support the council in achieving its aims, recognising that they are in a period where budgets are incredibly tight.

We are very concerned by the final proposal that has been submitted for approval by the Cabinet of the city council with reference to two key areas:

  • That the proposed governance model will not meet the terms of the national standards for museums (Museum Accreditation, administered by Arts Council England).

Loss of this national standard will automatically bar the museum service from many sources of external funding, thereby placing a further burden on council budgets and leading to further cuts to the museum.

Peterborough Museum Society Committee has written an open letter expressing concerns over the future of the museum and other leisure outlets in the city

Peterborough Museum Society Committee has written an open letter expressing concerns over the future of the museum and other leisure outlets in the city

It will also preclude the museum from loaning objects and exhibitions from other museums, reducing the opportunity to develop audiences, and may well lead to the embarrassment of having to return existing long-term loans from other institutions.

  • That being managed by a private company will also restrict the fundraising ability of the museum more widely from external grants, donations, trusts and foundations, which will again place the costs of these services on the public purse.

More widely, we are concerned that there has been a decline in the lack of provision and support for culture in the city, heritage in particular, despite it being one of the unique selling points for visitors to Peterborough.

Properly handled, it has the potential to help the local economy, with assets that can help instil a sense of civic pride, wellbeing, and support for mental health, as well as being invaluable for learning for all ages.

We would therefore call on the council to reconsider their policy, which seems to put the very future of the museum and Flag Fen at risk, instead of seeking to build them as part of a positive future vision for Peterborough.

We stand ready to help in whatever way we can to achieve this.

Peterborough Museum Society Committee

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