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Major reorganisation of the Harris Museum and Library planned

Posted on - 11th March, 2015 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, News, Preston City Centre, Preston Council
Harris Museum and Art Gallery faces onto the Flag Market

Harris Museum and Art Gallery faces onto the Flag Market Pic: Tony Worrall

Funding for the Harris Museum and Library is expected to be frozen for the next three years as a “new vision” for the building is worked out.

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Preston City Council is proposing to bring in a new Arts and Culture Development Manager who will be responsible for “reducing ongoing operational costs”.

A major reorganisation of how the Harris operates is on the cards with the city council investing £90,000 in consultancy fees and a new arts role.

Whoever is appointed in the £75,000-a-year post is to be tasked with ensuring the Harris continues to punch above its weight as a “go to destination” in the North West.

Arts Council England has stumped up £95,000 towards the city council’s plans for the Harris.

The city council is also using £90,000 saved from transferring the Guild Hall to Simon Rigby’s ownership to fund the new role and changes.

It is not known what the changes to the Harris will involve but the report to the city council’s cabinet states:

– A new business case and management structure is to be drawn up

– A shared services deal put in place with Lancashire County Council, with a single management structure

– Possible commercial opportunities should be included in any new offer, reducing the reliance on council subsidies

harris museum

The Harris Museum is the cultural centre of the city and has been since Victorian times

Councillor Veronica Afrin cabinet member for culture and leisure said: “The Harris is the jewel in Preston’s crown and is hugely important regionally and nationally. Indeed, the Harris has almost limitless potential and we are exploring how, with some investment, we can build on that potential.

“We will be working very closely with potential external funders to attract new investment into the Harris offer and appoint someone to lead this project and develop a vision for the Harris Museum in the 21st and succeeding centuries. Lancashire County Council are our partners in this project and together we are looking to bring all the services together, including the library.

“This is an important first step in a very ambitious change programme.”

The city council is budgeted to spend £2.6 million on the Harris during 2014-15, and it brings in around £1.2m in revenue leaving the council subsidising the building to the tune of £1.4 m per year. Staffing costs for the building run to more than £800,000 per year.

Currently the Harris brings in £73,870 a year from customers and events.

Staff at the Harris have been briefed on the proposals and the city council says relevant Unions have been notified.

A council spokeswoman confirmed the £75,000-a-year post was an annual salary (including pension and associated costs) and was a three-year fixed term contract.

A statement in the city council report to cabinet states: “It is expected that the development of a shared service could ultimately reduce the cost of the Harris Museum & Library services enabling savings to be redirected into other Council priorities.”

The full report can be viewed on the city council website.

What do you think of the proposals? Do you use the Harris? Let us know in the comments below

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