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Management changes would secure museum's future

Published September 05, 2017 10.36am

The introduction of new management arrangements would enable a popular County Durham museum to develop and attract increased visitors, councillors will hear next week.

A report on the proposed changes at Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon will be presented to our Cabinet on Wednesday, 13 September.

The museum, which opened in 2004, is currently jointly managed by the council and The Science Museums Group (SMG).

However, a review of management structures and governance processes undertaken last year recommended a number of potential changes, which would enable the museum to achieve its full future potential while also ensuring that both organisations continue their commitment to the venture.

National significance

Cllr Ossie Johnson, our Cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: "Not only is Locomotion of national significance as a railway museum, it also plays an important role in the local community, county and region. As such, it is a key asset within the council's cultural portfolio and we remain committed to its long-term development.

"Locomotion currently attracts around 200,000 visitors each year and over the past 13 years has exceeded all our initial expectations.

"However, it is now clear that if the museum is to continue to grow and expand its audience, some changes are needed to the way in which it operates.

"The new arrangements we are proposing will enable this to happen while also ensuring that we are able to continue our direct involvement in the strategic management and governance of the museum."

Proposed changes

At present, some museum staff are employed by the council while the rest are employed by SMG. Under the proposals being discussed next week, council employees would transfer across to SMG.

The proposals would also see some changes to the museum's management board, with an SMG trustee taking up the role of chairman and one of the board's three council representatives becoming vice-chair.

If agreed, the changes would also see the transfer of all land, buildings and structures to SMG, which would take over responsibility for the full maintenance of the site. Both organisations would continue to subsidise operational costs.

However, the council would undertake essential safety works to the grade 1 listed coal drops - which are currently in a state of disrepair - before transferring them to SMG.

The authority would also enter into a 25-year funding agreement with SMG, which would be reviewed every five years.

Cabinet meets at County Hall on Wednesday, 13 September.

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