COUNCIL leader clarifies to residents the Windsor museum will not permanently close during its review phase.
Worries were sparked when a report was published where it states: “Close museum as large number of staff and volunteers are shielding, and any tourist market has disappeared.”
This also included closing the face-to-face tourist information office and move to a ‘digital’ setup.
The ‘interim council strategy 2020-21’ paper outlines how the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Council will support businesses and residents, how to transform its services in response to the pandemic, and looking at possible savings due to financial implications caused by Covid-19.
At a virtual cabinet meeting on July 30 (Thursday), councillor Andrew Johnson (Conservative: Hurley and Walthams), leader, reassured residents and opposition members the report will be amended to say the museum in Guildhall won’t be permanently closed – but it won’t be reopening for now.
He added the strategy is a ‘working document’ where he warned some difficult decisions may need to be made.
In the report, it claims that a ‘large number’ of staff and volunteers are shielding where Alice Le Page, museum and heritage learning consultant, clarified cabinet members this was wrong as only a ‘small handful’ of volunteers have been shielding.
She said: “I believe removing this accessible community learning resource – which is free for residents with advantage cards – at a time where people including schools in the Royal Borough will be looking for activities close to home and perhaps close within walking distance is short-sighted and not a positive or responsible addition to your strategic response to the pandemic.”
She added why RBWM hasn’t explored any grant opportunities to support the museum as some have been announced such as the cultural recovery fund for heritage announced by the National Heritage Fund.
Cllr Johnson responded this paper is not proposing to close the Royal Borough and Windsor museum – but will review the service to look at alternative savings.
He added the museums reopening will be ‘paused’ until the council is satisfied it can reopen safely and RBWM will look into securing grants as well as other sustainable options to keep the museum.
The government gave museums and galleries the go-ahead to reopen from July 4.
Councillor Samantha Rayner (Conservative: Eton and Castle), lead member for leisure services and Windsor, said a public consultation will be launched for residents to have a say on the museum and see how RBWM can transform the service.
On the tourist information office – which is not property owned by RBWM – councillor Neil Knowles (Old Windsor Residents’ Association: Old Windsor) suggested it should move into the Guildhall where the museum is from Windsor and Eton station, calling it ‘not a particular strong location’.
He said: “Windsor is a town full of history and that’s what people most want to find out even at the Windsor tourist information office, that’s their key thing they’re interested in.
“I think for a strategic view to reduce overheads and relocate the tourist information set up in some form embedded into the museum setup or in a separate adjunct as a temporary measure would effectively save money while still retaining the service which is still value when needed.”
Cllr Rayner said the council has looked into moving the tourist information office to the Guildhall and will look into it again as ‘everything is up for consideration’.