Question marks over the £ 400,000 cost of moving the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to municipal offices

Members of the Save Our Museum and Art Gallery lobby group say the council’s figures for moving collections to municipal offices do not match.

A report will be presented to the Conservative Council of the Borough Council next week asking for the green light to move forward using the upper floor of the Euclid Street building as medium and long-term exhibition space.

The former museum house, Apsley House in the Old Town, is being repaired to be put on the market.

The report says it will cost £ 400,000 to prepare municipal offices – less than the £ 450,000 that would be needed to do the same at Apsley House – but SoMAG is not at all convinced.

A spokesperson said: “We have always said that we will support the conversion of the first floor of the municipal offices into a museum and art gallery, provided it is properly funded to provide a suitable gallery and exhibition space. .

“The collections, which we, the residents of Swindon, collectively own, include works of art, objects and artefacts of international significance that require appropriate conditions and attractive interpretation and displays. SBC still does not have a budget allocated beyond making the space available, and their plans boil down to accessible storage. ”

The group claims that previous council documents show that using city offices to show the gallery and museum collections was considered to be much more expensive than the current report suggests.

He says: “In March 2019 the firm was offered five options for SMAG, and the most expensive at £ 1,864,000 was the conversion of part of the first floor of the municipal offices. The Cabinet rejected this option.

‘But this new document estimates that it will now magically cost £ 150,000 to convert the entire first floor into a museum / gallery space, and an additional £ 250,000 to upgrade the lift to be suitable for transporting people , rather than mere commodities. So the cost of converting a larger space has dropped by £ 1,464,000 over the past two and a half years, but there is no explanation as to how this might be possible or how this could be done. new “estimate” was obtained.

“The option the firm actually accepted in 2019 was to do some work on Apsley House (including also making sure it has a working elevator). These costs have been estimated at £ 400,000. The current estimate in this document for necessary repairs etc. is now £ 450,000. As the costs of converting municipal offices have fallen, the cost of converting Apsley House has increased significantly. We cannot draw any other conclusion than that the numbers are pulled from the sky to answer a particular argument, rather than come to an evidence-based decision. ”

The group also criticized what they see as an unnecessary rush to sell Apsley House to help fund the cultural district and a new gallery, saying the project is years away from completion and the listed Bath Road building will pay off. more money if sold later.

The cabinet will consider the report at its meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1.


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