So, Bradford CC's finances have got so bad that they need to consider closing Ilkley Museum. And Cllr Hawkesworth (now, honest to goodness, an independent) has stepped in. Let's ignore the obvious point that for people to start screaming and running about now doing a Chicken Little is ridiculously silly; this move has been on the cards since 2011, and lots of other authorities have taken exactly the same route. A bit of forward planning might have been helpful.
However, to look at the history, a few years back Bradford suggested something similar. At least, they looked into putting the historic properties across the city into a single trust. This would have passed the assets to the 'usual suspects' (Carillion, Mapeley, etc) and then paid those companies to manage them. Thankfully, it was stopped before it went too far. And a few years after that, there was a suggestion that went into some detail (led this time by Cllr Hawkesworth) to put the Moor and other assets into a Trust. Officially, this was to take advantage of cash from Natural England, though it was proposed with unseemly haste. Again, the proposal fell (this blog fought it on the basis that the Middleton settlement had handed the moor to the people of Ilkley, and not to Bradford CC), though the sale of Silver Well Cottage took place to raise some money that apparently went towards upkeep of the moor, and the 'Friends of Ilkley Moor' was created to try and drive a two lane by-pass across our wild land, judging by their paving work.
This proposal is slightly different. Not least in that this site finds itself broadly on the same side as Ms Hawkesworth. For a start, it will happen in some form, and I doubt, given the nature of future funding cuts, that many of the other Bradford museums will survive the next half-decade themselves. The method of the council is all wrong, however, as Cllr Hawkesworth points out. Trying to pass off the museum to the Cockshott cabal would mean the same as simply closing it. Well-meaning amateurs will not (as John Cockshott himself concedes) be able to run the place. Which is not to say that some amateurs couldn't help. Ilkley is home to one of the country's leading arts PR companies and one of its leading museum exhibition designers. Not to mention a few curators.
But it's not going to be open on the same basis as it would as an LA museum. Two days a week perhaps? Is there any need for more? Perhaps a decent compromise would see reduced council funding and an increased drive for commerciality. But... Ilkley is no longer the tourist draw it once was. It's now a commuter town. Even the vaunted receipts of the town's car parks (a sure sign the prices should go up) come from commuters, not tourists. The Manor House should be seen as a community centre and nothing more.
However, the whole debate returns us to the governance of the town once more. With Bradford withdrawing, at what point does the argument for secession gather pace? Let's keep our car park receipts, and pay for our museum. Let's keep our council tax too, and use it for the benefit of our town. And let's take back our moor and the lands given in the Middleton settlement too.
Mind you, if we can't find people to run a museum, how on earth would we run that?
Incidentally, this image is from one of the benches at the Manor house. The plaque was removed in 2005=ish, and never replaced. Would be nice, don't you think? It's a lovely sentiment.