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Row over Amesbury Museum
VOLUNTEERS at Amesbury Museum have urged town councillors to “get their act in order” after they publically bickered about how the museum should be run.
Although councillors agree the museum is a good idea, a row has broken out between them and the museum’s trustees.
Problems with the lease for the building and land have caused delays and seen legal fees rocket – at council tax payers’ expense.
Cllr Andrew Williams from Amesbury’s town council’s finance committee told councillors at their meeting last Tuesday: “Legal fees have gone way over budget. We had £1,000 in the budget and over £4,000 has been spent. This is a severe cause of concern for the finance committee.”
Cllr Roger Fisher asked whether the museum’s trustees should hand over the running of the museum to the town council.
And Cllr John Noeken said: “This council is losing confidence in the way that we are dealing with the museum’s trustees.
“It is a sad disappointment. There is no lack of commitment from the council or the museum’s volunteers. However, we are losing faith. This does not bode well for the future. Good governance is critical.”
Andy Rhind-Tutt, who founded the museum and is both a town councillor and a museum trustee, said that he hoped one day funding would be available to build a new visitor attraction on the site to boost tourism.
But to do this the trustees would need to own the land on which the former Melor Hall, bought by the town council two years ago, stands.
“We cannot get match funding to build a new museum if we do not own the land,” said Cllr Rhind-Tutt. “All the stuff in the museum belongs to the trust and if we don’t run it then it will have to go somewhere else.
“We have to make this work for the community.”
Museum volunteers who attended the meeting pleaded with the council to get the matter sorted out.
“Get you act in order and move on,” said volunteer Bill Dunn. “Both sides made errors. The volunteers are happy to carry on but you have to get it sorted.”
Norman Parker from the Amesbury Society added: “We have proved over the last two years this museum can work – just get on and run it.”
Councillors agreed that the lease should be signed for the building first and discussions about the land would have to take place at a later date. The issue will come back to Amesbury Town Council’s March meeting for further discussion.
Amesbury Museum, which tells the town’s story dating back to Mesolithic times, is open on Saturdays and Wednesdays as well as for special events.