THE OPENING hours of Swindon’s Museum and Art Gallery have been reduced, following last week’s budget cuts decision.

The museum and art gallery in Old Town will now be closed on Monday and Tuesday and only open between Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

The council announced earlier this year that it was considering a number of options to ‘tackle the financial challenge it faces now and over the next three years’.

The Government has withdrawn £1.4m in funding this year and warned the council it could face budget cuts of up to £45m over the next three years.

The reduced opening hours came into force this week.

Paul Ricketts, chairman of the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, said: “I think it’s at a point where the museum should be changing anyway.

“The long term plan was always that the museum would have moved to the centre of town by now.

“If we’d have been on the original timescale the museum would have been closed and reopen in its new home in 2011 and the gallery in 2012.

“If we are still part of that process then I have no complaints but if the council is cutting the hours to reduce the museum to nothing then we have got complaints.”

He added that there were many people who were prepared to volunteer to help at the museum and he hoped the council would look at that opportunity before it took any further decisions.

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, said he expected similar things would happen across the country but Swindon was one of the first.

“Museums manage on a minuscule amount of money so in actual fact they find it really hard already.

“It’s hard for them to adapt because they are running on empty already.

“I predict there will be other museums that will close or some that will only open on certain days – Swindon is fairly early but they all will in the end.”

Coun Garry Perkins, deputy leader of Swindon Council, said: “Obviously we are looking at how to save money without affecting access to the museum and Monday and Tuesday have been fairly quiet for the museum.

“We are actively looking for a temporary home to get modern art up and on show rather than hidden below Bath Road and we are talking to property owners in Swindon about various possibilities.

“School groups will still be able to visit the museum on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and even if all the schools visited twice a year there would still be enough room for them on the days the museum is open.”