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Where to make savings

The staff at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery do an outstanding job in an entirely unsuitable environment. The Borough Council solution to the modest cost of running this facility (EA Dec 8th) is sacking one person and further reducing opening hours.

This is the same Council who only 12 months ago were extolling the virtues of spending more than £20 million creating an interesting although somewhat bizarre edifice in Princes Street. In order to make this bid seem credible they coincidently EXTENDED the opening hours of SMAG at the time. Yes really. No mention at all then of operating costs.

Seemingly surprised by his incisive analysis, Dale Heenan describes that a museum and arts service “brings in no income” and as a result he needs to save £20,000, so I have a suggestion for him.

Two years ago the Borough Council sensibly embarked on a radical plan to create a number of parish councils in Swindon devolving responsibility for delivering tier 1 services. Additionally Conservative policy has broadly speaking separated education from local council control, and finally every meeting of the planning committee is told that because there is no strategic plan in place they are unable to resist any developer application. This adds up to a case for redundancy if ever I’ve seen one… yet we still have all the same 57 borough councillors as we had previously.

In North Swindon Orbital we have nine Conservative borough councillors (also 29 parish councillors). Experience tells me that we could manage quite adequately with six and this would reduce “democracy” operating costs by a minimum of £30,000, still leaving Dale Heenan some change. And as it’s nearly Christmas, what better time could there be for the councillors to vote this through.

John Stooke, Haydon End

They’re not art lovers

Coun Dale Heenan is no ‘shrinking violet’ and is well able to hold his own in verbal discourse on the pros and cons of Swindon town centre. However, even Dale, in defending proposals to cut staff and reduce the opening hours at Swindon’s Old Town museum must find it a tad difficult, even hypocritical, to maintain a straight face and spew out the line it “is subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £200,00 per year and Labour councillors are happy for this to continue” (SA 8 Dec).

I recall the leader of the council referred to this particular subsidy when unveiling his vainglorious and utterly hopeless plan for a new Swindon Museum and Art Gallery; only then Coun Renard was suggesting that it was a good thing to subsidise the arts.

Perhaps Coun Heenan would also consider reducing the hours Steam is open, after all that too is subsidised by taxpayers, and at the last count by a sum which dwarfs the subsidy paid to the Old Town museum.

Isn’t it interesting that any suggestions made to the council on how they could exhibit the supposed ‘world class’ art collection, is met with either disdain or a wall of silence. The reality is that Coun Renard and his friends are not art lovers, rather they are legacy seekers, and with the demise of SMAG their interest in allowing the people of Swindon the opportunity to view the Swindon Collection has ended.

Des Morgan, Caraway Drive, Swindon

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