Members of the Save Our Museum and Art Gallery pressure group say the council’s figures for moving the collections to the civic offices do not add up.

A report will be presented to the borough council’s Conservative council next week asking for the go-ahead to progress using the upper floor of the building in Euclid Street as an exhibition space for the medium to long term.

The museum’s former home Apsley House in Old Town is being fixed up to be put on the market.

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

A spokesman said: “We have always said we will support the conversion of the first floor of the civic offices to a museum and art gallery, as long as it is being properly funded to provide appropriate gallery and exhibition space.

“The collections, which we Swindon residents collectively own, include internationally significant art, objects and artefacts which need  appropriate conditions and engaging interpretation and displays. SBC still has no budget allocated beyond making the space available, and their plans amount to no more than accessible storage.”

The group says past council papers show using the civic offices to show the gallery and museum’s collections was considered much more expensive than the current report suggests.

It says: “In March 2019 cabinet was presented with five options for SMAG, and the most expensive one at £1,864,000 was the conversion of part of the first floor of the civic offices. Cabinet rejected that option. 

“But this new paper estimates that it will now magically cost £150,000 to convert the entire first floor to a museum/gallery space, and an additional £250,000 to improve the lift so it’s suitable for carrying people, rather than just goods. So the cost of converting a larger space has fallen by £1,464,000 in the past two-and-a-half years, yet there is no explanation of how that could be possible or how this new ‘estimate’ had been arrived at.

“The option that cabinet actually accepted in 2019 was to do some work on Apsley House (also including ensuring it has a working lift). Those costs were estimated to be £400,000. This paper’s current estimate for necessary reparations etc is now £450,000. While the costs of converting the civic offices have plummeted, the cost of converting Apsley House has increased considerably. We can’t reach any other conclusion than that numbers are being plucked out of the air to suit a particular argument, rather than reaching an evidence-based decision.”

The group also criticised what it sees as unnecessary haste to sell Apsley House to help fund the cultural quarter and a new gallery, saying that project is years from fruition and the listed Bath Road building will bring in more money if sold later.

The cabinet will consider the report at its meeting starting at 6pm on Wednesday, December 1.