EXHIBITS from the closed Swindon Museum and Art Gallery will be displayed in the borough council's civic offices.

Swindon Borough Council's cabinet has voted to press ahead with plans to convert the first floor of the listed building into a temporary space for the historic and artistic finds after Apsley House shut.

Campaigners from the Friends of SoMAG had hoped to temporarily reopen the Victoria Road building and put all the exhibits back on display there, under the management of South Swindon Parish Council, until the new Cultural Quarter is complete.

They raised questions about the estimated costs of the Civic Offices conversion, which a new report states is around £150,000 on top of £250,000 for the building works, and claimed that a 2019 estimate for a similar process covering half the floor totalled more than £1,800,000.

The group held a demonstration on the Civic Offices steps before Tuesday's cabinet meeting to draw attention to their concerns about this difference - but councillors used another entrance to get inside.

Linda Kasmaty said: "The figures don't add up , it's like they've been plucked out of thin air, and the report is disrespectful to those who read it.

"I think the council are trying to do things on the cheap and they have not got a good track record, I would hate to see Apsley House fall into disrepair.

"I would like the council to think again and make sure they are making the right decision so that if asked about it in the future, they can give a good reason.

"It would be great to let the parish council run Apsley House in the short-term until a long-term solution is found. We're open to working with the borough and looking forward to the Cultural Quarter but do not know when that will be done."

During the meeting itself, Coun Jane Milner-Barry asked if the cabinet is confident that due diligence had been done about the costs of converting the Civic Offices. She called for the report to be rejected until a full breakdown of how the costs have been calculated is made available so that the local authority can be certain their solution is viable.

Coun Milner-Barry added: "There is no detail on how the £150,000 is to be allocated and an impartial observer may wonder if the Civic Offices have been made to look like the cheaper option and they don't have a secure basis in reality."

Coun Robert Jandy is the borough's cabinet member for culture and heritage. He replied: "I have total faith in what has been done with this report..

"Looking at all the various options and costs, maximising the access to the artwork and making sure we get value for money from the public purse, this is a report which I fully support."

The report estimates that work to renovate Apsley House would cost around £450,000 but setting the museum and art gallery in the Civic Offices would cost around £150,000 on top of £250,000 in building works, making the latter option £50,000 cheaper.

It does not go into further detail but Coun Jandy said a full cost breakdown could be provided to Coun Milner-Barry by council officers.

Cabinet voted to go ahead with the medium-term option of displaying the collections in the Civic Offices as it was felt that enough time had been spent on exploring options for the museum's future and that the report was sound.

The report added: "The benefit of delivering the works at the civic offices is that the accessibility improvements in particular will deliver benefits to the civic building beyond the occupancy period of the museum given that the long-term intention for a permanent Museum and Art Gallery within the Cultural Quarter remains the priority.

"The civic provides a number of benefits beyond Apsley House, such as larger floor space, greater potential for improved accessibility, and significantly enhanced education space.

"If funds were by contrast invested in Apsley House, there would be limited long-term benefit, given the permanent plan is for a museum and art gallery within the Cultural Quarter to which the sale of the asset would be expected to contribute."