This article for the Reporter was written last Friday. Since then, we have had ministers announce a better than expected financial settlement for museums in the spending review, and promise MOSI won’t close.
My speech in the Commons on Wednesday can be found here
I have had a busy couple of weeks campaigning to make sure the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) stays free and open.
Last week, I persuaded the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee of which I am a member to investigate the funding issues around MOSI and the Science Museum Group, which is made up of Museums in Manchester, York, Bradford and London.
I have also raised the issue with the Leader of the House, and BIS ministers (MOSI wants to come under their department as it covers Science, rather than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport); lobbied Vince Cable personally and, by the time you read this, there will have been a debate in the House of Commons which I spoke on behalf of the Liberal Democrat MP’s.
The week before last I submitted an early day motion calling for MOSI to remain open, and free, and congratulating the Manchester Evening News on its campaign to protect MOSI.
The Museums Group currently has a £2million deficit, and this will raise to £6million if a 10% cut in its national grant takes place, and the Group does nothing to make efficiencies or raise income.
My view is simple. I want MOSI to stay open and to be free. I have no problem with the Museums Group trying to raise money through more sponsorship, patrons, legacy work, bidding for grants, marketing the site better, selling more merchandise or charging more for refreshments. I have no problem with MOSI saving money perhaps cutting top salaries, or using energy more efficiently.
But charging the people of the Manchester to go to MOSI is a backward step.
Last year over 833,000 visited MOSI, including 100,000 school children. This compares to 277,000 visitors when there was a charge. 5 million visitors went through the doors of the 4 museums in the Science Museum Group in the last 12 months. Getting just £1.20 per visitor more would wide out the deficit.
In the last year before free entry, 7.2 million visited UK Museums. Last year, 18 million went through the doors. 8 of the 10 top visitor attractions in the UK are free museums.
And the people going through the door are more diverse than in 2000. More younger, working class and residents from ethnic minorities.
MOSI is worth fighting for.