25th November 2021
SBC Report Bewilders SoMAG
Members of Save our Museum and Art Gallery (SoMAG) feel bewildered by the paper going to Cabinet on 1 December.
And they’re not on their own in that!
“The figures simply don’t add up,” said a SoMAG spokesperson.
See the Adver coverage of the report in question here: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19739246.400-000-show-swindons-art-collection-euclid-st/
“We’ve always said we’ll support the conversion of the first floor of the Civic Offices to a museum and art gallery. But on the proviso it’s funded as it should be to provide appropriate gallery and exhibition space. The collections, which we Swindon residents own, include art of international significance and objects and artefacts. And all need appropriate conditions and engaging interpretation and displays.
SBC still have no budget allocated beyond making the space available. Ergo their plans amount to no more than accessible storage.
“In March 2019 officers presented Cabinet 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, as if by magic, cost £150,000 to convert THE ENTIRE first floor to a museum/gallery space. And further, an extra £250,000 to improve the lift so it’s suitable for carrying people, rather than 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 SBC have arrvied at this new “estimate”.
Pluck, pluck, plucking
‘The option that Cabinet actually accepted in 2019 was to do some work on Apsley House – including ensuring a working lift. Those costs were estimated to be £400,000. This paper’s current estimate for necessary reparations etc is now £450,000. So while the costs of converting the Civic Offices have plummeted, the cost of converting Apsley House has increased by a leap.
The only conclusion we can draw is that SBC are plucking numbers from the air to suit a particular line of argument. Rather than reaching an evidence-based decision.
“Finally, something else doesn’t add up financially. This report says they can’t allow Swindon South Parish Council to run Apsley House until the building of the new cultural quarter. The reason given being, that Swindon Borough Council needs to sell Apsley House pronto to put the funds towards the cultural quarter.
In fact, the parish council has proposed leasing Apsley House from SBC and returning it when they’re in a position to commission construction of the new museum/gallery.
“So to sell Apsley House in the near future, when the Cultural Quarter is years or decades away – and remember, there is no funding in place for this aspirational project yet – seems indefensible.
Property values tend to rise far faster than cash in the bank over the longer term. So it’s almost inevitable that the real value of the sale will fall, the sooner SBC disposes of it.
It doesn’t add up.
Thus: SBC Report Bewilders SoMAG