The Future of the Herefordshire Museum Service
HMSSG‘s Key points for HC General Scrutiny Committee 09/04/18
- HMSSG was formed in 2015 and registered in 2017 as a Charity (CIO Association model). Our Objects are to support the maintenance and development of the entire Museum Service – Collections, Buildings, Staff’s essential professional experience and skills.
- Recognises the financial drivers to transfer out the Service and wants that journey to work well for all stakeholders – the people of Herefordshire now and in future, HC, visitors, and the county’s cultural, heritage, educational and tourist economies
- Underlines the importance of a sustainable, viable future for the Service to safeguard the Collections and ensure their ongoing accessibility to Herefordshire people and others
- Prioritises responsible construction of a robust and appropriate governance and business model so the Museum Service can not only survive but flourish in the future.
- HMSSG and HC’s partnership HLF-funded ‘Resilient Heritage’ project engaged expert Museum Consultants Prince + Pearce to devise a resilient, sustainable future model for the Museum Service. The Report gives a detailed, staged road-map for managing withdrawal of HC funding and sets out a viable, sustainable Museum Trust business model.
- This model is based on an expert review tailored specifically to the Museum Service. Whilst there may be synergies between some elements of MLA services, there are crucial, distinctive differences. Each Service may benefit from a similar focussed review?
- The LGA Peer Review of MLA identified this grouping as a means to save money, not as a strategy to secure the best future for each Service. A careful study of the potential wider benefits/negatives of closer working has not been undertaken.
Components and stages of the model:
- The model is holistic and coherent – parts of it cannot be successfully cherry-picked.
- The host ‘subsidiary trust’ stage enables timely yet careful change-management towards an eventual independent Trust. Well-designed Partnership working is a key to success.
- The Report is a goldmine of valuable expert guidance on a wide range of aspects.
- HMSSG strongly advocates securing funding for further Museum expertise to inform and underpin the next stages for the Museum Service.
Procurement and Transfer Processes
A selection of potential interested parties were invited by HC to respond to a ‘Soft Market Test’. HMSSG does not view this as a reliable scoping exercise on which to base important policy decisions, but the SMT indicated support for the P+P model for the Museum Service.
HMSSG urges HC to very carefully consider crucial aspects of transfer, tender and procurement, because there is high risk that if the special nature and circumstances of the Museum Service are not clearly understood, and if specific quality issues are not addressed from the start, the model will not succeed. There are many detailed priority procurement aspects to consider. HMSSG suggests these indicative examples:
- Avoid focus on purely financial drivers: in this case the best partner/host is not necessarily the cheapest; the model is at risk if a cost-saving approach dominates. The priority is to achieve a sustainable future for the Museum Service that does justice to the Collections. (This approach will also attract more external funding support.)
- Ensure procurement/tender/transfer processes are open and transparent, with dialogue and shared ideas-development focussed on the best future for the Service.
- Ensure strong commitment to quality and to the special local, cultural, social and economic potential of the Museum Service: Set out clearly and agree the quality and delivery requirements and detailed specifications, with penalties for non-delivery.
- Involve museum experts, users and professional staff in the formulation and building in of quality and good practice requirements across the new model eg collections care, staff skill-sets, Board membership categories, development goals.
- HMSSG sees partnership working as important to a successful outcome for the Museum Service. While appreciating this opportunity to share some issues with the Scrutiny Committee, there are many detailed further aspects to explore and to get right.