We pedalled through the rain to attend the meeting of the borough council’s Executive Committee yesterday evening. We were interested in several agenda items, but the mention of a ‘leaf’ in our title refers specifically to the discussion about the Surrey Heath Museum. Read on to understand why!
First, came a question about the council’s property acquisition strategy. This was stimulated by an article in yesterday’s ‘The Times’ which criticised the current trend for councils to buy property – offices and shopping centres. At the meeting it was suggested that the risks of the council’s investments should be made public. Also, to justify any future spend on retail property, it should have to be shown that it directly increased the ‘customer experience’. In response, it was said that ‘The Times’ article was considered to be ill-informed. The borough council addresses the risks of potential acquisitions thoroughly before making any decision. However, the importance of attracting customers was fully accepted. Indeed, it was stressed that the prime objective of the council’s purchases was to enable regeneration of the town; they were not made simply to generate income, necessary though this was.
Next came a proposal for the council to make £1 million available to improve the public realm in Camberley. This would be in addition to an anticipated £3.5 million available from other sources. Of particular interest to the Eye, some of the money would be spent on improving the ‘pedestrian priority’ in the High Street. The committee accepted the proposal. (Of course, the Eye supports the decision; improving the lot of pedestrians in the High Street has been a council ‘intention’ for at least thirty years. Why is it taking so long?)
The subsequent item was about council car parks in the borough. It stimulated some interesting debate – but for brevity, we won’t summarise it here.
Next came discussion about the borough’s “heritage service”. (As was pointed out, until recently this was called the “museum service”). Currently just one or two people visit the museum per day on average. The aim is therefore to re-focus the service, consulting with interested parties to find out what they want.
It was said that the museum consultation had been on the council’s website for nearly two months. Have you seen it there? Did you know about it? (Our title about hiding a leaf refers to the fact that the counsultation isn’t mentioned in the list of current consultations on the website. In addition, we’ve failed to find it by searching the website using the term ‘museum’. Moreover, we’ve failed to find it using the term ‘consultation’. Nor has it been mentioned under ‘News’, as far as we can tell. So the consultation is well-hidden. Only by persevering did we eventually find it at https://goo.gl/4FxdPC
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THE FUTURE OF THE MUSEUM SERVICE, DO CLICK ON THIS LINK AND TAKE ACTION. Don’t forget – it’s https://goo.gl/4FxdPC
It’s proposed that the museum should hold no active exhibitions from this September until April next year, in order to manage the consultation and prepare for change. In response, it was suggested that this timetable seemed to imply that the decision had been made already, and that continuing the status quo had been ruled out. However, this was disputed; the Executive will only make a decision once the consultation process has been completed and its results known.