Plans to set up Bewdley Museum as a fully independent charitable trust have been confirmed by Wyre Forest District Council.

The move has been taken following speculation about its future and to correct rumours circulating in the district.

The decision was taken last November to start the process of setting up the museum as a trust. This will also be responsible for the Guildhall and the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Gardens. Trustees will be recruited and anyone with the relevant skills and experience will be encouraged to apply. The recruitment process is expected to start later this month.

The council expects to remain the major funding source for the new trust. Once the trustees have been appointed, it will negotiate a future grant support package.

Councillor Helen Dyke, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, Planning and Localism, said

“We are aware of rumours circulating about the future of the museum and we want to make sure that everyone has the full facts. The rumours are unfounded and irresponsible. They are causing unnecessary concern and distress to the dedicated staff who work at the museum.

“People have been saying the museum is going to close and that the gardens are going to be built on. This is not the case.

“The council is determined to support the trust to make it a success, so that the museum has a sustainable future and continues to be available to local residents and visitors alike. More than 200,000 people a year visit the site and we expect the trustees to build on the solid track record that the council and its excellent staff have created over many years.”

The trustees will be responsible for increasing income-generation at the site. They will be able to take opportunities to reduce costs too. This is because the trust will be free to make its own arrangements for matters such as grounds maintenance and support services, rather than the council undertaking the work itself.

Councillor Graham Ballinger, Leader of the Council, added

“We are having to consider this and many other changes to how we deliver services as a direct result of a decade of Government decisions to reduce funding for local government. Many other councils have successfully put in place trusts to run heritage and cultural facilities such as museums, art galleries and theatres. This is a well-trodden path to make sure that important assets and facilities can continue in a sustainable way, drawing on local support and volunteers.

“Our published Cabinet report sets out our plans clearly. We would encourage everyone to read this before commenting on or criticising what we are doing. These are important facilities for the town and as stated we expect to be the main source of funding for the museum, providing a grant of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. While we would welcome a financial contribution from Bewdley Town Council we are not suggesting they should shoulder the financial burden in full. That has never been the case.”