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Spiralling Norfolk museums budget 'won't force staff cuts', bosses insist

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Norfolk County Council officials have insisted staff cuts are not on the cards, despite museum budgets ballooning due to pandemic pressures.

Norfolk Museums Service (NMS) will explode past its approved budget of £2.289m for 2021/22, a joint committee of councillors will hear today.

The budget has grown by 32.91pc to £3.043m – a £753,000 increase.

King's Lynn Museum, Market Street (40491524)
King's Lynn Museum, Market Street (40491524)

This follows issues last year, which saw the service overspend by £1.383m.

A report to councillors said the budget issues are due to the impact of Covid-19, which forced many facilities, including Lynn Museum, to close to the public until May.

The report said: “The service is not expected to return to normal in the short term, although whilst open there has been a positive return to museum visiting, with retail sales and café income which will help to alleviate the current financial pressures.”

The report added that the overspend will be mitigated by “managing costs” and using reserves.

Steve Miller, director of culture and heritage at Norfolk County Council, promised cost management would not lead to staff cuts.

He said the Norfolk Museums Services (NMS) has received government support, including from the culture recovery fund.

And not all of the government income is shown in the estimated outturn figure reported to the committee, as some funding is still to be confirmed.

“In parallel with these income support schemes, the museums service continues to control discretionary costs wherever possible,” he said.

“Measures include deferring routine maintenance and controlling discretionary expense wherever possible.

“Staff cuts are not part of these measures.”

Mr Miller said visitor numbers have been “encouraging” since reopening but did not provide a figure.

He singled out the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, which has benefited from a new adventure playground, while wedding numbers at Norwich Castle are back to pre-pandemic levels.

Asked if he has any concerns about further lockdowns or the impact of the government asking people to work more from home as Covid case numbers rise, Mr Miller said: “The museums service has no immediate concerns relating to Covid-19, but will respond appropriately if additional restrictions are brought in again by the Government in the future.”

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