Two councils are planning to create a charitable trust to take on responsibility of their arts and museums services in a bid to save money.
Hampshire County Council made the decision last month to merge its arts and museums services with Winchester City Council’s museum services, to create a charitable company limited by guarantee that will be known as the Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust.
The plans require approval from Winchester City Council, which will discuss them next month. Final approval will then be discussed by both councils next spring. An application to the Charity Commission about charitable status is expected to be made after that.
In a statement, Hampshire County Council said that the two councils could save a combined total of up to £530,000 a year as a result of the creation of the trust.
The statement said that the trust, which will receive annual grants from both councils, could also attract between £2m and £2.5m of external revenue investment. It said that the museum sector in the area has already attracted £2m in external investment for the years 2011/12 to 2014/15.
Hampshire County Council’s report on the decision said that since 2010 the council’s arts and museums services had faced "significant reductions in national and local government funding – equivalent to a 38 per cent reduction in funding for core museum activity".
The report said that Hampshire County Council’s arts and museums services has already experienced significant reductions in funding and are "vulnerable to future budget savings".
The report said that Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust will deliver "a dynamic brand with national profile that achieves long-term savings for Hampshire County Council".
An interim board for the trust will be recruited between November and February. Hampshire County Council’s existing museum collections will be loaned to the trust, and any new acquisitions will be held by it on behalf of the council, the report said.
The trust will receive up to £578,000 in grants from Hampshire County Council, the report said, but this amount would reduce over time as the council "continues to improve the efficiency of delivering these services".
Keith Chapman, Hampshire County Council executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, made the decision to approve the plan on the council’s behalf.
In a statement, Chapman said that unlike other councils, Hampshire had not abandoned or reduced their museum services "in the face of major financial challenges". He said the creation of the new trust would allow the museum sector to take advantage of available funding.
"It is my firm belief that this is completely the right direction of travel, building as it does on a strong legacy of investment together with the strengths of proven collaboration and innovation so important to success within the current funding climate," he said.
A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council said that further details on how many museums and other services would be taken on by the trust would be confirmed next month, following final approval of the plans by Winchester City Council.