Councillors at Chichester District Council are exploring the option of commissioning a charitable trust to manage the Novium Museum, in order to build and expand on its current success.
The decision follows a piece of work that was carried out to look at future opportunities and improvements that would enable the museum to continue to provide best value to local residents.
Cllr Gillian Keegan, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services at Chichester District Council, said: “In the current economic climate we have to look at ways of reducing costs and providing services more efficiently. The museum and tourist information centre are constantly doing this, and have made huge strides by introducing weddings at The Guildhall and increasing visitor numbers through exhibitions and activities.
“Since offering free entry, things have really started to turn around. Visitor numbers and the museum’s income have significantly increased, and the museum has introduced some fantastic new exhibitions such as the Tim Peake Exhibition.
“The museum has also been recognised both regionally and nationally through a number of awards. Visitor numbers in December, compared with the same month a year earlier have doubled. This is great news and the museum team is doing a great job. What we need to do, is to look for the most efficient way of continuing this good work. We are doing this because it is important that we are always assessing what we are doing and how we are doing, just like any other business does.
“We regularly review all of our services to make sure that we are operating them in the most efficient way and that we are meeting the needs of our residents. This gives us the opportunity to look at new ways of doing things in order to continue to deliver the services that our residents expect,” she adds.
“We have already looked into the benefits of a trust running the museum on our behalf. This option would enable the museum to access and attract grants and funding that the council cannot. At the moment, we feel that this is the best option.
“Trusts are able to operate differently to the council, which leads to savings and economies of scale. Some organisations operate numerous sites, and so they are able to share their systems, technology, marketing and buying power. Plus, a trust may have charitable status, which has certain tax saving advantages. This opportunity has the potential to give our museum the chance to build on its current success and expand on it.
“It is important to point out that we would still own the museum and we would manage the operational contract. There would also be a process to ensure the management company performs to the standards that we expect.
“It’s also an approach that many other councils across the country have successfully adopted and so this way of working is definitely tried and tested. The service to our customers would continue as usual.
“Following a procurement exercise a report will be taken to Cabinet to see if this is how they would like to proceed,” explains Gillian.
“Providing our residents with high quality services in the most cost-effective way, is our priority.”
The council will now start a procurement process to explore the option of working with a partner. If this goes well, the council hopes to bring back a report early next year outlining a preferred bidder.