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MOST ICONIC: Wirral Council criticised for keeping attraction closed on Sunday

MOST ICONIC: Wirral Council criticised for keeping attraction closed on Sunday

Oxton councillor Stuart Kelly said he was “shocked” by the decision to shut the Williamson on Sundays, Image: Google Maps

Wirral Council has been criticised for keeping one of the borough’s most iconic attractions closed on Sundays.

Oxton’s Williamson Art Gallery was facing potential closure at the start of last year, before the council decided to keep it open after a huge public backlash.

But the authority still has to save £90,000 from the amount it loses on the gallery each year to stick to its 2021 budget plans.

Oxton councillor Stuart Kelly said he was “shocked” by the decision to shut the Williamson on Sundays, as it has taken away the chance to experience a key part of Wirral’s culture on a day when families can access it more easily.

Cllr Kelly, a Liberal Democrat member, added: “Last March the council wanted to close The Williamson for good but following a massive public petition it was saved and we were told there would be a reduction of only one hour per week [in its opening hours].

“The model we were shown included opening on a Sunday, nothing has changed, and I am shocked the Conservative chair of the committee is backing the loss of a whole day [of the gallery being open].”

Cllr Kelly thought Sunday opening would help The Williamson financially after the recent threats to its existence, as more customers equals more potential revenue.

But Conservative councillor Helen Cameron, who chairs Wirral Council’s tourism and leisure committee, responded to Cllr Kelly’s concerns over email, saying the opening hours had been decided on following talks with staff at The Williamson which had taken place after the model Cllr Kelly mentioned was discussed.

Cllr Cameron said: “The proposed staff restructure impacted on existing staff hours, therefore a formal consultation with the affected staff was required.

“The outcome of the consultation impacted on Sunday opening due to staff raising objections, supported by [trade unions], that had to be addressed under council policy and as you know budget savings need to be achieved.

“Following an options analysis on reducing opening days, the gallery averaged the same number of visitors on a Sunday as it does on a Wednesday.

“It is cheaper to employ staff on a Wednesday and Wednesdays were more acceptable to the existing staff team, as identified through the staff consultation.”

The Tory councillor compared the Oxton gallery to other attractions in the Liverpool City Region.

She added: “Unfortunately, The Williamson is not unique in not opening on a Sunday. The Atkinson in Southport, the World of Glass in St Helens, Prescot Museum and Kirkby Gallery all close on a Sunday, and National Museums Liverpool, The Tate and The Bluecoats have also recently reduced their opening hours.

“The Williamson was open on Saturday/Sunday in early September for the Wirral Open Studios Tour, Sunday, November 7, will be the Oxton Art Fair and it will open for the Sunday Serenades, when the programme can restart.”

There are also issues with the building, which prevent it from having more people inside.

Cllr Cameron added: “To operate at full capacity requires mechanically air controlled system which needs consent and adaptations, due to its listed building status.

“At [a public committee meeting] on [October 7] David Armstrong [Wirral Council’s assistant chief executive] mentioned this challenge, so only after rectification of these issues could we reconsider opening hours, including Sunday.”

Voters in Oxton will elect a new councillor in the Wirral Council ward on Thursday, November 25.

Candidates standing:
Orod Osanlou (Lib Dem)
Sue Mahoney (Labour)
Philip Merry (Conservative)
Rachel Heydon (Green Party)

 

Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter


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