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While RIBA calls for an investigation into how a £60m footbridge was approved after Lumley’s meeting at her old chum Boris Johnson’s offices, there are closures in the north
Compare and contrast these two stories. In Lancashire, five museums will close on 31 March because the county council needs to cut its museums budget from £1.3m to less than £100,000 so that it can maintain at least a skeletal version of statutory, essential services such as rubbish collection. Two of the museums, including the last steam-powered weaving mill in Britain, have been designated as sites of national importance.
Another five Lancashire museums have had their council funding withdrawn and been left to look after themselves – their future is uncertain. Forty of the county’s 74 libraries are also to be culled. Other parts of England, particularly in the north, are of course familiar with similar closures and cutbacks, but in Lancashire they amount to a cultural disembowelment. First they came for the mills, you might say, and then for the libraries, and then for the museums that the mills had become.
Now let’s move to London (as everybody should do, obviously, if they have the money). The national museums and galleries look in good shape, their budgets reprieved from the expected cuts in November’s spending review by a chancellor who apparently understood their spiritual as well as economic value.
But London, even in these straitened times, not only has money available to keep cultural spending at the same level, it can actually increase it. About £60m in public funds, for example, is to be spent on an ornamental footbridge across the Thames, the Garden Bridge, which was originally to have been built from the philanthropy of private enterprise until the estimates of its cost rose by £115m to £175m, at which point the London mayor Boris Johnson pledged £30m from Transport for London, with another £30m promised from George Osborne at the Treasury. […]