Harris lottery bid looks back on – as redundancies loom for staff

It’s back to the drawing board for ambitious proposals to revamp the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston city centre.

Councillors are to be asked to consider resubmitting the £15million lottery bid in November next year – after it failed this summer to land Heritage Lottery funding.

Preston City Council’s cabinet will meet to hear a new timeline and proposal for securing the lottery funding to Re-Imagine the Harris.

It includes keeping on Jon Finch, brought in for £75,000 per year, to spearhead the bid.

However, the staff at the Harris – made up of existing museum staff and current library staff – face the prospect of redundancies if the proposals are given the go ahead.

Knocking a new entrance in the front of the building could also be quietly dropped in any new plans.

The report, from council officers, outlines how £300,000 would be needed – from the city council and Lancashire County Council – to keep Jon Finch in his post until the end of the 2021/22 financial year – with the city council stumping up half of this money.

Costs of resubmitting the lottery bid would total £90,000 – with the city council meeting half of this.

Where the bid failed last time

The Heritage Lottery fund has identified five key areas where the councils must make progress before resubmitting its bid:

1) There must be a single team working in the Harris across all parts of the museum and library

2) The councils may be asked to underwrite the whole bid – which is £18.6million in total – and also seeking firmer commitments from external funders such as the University of Central Lancashire or the City Deal

3) Solve the future of the museums shut down in 2016 by Lancashire County Council such as the Museum of Lancashire

4) Show there is clearer buy into the physical changes to the outside of the building – such as the new entrances – from local stakeholders and specifically Preston residents

5) Demonstrate the transformation proposals from each council are aligned

The first point looks set to see fewer staff at the Harris, as council documents state: “any move to a single team will result in reduced staffing costs to both councils.”

Council officers point to the recent funding for the Harris from the Arts Council as a boost in the wake of the lottery bid rejection.

It landed £225,000 from the Arts Council to carry out events and raise the cultural profile of the Harris over the next four years.

The annual cost of keeping Jon Finch on as project leader looks set to rise, as the report has the total cost of the Re-Imagining the Harris Project Leader creeping above the £80,000-a-year mark.

If the bid is successful, the city council is also being asked to find another £500,000 towards the capital costs of the Harris scheme – it already had £500,000 committed.

The majority of the costs would centre on re-shaping the entrance to the building, which attracted criticism from heritage campaigners and a group called Save the Harris was set up in the wake of the Flag Market entrance being displayed.

Council officers state they would ‘identify and engage with respected, independent broker to lead consultation around the physical changes to the exterior of the building’.

They would also survey similar buildings elsewhere in the world, review original proposals for the exterior of the Harris and also undertake a wide ranging programme of public discussion and debate about the entrances.

Council documents state not seeking the funding was rejected as an option because it remains a ‘key priority for the council’.

An option to phase the Re-Imagining the Harris project and ask for a smaller amount from the lottery was considered, but it would result in the Harris being closed for two significant periods.

What the council say

Executive member of culture and leisure for the city council councillor Peter Kelly said: “I fully support the proposal to resubmit a bid to Heritage Lottery Fund for the Re-Imagining of the Harris project next year. It is a shared ambition from both Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council to secure major investment to redevelop the iconic Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library.

“Support for a resubmission would be another positive step forward in the realisation of this project. This will help to ensure the Harris continues to provide a cultural hub in the heart of Preston for generations to come and further develop the cultural offerings of the city.”

Here’s what’s due to happen and when

November 2017 – details on transfer of staff and services from LCC to PCC confirmed

November 2017 – UCLan is to lead a public consultation aroun the Harris front entrance proposals

December 2017 – A Harris Member Board is set up to oversee the project

February 2018 – the Harris library team and operations are transferred to PCC

February 2018 – both councils approve revenue funding arrangements for the Harris

April 2018 – external review of potential phasing of Harris project is completyed

April 2018 – a single Harris staff team begins operating

April 2018 – relationship between the Museum of Lancashire and the Harris is confirmed

October 2018 – draft Heritage Lottery Fund application presentation is made

October 2018 – decision made on whether councils will underwrite the HLF bid

November 2018 – at least £1million match funding is secured locally from partner organisations e.g. UCLan

30 November 2018 – final Heritage Lotter Fund application is made

Councillors on the city council’s cabinet meet from 6pm on Wednesday 8 November to hear the Harris proposals.

You can view the full report on the Harris lottery bid on the city council website.

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