Tolbooth Museum under threat?

THE future of Stonehaven’s Tolbooth Museum could be under threat following recent announcements of cutbacks for Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillors last week backed plans to make £51 million worth of cuts, and the local authority has not ruled out closing down the tourist attraction, saying that a reduction in the number of museums in the area would be “likely”.

A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Aberdeenshire Council is working on a strategy to revitalise our museums service and make collections more accessible. “As part of the strategic review we are examining how effective our various museums are. One outcome of the review is likely to be a reduction in the number of museums we currently operate but no decisions have been made yet on the future of particular facilities.

“By reducing the number of small museums that are attracting limited numbers of visitors we would be able to free up some resources for improving outreach services and enabling more people to see and understand more about the artefacts that we have.

“We will, however, still need to retain our most successful museum buildings. A report on the strategic review of museums will be presented to councillors after New Year. Until then no decision will be taken on the future of individual museums.”

The Tolbooth is one of the busiest museums run by the Council and has a tremendous historic legacy. It was built in the 16th century as a storehouse for George the 5th Earl Marischal whilst Dunnottar Castle was being built, before being converted into a Courthouse and Tolbooth in 1600.

In 1963 it was officially opened as a museum by Her Majesty the Queen Mother.

At a meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council last week, councillors approved plans to slash £51 million from the local authority’s budget over the next two years.

The local authority has agreed to accept a 2.6% reduction in funding in return for a promise to implement SNP policies, including maintaining the council tax freeze for another year. The alternative was a 6.4% cut.

The efficiencies could lead to around 900 full-time jobs being cut at the council, which accounts for around 10% of its workforce.

There is set to be a reduction in the number of music instructors, technicians and librarians in schools, while the opening hours of libraries, museums, recyling centres and swimming pools could also be reduced.

Proposals such as switching off streetlights overnight in small communities, cutting back on verge cutting and maintenance at burial grounds are all being considered.

However, the council’s Head of Finance Derek Yule sought to remain positive, stating in a report before councillors: “Whilst considering the level of savings required, it is important to remember that the Council’s net revenue budget for the current financial year is £550 million.

“There is still a significant sum of money remaining after the savings

have been deducted to deliver Council Services as indicated within the

Council’s Service Plans.”