Visitor numbers to the museum have increased from 3,300 in 2005/2006 to 9,896 in 2010/2011, but the building it’s housed in – Winchester House – is part of the Southwark training site and due to be sold off under plans to privatise training services. Lib Dem Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey has received figures showing it will cost £276,700 to store the collection (PDF, Appendix 9) from 1 April 2012 to 1 October 2013. The museum currently costs a net £81,000 to run annually.
The 25 year PPP contract, worth £18m a year, is to train firefighters when they join the service and provide ongoing training throughout their careers. The Fire Brigades Union believed it could provide training cheaper in house, but say the bids weren’t allowed to be compared like for like. Green Assembly Darren Johnson said the in-house bid was never seriously considered by Conservative members on the Authority. LFEPA chair, Brian Coleman, is certainly a champion of privatisation, telling Tuffrey he believes there are no functions of LFEPA he thought were inappropriate for private takeover “in the right circumstances”.
For a service that has to find savings of £65m over the next two years, not giving due attention to a potentially cheaper provider and incurring costs in closing the Museum seems crackers. But the plans are expected to be rushed through before the election and the Museum will close on 1 April, its collection waiting for funds for a hypothetical Blue Light Museum.
If you want to visit the Museum you need to book an appointment and will be given a guided tour. Tickets cost £5 adults / £3 children, concessions and groups, £30 per school group and £50 for a storytelling session. The Museum is open Monday to Friday with tours at 10.30am or 2pm. Find it at Winchester House, 94a Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 0EG. Visit the website for more information.