Council cuts force closure of Pumphouse Museum
An award-winning museum in Rotherhithe is closing after the council snatched away its entire budget.
In a move which has seen local authorities across the country slash museum funding, The Pumphouse Heritage Museum and Nature Reserve was left to rely on trust funding.
Manager - and sole salaried member of staff - Caroline Marais said The Pumphouse was expecting cuts of 28 per cent but Southwark Council decided to slash the grant entirely.
She said: "If you haven't got your core costs covered you can't run your projects.
"I applied to a great many trusts and foundations to fund projects and workshops but they won't cover everything else such as electricity and janitorial services.
"Big national companies won't fund something like this in Rotherhithe.
"By removing our funding, the council have managed to fully fund other projects."
Caroline, who was a teacher before she arrived at The Pumphouse 20 years ago, said it provided education services for people of all ages and hosted history, geography and ecology programmes for schools as well as providing reminiscence therapy for care home patients.
"The children won't be coming here anymore and that is the really awful thing," said Caroline. "Reminiscence therapy stimulates patients with dementia and this is one of the aspects we are also very committed to," Caroline said.
"We are boxing up and sending the material to homes we have worked with so they can continue."
In a cruel twist of fate The Pumphouse Educational Museum closed its doors for the last time on the day it unveiled a blue plaque from the council, which was voted for by the public, recognising "outstanding services to schools, older and young people from 1989".
Pumphouse volunteer Dorothy Wood said: "The work it has done with children is invaluable and the schools are going to miss an enormous resource. I worked as a teacher for over 30 years and until I retired in 2002 I was bringing pupils here for classes, for pond dipping, river studies and archaeology projects."
Southwark Council blamed the decision on cuts in funding from central government forcing it to make savings.
Cabinet member Cllr Barrie Hargrove said: "It was extremely important that the remaining grants represented the best possible value for money for tax payers, and it was felt that the Pumphouse Museum did not provide as good value for money as the other projects whose funding has been sustained."
Caroline said The Pumphouse had previously been considered by the council as an education service before coming under the auspices of ecology. She disputes the claim the venues does not offer good value.
"We have visitors that come for the whole day and I count that as one person," she said. "A park or farm might have someone passing through on the way to work in the morning and count that as one person.
"We charge schools £40 for a half day and £80 for a whole one and I might teach 30 children in each class.
"We considered opening at weekends and having a cafe but it would cost more to set up."
There is a chance the museum part of the complex could remain on site with restricted access. The remaining services will be relocated or disbanded by mid-August.
Caroline said: "Maybe The Secret Millionaire will come to our rescue."