Tonight I attended a meeting of Thanet Council's Governance and Audit Committee. A letter was discussed which claimed that the Council's large collection of art and artefacts had not been properly managed over a long period of time, especially the collections held at the Margate Museum. It was claimed that there were no complete inventories of the Council's collections. That many of the valuable treasures had been badly stored and damaged and worst of all that art treasures were missing.
Some councillors at the meeting made reference to historic posters of the Beatles and Des O'Connor (who's he?) from the Winter Gardens and old pictures of Thanet, which are quite valuable, going missing and turning up for sale across the island. Not that I am suggesting anything, but apparently no checks were made on the background of volunteers working in the Margate Museum. It was suggested that volunteers were given free and unfettered access to the the museum often being allowed to to work in the building on their own. Keys were copied and nobody knew who had them. Council officers advised the meeting that it was only relatively recently that the locks were changed.
Going back to the letter it was claimed that when this appalling mismanagement of the Council's treasures was brought to the attention of two senior councillors (one retired and one still serving), the matter was not taken seriously and a freedom of information requests about the Council's art collection was obstructed.
Apparently efforts are now being made to catalogue the collection and identify what works of art have gone missing or have been damaged. A retired museum manager has been hired for this purpose for about £10,000.
However the Council's Chief Executive said that this work was not a priority and that only limited work will be done. It was also confirmed that no written procedures have ever been in place about cataloguing and valuing the Council's treasures.
Councillors voted to pass this sorry mess on to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for investigation and recommendations for action. This will, I am sure, be a fascinating project and who know what might come out of it?
IFinally, I happen to be the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel. The views I have expressed on this blogsite about this issues are my own personal views and not those of the OSP.
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