Decision due on plans to cut Hampshire museum staff

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Image caption, One of the museums that could lose all paid staff is Hampshire's last remaining working windmill

Plans could be approved later to lose all paid staff at four of Hampshire's museums and rely solely on volunteers.

The money-saving cuts would mean the loss of 26 out of 116 full-time posts in the museums service.

Hampshire County Council said having volunteers running the four museums in Bursledon, Fordingbridge and two in Alton, would allow them to remain open.

Anticipated government cuts for museums led it to seek savings of £1m. The plans will decided at a meeting later.

The museums that could be left with no paid staff from April 2011 are Bursledon Windmill, near Eastleigh, Rockbourne Roman Villa, Fordingbridge, and the Allen Gallery and Curtis Museum, both in Alton.

Opening hours at some museums would also be cut.

Figures show that museum visitor numbers have risen by up 2% since last year, and there has been a 25% increase in school group visits.

Health and safety

The county's museums service, overseen by the Conservative-controlled council, already has between 140 and 200 volunteers providing support services at various heritage sites.

However staff have raised concerns that health and safety could be compromised if no professional members of staff are on sites open to the public.

Unison has also criticised the move.

Councillor Margaret Snaith-Tempia said: "This is not a situation the council would like to be in, but the withdrawal of significant funding means that we are made to think about how and why we do things.

"We have to face up to the fact that changes need to be made within the museums service.

"I can assure you this is not a decision that I will be taking lightly, nor one that will come easily to me but it is however a decision that needs to be made."

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