Wakefield Express Column

I know it might seem a bit early to be thinking of Christmas – although try telling that to the pubs and restaurants urging us to ‘book now for Christmas dinner’. But this week I have had Santa on my mind.

Taking the kids to meet Father Christmas is a real highlight for our family – but I am worried our special Wakefield ‘Santa’ tradition may be under threat.

Like many across the district, we usually don a hard hat and lamp and head more than 100ft underground to Santa’s grotto at the National Coal Mining Museum.

The NCM has done a great job of promoting innovative ideas and encouraging people from all backgrounds and income groups to visit and learn about the heritage ofour area.

All publicly funded organisations will rightly have to find savings in the coming years. But the government has asked museums like NCM to find a massive 30% savings in the next couple of years.

Last week in Parliament, Wakefield MP Mary Creagh and I met with Margaret Faull from NCM. She explained her worries about what these cuts could mean for the service they can offer. The museum operates on a very tight budget, and has already found significant savings over the last two years.

In the future visitors might have to pay, or the museum may have to limit opening hours and the tours and special exhibits on offer. Cuts that make it more difficult for hardworking families to access our heritage are simply not fair.

Over the past few weeks I have been arguing that cutting public spending and jobs now is not the right way to reduce the deficit. I believe we can help our economy grow by investing in jobs and much needed new housing. We can also look at how those who earn more in society could contribute more to maintaining services.

Providing free entrance to national museums was one of the big achievements of the last government. The NCM saw visitor numbers double to over 120,000 every year with the introduction of free admission, and is now one of the most successful museums in our area.

It’s really important that children from our community and all over the country can access our heritage,and we should make sure the Coal Mining Museum is seen as the real national asset it is. I hope next year, and in the future, children will still be able to head underground to meet Father Christmas in his grotto.

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Posted September 17th, 2010 by Ed's team