Brian Coleman, controversial chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, has launched a new attempt to shut down the London Fire Brigade Museum and dispose of its collection of 15,000 items.
Last month we reported that the Friends of the London Fire Brigade Museum had launched a petition calling on the authority to retain the museum and collection. This petition has now attracted nearly 1,000 signatures.
In 2008 Mr Coleman claimed that "it is not a museum that is fit for purpose or that in my view contributes anything". He angered firefighters when he said that the museum "has some interesting items although in my view when you've seen one brass helmet you have seen them all".
Next Monday the authority's finance and personnel committee will meet to discuss proposals for next year's budget, including savings of £11.9 million.
According to the report prepared for committee members, "the chairman has proposed that the museum be closed on 1 April 2012.
"However, the staff would need to be retained for 18 months to deal with the necessary disposure [sic] of the assets of the museum.
"This would generate savings from October 2013, once the items in the collection have been disposed of to either other museums, the original owners or sold."
The report notes that the museum currently costs £81,000 a year to run, once income of £21,000 is taken into account.
The museum collection and associated fixtures and fittings at Winchester House were valued last year at £805,000 for insurance purposes.
The report by officers estimates the cost of closing the museum and disposing of the collection at £174,800, whilst it is claimed that closing the museum and putting the collection into storage would cost £276,700.
The report adds: "Items held at Winchester House which belong to the authority, but are not part of the museum's collection; include furniture, mirrors, clocks, trophies and silver. They are valued at £171,000.
"A full review will be required to determine those items deemed appropriate for disposal and those unique items of importance to the London Fire Brigade, which should be/may want to be retained. All items deemed appropriate for disposal could be sold at auction."
It continues: "To avoid reputational damage it is recommended that any auction take place off-site."
The renewed attempt to close the museum comes at a time when the authority is also considering a sale of its whole Southwark training centre site.
The brigade's training is expected to be outsourced under a private finance initiative (PFI) deal, leaving the Southwark complex surplus to requirements. Sale of the training centre could raise £10 million.