MUSEUMS could close for a quarter of the year to cut costs.

Kirklees Council officials have drawn up plans to shut cultural centres across the district in December, January and February.

The move would affect sites including:

Tolson Museum in Moldgreen, which traces the history of Huddersfield from Roman times.

Red House Museum in Gomersal, an 1830s home which featured in the Charlotte Bronte novel Shirley.

Oakwell Hall in Birstall, a 17th Century stately home with extensive grounds which also featured in Shirley.

Bagshaw Museum in Batley, a former mill owner’s home.

Dewsbury Museum in Crow Nest Park, which includes a collection of vintage toys.

The council’s assistant director for communities and leisure Kimiyo Rickett revealed the closure plan to trade union officials just before Christmas.

The proposal is set to be formally unveiled next month, with the museums due to close in December 2012.

Unison’s chief steward for wellbeing and communities Kath McHendry told the Examiner yesterday: “We haven’t got firm details but the thing they are looking at is closing them in December, January and February.

“The museums would be closed for three months, unless there was a special event. That seems to be the proposal they want to run with.”

Ms McHendry added that the plan could “possibly” include closing Huddersfield Art Gallery during winter months as well.

The fate of museum staff is yet to be decided.

Ms McHendry said: “It could mean cutting our members’ wages and working time by a quarter, which we oppose.

“We believe the council should get some more money from the Government rather than close these facilities.”

Huddersfield Civic Society chairman Chris Marsden also attacked the plan yesterday.

“I think it’s a miserable idea to close the council’s cultural offering for a quarter of the year,” he said.

“The education of schoolchildren should be higher up the council’s agenda. This plan would spread ignorance.”

Mr Marsden believes the closures would harm Huddersfield’s tourism industry.

“It’s discouraging people from visiting the town,” he said.

“If you bring someone to Huddersfield, you would expect to be able to offer people some insight into the town through art and museums.”

Mr Marsden added that Kirklees should consider less radical ways to save money.

“I would like to know the rationale behind this,” he said.

“Closing museums for one day a week, or shutting earlier in the evening would be kinder.

“Closing for three months would be hard. The winter is a good time to visit museums, in the summer people want to do outdoor things, like go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.”

A Kirklees spokeswoman said last night that no decision had been made about closing museums.

She said: “At this time of year the council begins the process of setting the budget for the coming year as part of its three year budget plan.

“The need for changes to opening hours was accepted last year by councillors, for implementation in 2012. To meet that timetable, the discussions with staff and trade unions need to begin now.

“There is a continuing need for us to achieve efficiencies from across the whole range of services and councillors have some difficult decisions to make.

“As part of last year’s budget settlement, there was all-party agreement to look at the option of reducing museum opening hours.”