LANCASHIRE County Council could stop managing Rossendale Museum as early as March next year, it has been revealed.

Rossendale Council has served the county council with a notice to end the pair’s current management agreement.

It means both councils are open to investigate the option of another organisation taking over the running of the Whitaker Park site.

The museum, which narrowly avoided closure in 2002, has been identified as an area for potential cost-cutting by the cash-strapped Valley council.

It has invited expressions of interest from third parties who may want to operate and manage the museum, and expects that they will be received by the end of January 2013.

The Rawtenstall museum currently opens to the public for 17.5 hours per week and is managed by LCC’s museum service with an annual budget of £106,930.

Stephen Jackson, Rossendale Council’s head of health, housing and regeneration, said there was still the possibility of negotiating a revised deal between the two councils.

He said: “By inviting other organisations to look at running the museum, we can literally compare prices.

“Ending the current management agreement is just the first step in negotiating a new contract, and that could still be with the county council.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that the county council will stop running the museum, merely that we are considering the options.”

Rossendale Council leader Alyson Barnes said the current deal ‘doesn’t represent good value for money’ given the museum’s limited opening hours.

She said: “I’m optimistic about its future. We’re working closely with the Friends of Rossendale Museum group.

“They can’t take it over because they couldn’t afford to, but I think it’s a really good opportunity for somebody in the Valley to make it in an even better facility.”