Arts Council gives York Museums Trust £1.23m each year

Details of the latest assessment made by the Arts Council of England on the Museums Trust have been revealed in a sheaf of correspondence released under Freedom of Information legislation.

click to access

click to access

The Arts Council assessment rates the organisation as “strong” or “outstanding” judged against a series of goals.

In addition to the Arts Council funding, the approved core subsidy (agreed by the then Labour led) Council was:

2014/15 (actual)

Revenue funding – £1,105,366

Capital funding – £1,250,000

2015/16 (commitment)

Revenue funding – £605,366.40

Capital funding-  £850,000

The correspondence reveals some confusion about an allocation of £500,000 in the Council’s capital budget. Although badged in February’s papers as for the “Museums Trust” it turned out the money was intended for completion of the remodelling of Exhibition Square. The Trust had hoped to hijack the funding to improve the gardens behind the Gallery.

The papers also reveal that the numbers using York Cards to gain admission to Trust buildings recently (the Art Gallery was closed during the period under review) were:

Castle Museum 01/04/14 to 31/05/15

Adults – 18,169

Child – 7,362

Young Person – 370

Yorkshire Museum 01/04/14 to 31/05/15

Adults – 10,337

Child – 6,512

Young Person – 98

The information provides some insight into how the Trust balances its books.  It may however reinforce the campaign for greater transparency in the working of Yorks growing army of QUANGOs (Museums, Libraries, “Make it York”, Theatre Royal, CYC Ltd etc.)

The paper also reveals that the Council doles out “VIP” invitations to events like the opening of the new Art Gallery. Traditionally Councillors have paid for any tickets received for events where there is – for others –an admission charge. Over the last few years  some Councillors have been slow to make hospitality declarations on their register of interests, although Labour raised the lower limit for such declarations to £50 per event three years ago.

Some of the correspondence will make a sobering read though for @nayre who is variously referred to in the correspondence as Cllr Nayre and Cllr Ayres (close relation of Pam no doubt)

Well Know poet

Well known poet

Well know Councillor

Well know Councillor


Museums/Art Gallery charges

art gallery 19880sThe first “open” decision being taken,  involving cross party debate, by the new Council, addresses the issue of charging residents who want to visit the Art Gallery and Museums in the City. The meeting on 29th July, is open to the public and there is an opportunity for residents to make representations.

Unfortunately, the background report is poor lacking basic statistics which are essential to fully understand what options are available.

It notably  fails to provide a breakdown of visitor numbers separating residents from others. A demographic breakdown is also missing.

Council officials have  not provided cost centre income and expenditure figures either historical or in business plan format.

They simply say that n additional Council grant of £700,000 would be required to continue “free” entry for residents.

Clearly the present Council have been dropped in a  hole by the previous administration which agreed to fund capital improvement works – the Art Gallery has been closed for 2 years now – in the belief that this would encourage more paying visitors (and thereby make up for a reduction in revenue grant of £900,000 over the last 3 years).

What is unclear is what agreement the Labour administration came to with the Museums Trust on the way that the reduced grant would be funded. The suspicion remains that Labour did a deal on the re-introduction of charges but were unwilling to publicise it before the Council elections.

So where next?

The York Museums Trust is now  a £10 million a year business following the decision, taken in the last decade, to transfer management responsibility for Museums and the Art Gallery to it.

Ironically when the transfer was made (the assets remain in the ownership of the Council) one of the Trust’s first acts was to scrap admission charges at the Art Gallery.  

That action has now returned to haunt them as they are seeking to impose a £7-50p entry charge when the newly refurbished gallery re-opens in the autumn

Compared to entry charges at other venues in the City (Minster is £10, Jorvik £10-25, Railway Museum – free) and  elsewhere in the world higher charges apply (Museum of Modern Art in New York is $25), the fee is relatively small. Under current proposals, York residents would get free entry on 2 days a year.

There is now no way back for the Council. Its budget was shot to pieces by the “gap year” antics of the last inexperienced Labour Leadership.

The, now coalition run, Council  is rightly trying to bring street level public service standards up to an acceptable (safe) level. It doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of pounds available to increase art gallery subsidies.

All that the new Council can hope to do is negotiate a reduced “casual” entry fee for YorkCard holders.  £5 might be regarded by many as reasonable, if children were given free entry.  

Such a concession might be seen as an acknowledgement of the 10% of its income that the Museums Trust gets from York Council Taxpayers.

If this meant non Yorkcard holder paying more, then we suspect few would complain.

But first the York Council and the Museums Trust must ensure that all the facts are on the table.