Latest Statement on Admission Charges at York Art Gallery
York Museums Trust was created as an independent charity to look after the city’s museums, gardens and gallery on behalf of the city.
One of our first decisions was to remove the Council levied entrance charge to York Art Gallery making it free to all visitors.
Like the protestors on Saturday, we would have liked this to continue, but we have been forced to make the very difficult decision to charge.
The Council has massively reduced their financial support to the Trust claiming it to be a necessity due to the current climate of austerity.
In 2012 the Trust was asked to consider operating on reduced support from the Council.
We understood the Council’s difficulties and negotiated a five year funding agreement for 2013-18 of a guaranteed £1.2m per year, accepting a cut of £300k in annual revenue funding.
Since then the council has broken the terms of that agreement, cutting £100k last year and a further £500k in April.
Next year the indications are that yet another £300k cut will be imposed, though we have not yet been consulted on what the implications of that would be.
In various meetings with the council, stretching back to early 2014, the Trust made it very clear what an unavoidable impact such severe cuts would have, including the necessity to charge.
No formal agreement was reached with the Council but, as a registered charity we have a legal obligation to care for the buildings and collections and to remain solvent.
The timing of the election overshadowed public discussion of the implications and has led to the subsequent confusion.
These huge cuts mean we have to generate revenue in other ways. We already do this through our shops, cafes and by hosting weddings and events, but admissions income is now more important than ever.
How do other museums and galleries remain free? In short, national museums receive around £400 million a year from the national government. This funding isn’t available to regional museums.
Despite having to care for one of the largest designated collections in the country, York Museums Trust is now one of the museum services least supported by its local authority.
This year’s £600,000 funding does not even cover the costs of maintaining and securing the historic sites and collections in our care, so we are having to make very difficult decisions. Further cuts will no doubt lead to more difficult decisions.
York residents have always made a contribution to the Trust’s running costs through Council Tax. However, because the Trust’s revenue from the Council has been so drastically cut, those who choose to visit are now asked to make a direct contribution through charging.
It is true that tourists and people from outside the city make up the majority of our visitors, but it is no longer economically possible to overlook the funding support that could be made by charging residents.
The decision to charge £7.50 for a one off visit to York Art Gallery was the result of much thought and research and the figure is in line with other attractions in the city.
But we hope residents will buy the new YMT Card which they can get for as little as £10 a year with a York Card, offering 12 months access to the York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum and Yorkshire Museum.
This reduces to £5 a year for anyone aged 17-24 or on most forms of benefit. Children under 16 will continue to get in free. We believe that this is very good value.
It is against this financial landscape that the Trust is working to make York’s museums and gallery both excellent and sustainable and to do this we need the support of residents.
The newly developed York Art Gallery is now generally held to be of international standard. This will significantly enhance York’s cultural offer and be of benefit to the city’s tourist profile as well as being a cultural resource for residents.