Museums face hike in rates bills

Patrick Steel, Issue 110/08, p6, 02.08.2010
Allowance in rateable value for projects funded by grant aid ends
Up to 60 museums could face increased business rate bills as the result of a judgement by the Lands Tribunal.

The judgement removes a previous allowance for publicly funded capital projects and means that museums that have undertaken capital projects funded by grant aid could now have to pay higher rates bills. A spokesman from the Valuation Office Agency said it had informed the affected museums.

Gordon Cummings, treasurer for the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), said some of its members had been affected.

“A lot of museums and galleries enjoy an 80 per cent statutory rebate in business rates, while the remaining 20 per cent is at the discretion of the local authority,” he said. “Most of our members don’t pay rates because this 20 per cent is a relatively insignificant amount and it is a way that the local authority can help a museum.

“But in a few cases, the increase in rateable value is going to raise that 20 per cent to an amount that is significant, so not only would they lose the 20 per cent discount, but that 20 per cent would be much larger. It’s going to hurt museums.”

John Bull, head of estates (north) at the National Railway Museum, said he was concerned, as the valuation for the museum’s Shildon branch was previously adjusted down by 50 per cent on the basis that it was 100 per cent grant funded. He described the judgement as a “ticking bomb”.

“It’s quite serious,” said Bull. “There are lots of museums around the country that will potentially be affected, although we don’t yet know how strictly the agency will enforce the judgement.”

A spokesman for the valuation agency told Museums Journal: “Those affected have been kept informed from an early stage and have the opportunity to comment on draft valuations before they come into force.”

Image: National Railway Museum, Shildon