Pablo Picasso. Scene de Tauromachie, 1954. Partially glazed ceramic bowl. Diameter 18.4cm. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)

York Art Gallery charges approved by council

Rebecca Atkinson, 28.09.2015
Report reveals YMT’s cash reserves are less than one month’s expenditure
York Museum Trust’s (YMT) decision to charge entry at the recently reopened art gallery has been approved by the city council.

The terms of York Art Gallery's lease meant it needed council approval to introduce entry charges for residents. In July, the council rejected YMT’s proposals to scrap free admission but the trust went ahead with its plans to charge visitors £7.50.

Following further negotiations, the City of York Council agreed to the trust’s charging plans at an executive committee meeting last week.  

A report sent to the council’s executive committee revealed that cuts in council funding and a £700,000 overspend on the art gallery and Museum Gardens redevelopments have depleted YMT's cash reserves from £1.2m to about £500,000. This is less than one month’s expenditure, including salaries.

The council’s grant to YMT has fallen by 60% since 2012-13, and was £605,000 in 2015-16. It makes up less than 10% of YMT’s overall income.

The trust estimates it will make £3.35m a year in entry charge revenue, including Gift Aid, across all of its sites.

Following last week’s decision, the legal agreements between the trust and the council will be updated. The council will also look at options for new legal structures to better protect the its museum assets.

And £20,000 of contingency funding will be made available to provide free entry to about 4,000 residents. A spokesman for YMT said a free YMT Card will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to people aged 17 to 24 and on Jobseekers Allowance or other benefits.

The trust also offers free visits for community groups through its Territories Project.  

Nigel Ayre, a Liberal Democrat councillor and the council’s executive member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: "After detailed negotiation and after listening to the concerns of residents, I believe the current proposal strikes the right balance”

The York Gallery and Museum Community
, a campaign group opposing the entry charges at the art gallery, posted a response to the decision on Facebook: “We may not have achieved free access for residents but we have most certainly opened up the YMT’s business and made it clear that we want more transparency and public engagement from it. It works to serve us as the public – so our opinions do count.”


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01.10.2015, 18:10
Any museum service considering introducing charges should pay close attention to how YMT fares over the next year. How well they balance the books will be a bellweather for the effects of such change. I hope they are successful but fear that visitor numbers will plummet which may harm the wider Tourist econonony of York. I'm sure they must have looked at some case studies. Are there any broad sector figures out there showing the effects of this kind of change in recent years from other museums?
Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
30.09.2015, 23:55
When you see an ambitious museum service in a tourist hotspot such as York struggling to balance the books, then it is proof if needed what a challenge faces other museums in less tourist friendly areas.

There are appear to be two realities colliding here: the tradition, aspiration and benefits of free entry and the fact that the council's funding only covers 10% of the costs. Opinions are free unlike electricity, rent, gas, insurance, maintenance,and professional staff.