Artist impression of the secret gallery at York Art Gallery, which reopens on 1 August.

Council vote on entry charges for York Art Gallery postponed until September

Rebecca Atkinson, 30.07.2015
But YMT confirms charges will be in place from 1 August
Visitors to York Art Gallery will have to pay a £7.50 entry charge when it reopens this weekend, despite a council committee postponing a vote on whether entry charges contravene the terms of the building’s lease.
 
Although the York Museum Trust (YMT), which runs the gallery, receives less than 10% of its income from the City of York Council, the terms of the lease means it needs council approval to introduce entry charges for residents.
 
On Wednesday evening, the council’s Learning and Culture Policy and Scrutiny Committee rejected the trust’s proposals to introduce charges and called for further negotiations between the YMT and the council.

The committee said these negotiations should include agreeing further concessions for residents ahead of a final decision being taken by the council’s executive committee in September.

"The clear message from the cross-party scrutiny committee is that they are unhappy with the proposals currently on the table,” said Nigel Ayre, a Liberal Democrat councillor and the authority's executive member for culture, leisure and tourism.
 
In response to the ruling, YMT said it had reduced the cost of the new YMT Card from £20 to £10 a year for residents who also hold a York Card, which costs £5 and offers holders discounts at leisure facilities.
 
The YMT Card
provides holders with free entry to the art gallery, Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum.
 
Non-card holders will have to pay £7.50 to visit the art gallery. Prior to its closure for redevelopment, the gallery had been free to visit since 2002.
 
A spokesman for the council said that YMT’s move to press ahead with charges contravened the cross-party decision to wait until September to consider the issue further, but he added that it was unlikely to press ahead with a legal challenge at this stage.

Ayre welcomed the decision to offer a discounted rate to residents but said: "It is surprising that the YMT has pushed on with its proposals. At the meeting on Wednesday there was cross-party support for the charging plans to be halted ahead of further discussions taking place.”

 The council’s grant to YMT has fallen by 60% since 2012-13, to £605,000 in 2015-16, and is expected to fall further in the years to 2019-20. This has led to a number of redundancies, including two directors and two collections facilitators.

The council’s grant as a percentage of YMT’s overall income has fallen from 50% to less than 10% since 2002. YMT estimates it will make £3.35m a year in entry charge revenue, including Gift Aid, across all of its sites.

As a Major Partner Museum, YMT receives £3.69m from Arts Council England for 2015-18.

Update
31.07.2015
 
This article was updated after YMT confirmed that charges would still apply for visitors to York Art Gallery. Information about the YMT Card were also added as was a response from the council.

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