Wednesday 11 January 2017

A Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust

Next week councillors at Brighton & Hove City Council’s policy, resources and growth committee will decide on whether to establish a trust from April 2018, together with a 25 year funding agreement, to be reviewed every five years. It would mean management of all the city’s museums transferring into the charitable organisation with ownership of the buildings and the city’s collections staying with the council.

The trust would include the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Hove Museum & Art Gallery, the Booth Museum of Natural History and Preston Manor.

If agreed, the council would create an interim board of trustees, to include councillors. Staff working for the service would transfer to the new trust once it is established. The taxable benefits of trusts - a tried and tested model for museum services - include gift aid on admissions, business rate relief and cultural exemption on income. The trust model came out as the most financially sustainable long-term for the service, with a surplus of around £250,000 projected by 2022/23. The council will support the new trust in its first three years of business to allow it time to develop new sources of income.

Due to central government budget reductions which are affecting all council services, the city’s museums, including the Royal Pavilion, could face having their council funds reduced from £1.145million in 2016/17 to £753,000 in 2019/20. In addition, a building condition survey in 2015 identified a need for £1m a year for repairs and maintenance. Many of the buildings are heritage listed. A trust would have more scope than the council to raise funds to support the maintenance budget.

Brighton & Hove's museums service is one of only 23 in the country to be part of Arts Council England's Major Partner Museum Programme. It is also the lead organisation for museums development in the sector across the South East, supporting 300 museums. The city’s five museums hold World Art, Natural History and Decorative Art collections which are nationally designated and internationally significant, as well as other collections, including archaeology, fashion, fine art and local history.

The Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is also part of the ambitious Royal Pavilion Estate heritage project to reinvigorate and reconnect the buildings and landscape of the Estate and improve the centrepiece of Brighton & Hove’s cultural quarter. Phase one works involve a major refurbishment of the nationally-important Brighton Dome and Corn Exchange.

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