Council moves to secure long-term future of museums

Release date: 
Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A cultural trust proposed for the city’s Royal Pavilion & Museums would enable the service to develop the success of the iconic Royal palace and nationally significant museum collections, as well as open up potential funding opportunities.

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.

If agreed, the council would create an interim board of trustees, to include councillors. The trust would be a non-profit organisation and have charitable status.

Councillor Warren Morgan, chair of the policy, resources and growth committee, said: “The Royal Pavilion is the jewel in our city’s heritage crown, the symbol of our city, the heart of our unique and diverse tourism offer. It is right that we do whatever we can to preserve and enhance it for future generations of residents and visitors.

“A new cultural trust with charitable status will open up many more opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the city’s art, heritage and culture and provide a sustainable funding basis on which to grow, building on the success of Royal Pavilion & Museums (RPM) as a nationally significant museum service.

“This proposal is about making sure  RPM can get funding to develop the service for years to come.  A trust will open up greater freedom to generate new income. The council will still own the buildings and the collections and we will represent residents’ interests on the board of trustees.”

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

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.

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.

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.

Bill Ferris, Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard, said:  “The benefits of operating independently as a charity can be many provided the culture of the organisation changes to meet the new demands posed by true independence and that the transfer formalities do not expect miracles to be performed too fast!  If this is the case museums can flourish and focus on delivering excellent services for audiences and have the freedom to be enterprising and innovative.”

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.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: “The Royal Pavilion Estate is a unique and precious asset for the city. We have seen the enormous potential that the Estate's stories hold to engage, inspire and enrich people's lives through the success of partner projects such as last year's Dr Blighty, an ambitious, large-scale, immersive outdoor experience inspired by its role as a hospital for Indian soldiers during the First World War, which we co-presented as part of Brighton Festival. Retaining public ownership whilst safeguarding the Royal Pavilion Estate’s future and allowing its ambition to grow should be welcomed.”

rofessor Julian M Crampton CBE DL, Chair of the Board of Trustees, RPM Foundation, said: “The Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation fully supports the recommended move to Trust for the Royal Pavilion and Museums (RPM).  Trust status will provide RPM with much greater freedom and the opportunities to flourish so that it can continue to deliver internationally recognised heritage, museums and education for the citizens and communities of Brighton and Hove and beyond, as well as the many visitors to the city, whilst reducing the burden on the city finances through enhanced fundraising.  

“The foundation will do all it can to support the RPM as it transitions to trust status if this move is approved by the council.  In the longer term, and at the appropriate time, trust status for RPM will facilitate the unification of the Royal Estate to create a world-renowned centre for the arts, heritage and culture.”

The creation of a trust for RPM was outlined at the end of 2015. Since then the council has carried out an external assessment of different options and financial implications. It compared the options of the museums service remaining fully with the council, moving to a cultural trust or being under a management contract with a third party. Of the three, 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.

If agreed, staff working for the service would transfer to the new trust once it is established. The council will support the new trust in its first three years of business to allow it time to develop new sources of income. 

Funding background

The Royal Pavilion and Museums (RPM) service currently receives a quarter of its direct budget from the council. Read the report for the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee (Agenda item no. 108)