City Trust for the Royal Pavilion Estate, Museums, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival takes shape

A report to the Policy, Resources & Growth Committee this Thursday (25 January) recommends the decisions necessary to establish the city’s long-anticipated trust, bringing together the entire historic Royal Pavilion Estate.

The new trust, yet to be named, will take advantage of the opportunities for growing audiences and income to support the Royal Pavilion and Museums service (RPM) through collaboration with Brighton Dome, Brighton Festival and the city’s Music & Arts Service, and so better protect the long term future of the RPM. The new trust will also maintain the same roles, terms and conditions of staff within the RPM, with a commitment to value their expertise, experience and enthusiasm for the work they do so well.

Under the proposal, the RPM would be led by the existing management team, supported by a new board committee of the shadow board and the current trustees of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival Ltd. This would maintain the focus on providing professional standards of museum management in the service while allowing for innovation in working across the Royal Pavilion Estate and the city’s other museum sites.

Along with overseeing the operation and management of the whole of the city’s museums portfolio, the trust would also build on the successful Royal Pavilion Estate project which is bringing together the city’s cultural heart by reconnecting the historic Grade 1 and Grade 2 listed buildings and landscape to create a reunified estate.

The trust will have a 25- year- contract which will secure the future of the RPM for the long term. Able to take full advantage of charitable giving, tax and rate relief benefits and access a range of fundraising and commercial development opportunities, the move to trust is more relevant than ever in the light of sustained financial pressures experienced by local authorities, including Brighton & Hove, over many years.

Brighton & Hove is a leading tourist destination with the Royal Pavilion, museums, Brighton Dome venues and Brighton Festival among the most popular visitor attractions. More than 11 million people visited the city in 2016, and the Royal Pavilion Estate’s economic impact is around £62 million a year.

The trust will be a significant player nationally, building on the strong reputations of the Royal Pavilion and Museums service and Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, and will be a leading cultural institution in the region.

For the past year, work has been progressing to pave the way for establishing the new arrangements, including appointing a shadow board, drafting a new service contract, collections agreement and leases for property and ensuring the continued high quality stewardship of the city’s important assets is prominent in the new arrangements. 

Councillor Warren Morgan, Leader of the Council said: “Having reviewed the alternative options for this service, I am more confident than ever that the proposals represent the best way to secure the future of our museums, our collections and, of course, the Royal Pavilion, for future generations of residents and visitors, and to provide a more sustainable future for our highly valued staff as we move into a new period of huge financial uncertainty.

“I am determined not to let our Royal Pavilion, our museums, or the people who work there to be put at risk, and I wouldn’t be standing four-square behind this new trust if I didn’t believe it was the best way to avoid that.”

Other trusts across the country have been very successful in increasing attendances and raising their own income.

Councillor Morgan added: “We are putting in place a programme of staff engagement to make sure that we explain clearly what the alternatives are that have been considered, and why we have reached this conclusion. The programme will enable staff to become more involved in the vision and operational delivery of the new arrangements and to continue to have their voices heard. I’ve asked that staff are involved at all levels in the new trust to ensure this is the case moving forward.

“I have proposed to trade unions that we work together in advance of the transfer date of 1 July to establish commitments within the contract with the trust, to ensure that staff expertise lies at the heart of the new organisation, and that any concerns they have are given proper consideration. I welcome a positive dialogue with staff and trade unions to make this project a success.”

Previously the council had proposed a two stage process, creating an interim trust and then merging this with BDFL. The new proposal recommends moving to a single charity in one stage to enable the benefits of joint working and the generation of additional income to support the service, to be felt sooner.

Read the reports for the Policy, Resources & Growth Committee.