COVENTRY’S museums are to be given an emergency taxpayer loan from councillors to stem financial problems – with no certainty over their long-term future.
It comes after years of funding cuts and job losses, as the UK City of Culture bid gains momentum.
Culture Coventry Trust, which runs the Coventry Transport Museum, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Lunt Roman Fort, says it has cash flow problems, after investing in a transport museum extension and other projects.
In an era of greater revenue-raising powers for arms-length trusts, council grant has been cut, which councillors blame on ongoing heavy government funding cuts.
The Trust says it has already been forced to raid its cash reserves – and needs to bridge losses this year while it looks to build a long-term plan.
The Trust wants council taxpayers to prop it up on three fronts
In addition to the short-term loan, which it says will help facilitate a restructure, councillors are also being recommended by officers to approve a one-year delay of repayments on a loan which it says was previously taken out for the Transport Museum extension – and to help with redundancy costs of a management restructure.
Martin Yardley, Coventry City Council’s deputy chief executive, said: “We are very proud of our museums in Coventry and they are a vital part of our bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.
“As a result of recent work to prepare the sites for the future, the Trust has found it is in need of a little financial help and we are looking at what we can do as a council to give it the breathing space it needs so it can continue to run top-class venues for the people of Coventry and our visitors in the years ahead.
“The three museums attract around 800,000 visitors a year and tell the story of our wonderful city from Roman times to the birth of the motor car and beyond. They are home to wonderful exhibitions, support local artists and are an important part of our city’s life.
“During the coming months, we will work with the Trust and help it to develop a plan that will make sure people can continue to enjoy these fantastic venues and that they are in a strong position as we continue our bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.
“That bid is so important for our city’s future and an opportunity to do something very special that will benefit Coventry and its people not just now, but in the years ahead.”
Roger Medwell, Chair of Culture Coventry, said: “We’d like to reassure people that we have exciting development plans in place for all of the attractions we manage to ensure they continue to provide innovative and diverse programming, and are recognised as vibrant destinations for local people and visitors.
“The Trust also has long term plans to improve the visitor offer at the Lunt Roman Fort and will shortly be offering wedding bookings at the Old Grammar School.
“We are also working actively alongside the City of Culture team to support Coventry’s bid to become City of Culture in 2021. During the past 12 months we have developed key relationships with national museums like the V&A, the Courtauld Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery enabling us to create an on-going programme of nationally important works exhibited in the city.
“These joint partnerships will continue to grow in the coming years as more exhibitions are planned to take place so we have exciting plans that will support Coventry’s bid.”