Museums' managements set to merge
Friday 28 September 2012
Coventry city councillors are being asked to back a proposal that would see the trusts managing facilities including the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and Coventry Transport Museum merging to deliver savings of nearly £400,000 a year.
The proposals have been made following a major review of the Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust, Coventry Transport Museum and the Belgrade Theatre aimed at finding ways to deliver savings. Currently the Council provides more than £4million a year in grant support and service fees to the three trusts running the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Transport Museum, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Lunt Fort and Priory Visitors Centre.
The review, carried out by the Council and independent experts, aimed to ensure the three cultural trusts could provide a more joined up cultural offer for visitors while reducing costs and increasing income, giving certainty to the trusts around future funding and driving efficiencies in all three organisations.
Cllr Ed Ruane, Cabinet Member for Culture said "The Belgrade, Coventry Transport Museum and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum are all jewels in Coventry's cultural crown, attracting thousands of visitors every year from across the world.
"The city's cultural offer plays a key part in the regeneration of Coventry, and we want to make sure our cultural attractions have a viable future, are as efficient as possible and can market themselves effectively to local, regional and national audiences so they can grow and succeed in the future.
"The economic climate and public spending cuts mean that savings from the trusts need to be found, but we are determined to keep free entrance to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and to Coventry Transport Museum - we know how much Coventry people value both museums and we want to make sure that entrance to both remains free so everyone can enjoy them.
"We can save £393,000 a year by merging the two trusts and making efficiencies through back office and management savings. Independent experts who have worked with us during the review think there is a lot more we can achieve if all three trusts work more closely together - including through cross-marketing initiatives and greater collaboration around other areas of expertise."
The Belgrade Theatre trust will remain a separate trust, but has proposed making savings of £272,000 a year.
The Boards of all three trusts have supported the proposals.
Ros Robins, Regional Director of the Arts Council said: "Arts Council England recognises the financial challenges faced by Coventry City Council and have worked closely with them during this review of the cultural trusts in the city.
"We support the recommendation to create a two trust model, bringing together the governance of the Herbert and Transport Museums to form one new entity, with the Belgrade Theatre continuing to operate independently. The Herbert and Transport Museums currently embody examples of best practice in different areas of their work and their amalgamation has the potential to make both stronger.
"Based on the finding of the review we believe this will be the most likely option to safeguard the excellent cultural offer that is currently available to the people of Coventry."
Hamish Glen, Artistic Director and Chief Executive said "The Belgrade fully understands that the City Council needs to find substantial savings across its service provision, including its cultural services. Following the Cultural Trusts Review that looked at various options to make the savings needed, the Belgrade is supportive of the conclusion of the review to propose a two trust model for the city.
"Although very disappointed at the level of cuts this will mean to its funding, the Belgrade agrees that it is well placed to withstand the reduction. We will work to safeguard the Belgrade's cultural offer by increasing income from sales, protecting its Arts Council grant aid and securing private giving. The Belgrade is an independent organisation - however one of its core aims is to contribute to the Council's cultural strategy"
Chairman of Coventry Transport Museum, Joe Elliott said: "Coventry Transport Museum Board understands the financial pressures that the City Council is under so the Board and Chief Executive, Gary Hall will work closely with the Council over the coming months to create a new framework that will both achieve the necessary savings and ensure that Coventry Transport Museum and the wider city's cultural offer remain vibrant for the future."
Chair of Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust, Dorothy Wilson MBE said: "Understanding the financial challenges faced by the City Council, the Trustees have been keen to encourage the City Council to consider all options regarding future governance models and they, together with their Chief Executive Ludo Keston, will continue to work closely with council officers and Arts Council England to help them ensure the best long term solution is found for the city's arts and heritage offer. The Trust has requested a further meeting with the City Council and Arts Council England to further this objective
"In the four years that it has been operating, the Trust has welcomed more than 1.25million visitors through its doors, establishing its place as one of the major museums and galleries in the region, and the Trust will do all it can to ensure that the final option implemented by the City Council includes the protection of continued free access to high quality arts and cultural facilities in the city."
Members of the Council's Cabinet will be asked to support the proposal at their meeting on 9 October.