Galleries welcome museum ruling on admission fees

The British Museum's decision not to introduce admission fees for at least another year in the hope of getting government funding in 1999 was welcomed yesterday by non-charging museums and galleries across the country.

The threat of the introduction of pounds 5-a-head charge to cope with the shortfalls in the museum's budget had prompted fears of a domino effect in other institutions, according to Timothy Mason, director of the Museums and Galleries Commission. "If the trustees had succumbed it would have made it very difficult for curators to argue with local authorities that the tradition of public access is of paramount importance," he said yesterday.

In a meeting at the weekend the British Museum's trustees decided they would look at alternative ways of coping with the predicted deficit of pounds 3.9m for 1998-1999 including increasing rates for loans and exhibitions, attracting more voluntary donations and making internal economies. However, their hopes are pinned on the Department of Culture, which has carried out a spending review and is due to make an announcement on Wednesday.

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