Museum charges to be scrapped

Brown's pounds 80m lifeline to arts Commitment to access for all And will he marry Sarah?

THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is to throw the arts world a financial lifeline, ensuring free entry to museums and art galleries.

The big surprise in his "radical reform" Budget on Tuesday will be a multi-million-pound fund to end admission charges at great national institutions such as the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Government's decision, which follows a strongly fought campaign by the Independent on Sunday and The Independent to keep access to art and history free, ends months of uncertainty when Labour appeared to be on the brink of ditching its pre-election opposition to charges.

Arts experts calculate that it will cost around pounds 40m a year to restore free admission to the V & A, the Imperial War, National Maritime and Science museums, which imposed charges because of funding cuts.

It could cost as much again to ensure that access to the National Gallery, the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum remains free.

But, faced with mounting public hostility to the introduction of compulsory charges, and evidence of sharp falls in visitor numbers virtually everywhere they have been imposed, the Chancellor has decided to extend the support he gave in his first Budget to the film industry to the wider arts world.

His "Budget for the Arts" is expected to make provision to meet the cost of maintaining the museums, either through a straight increase in the annual grant they already receive or through money from the National Lottery, or a combination of the two.

Mr Brown will argue that the Government has a responsibility to ensure that great national institutions such as the Tate are open to all, regardless of circumstances.

Before the election last May Tony Blair said: "We are concerned about the introduction of admission charges in national museums. The evidence suggests that high charges can lead to a big decline in attendance." In June, arts minister Mark Fisher reiterated the policy, insisting: "We do not want anybody to be charged entrance fees."

But Labour subsequently ordered a review of the policy, amid fears that it would be downgraded to an "aspiration" that might be achieved during the lifetime of the first parliament. Anxious museum directors, faced with funding cuts, began to plan for admission charges.

At the Tate Gallery, which has been free for 100 years since it was set up by Victorian philanthropist Henry Tate, the director Nick Serota said the three million visitors a year would have to pay to get in from next month because the gallery had run up a pounds 1m deficit. The trustees of the British Museum, meanwhile, have drawn up plans to charge its six million visitors pounds 5, breaking with a 250-year history of free admission.

But the almost-universal experience of charges is that the public stay away in droves. In 1987/88, the last year before charges were introduced, the Science Museum had 3,166,000 visitors. That figure immediately fell to 1.1 million, and had only recovered to 1,548,000 in 1996/97.

At the Natural History Museum, it was a similar story. Before charges, 2.5 million visitors; after, 1.8 million. The National Maritime Museum was even harder hit, down from 799,000 to 468,000, and the Royal Air Force Museum tumbled from 323,000 visitors to 135,000. The Victoria and Albert Museum saw the number of people passing through its doors fall from 1,578,000 to 1.2 million.

The only museum to increase visitor numbers after bringing in compulsory charges is the Imperial War Museum, up from 396,000 to 444,000 last year, though much of the rise is attributable to a series of war anniversaries and a highly successful range of exhibitions such as the story of wartime evacuees.

Arts campaign, page 22

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?