York attractions face ‘unsustainable’ financial position – despite generating £19m for the city
A new report outlines the recovery of a group of key York attractions after the Covid lockdowns – but warns that their financial situation is unsustainable.
York Museums Trust had to make 30% of its workforce redundant following the pandemic closures.
But it is starting to rebuild the workforce as visitors return.
York Museums Trust visitor numbers
|York Castle Museum||240,913||8,238||108,807||213,602|
|York Art Gallery||73,031||12,478||85,947||110,660|
The trust runs the Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens and York Art Gallery.
Visitors have returned to more than 80% of pre-pandemic levels at the Castle Museum, a report to City of York Council reveals.
However, there has been a “much more gradual return of our audience” to the Yorkshire Museum. It is projected to receive 73K visitors in 2022/23 – 30 per cent down on the last pre-Covid year of 2019/20.
The trust reopened York Art Gallery with free admission to the permanent collection in 2020 “to see what we could achieve through visitor donations”.
However the report says: “Despite increasing visitor numbers by over 50% we have not seen income from secondary spend or donations increasing, and this decision is currently costing us £200k per annum in lost income.”
Projected £500K loss
The trust remains loss making. “In 2022/23 we have managed in one year to reduce an expected budget loss of nearly £800k to around £300k through continued scrutiny of every cost and tight control on recruitment.
“Given the unexpected inflationary pressures and the uncertainty caused by the cost-of-living crisis we are really pleased with this outturn.
“However, this is not a sustainable financial position given the pressures are not going away and we will be left with only two months cover for our operational costs in reserves at the year end.”
Because of the large visitor numbers to York Museums Trust attractions, “we will be able to demonstrate that our attractions generate £19m of economic value added in the city in the current financial year,” says the report by trust chief executive Kathryn Blacker and head of strategy Paul Lambert.
However, the 2023/24 budget projects losses which “at best” will be £500K.
The report concludes: “We receive a £300k annual grant from CYC each year which was reduced from £600k in 2015/16 and from £1.1m in 2014/15.
“The reduction in 2015 was a result of introducing charging at the Art Gallery.
“We do not carry any capital funding and the state of the buildings in our care remain of concern and we are unable to make any much-needed improvements or changes without such funding.”
The report will be considered at the council’s children, education and communities policy and scrutiny committee next Tuesday (7 March).