CASH-STRAPPED council bosses are set to ask York residents to pay for a card giving them free entry to museums.

Proposals by City of York Council will see an end to free YorkCards, which also provide discounts on swimming and sports activities, in a move the authority says could raise £100,000 over two years.

Residents would be asked to choose between receiving a free library card or paying a £2 “administration fee” for a YorkCard, also including library services, which would be valid until February 2013.

Current YorkCards are free and have no expiry date, but the council says it must plug a £165,000 library income shortfall and update its library-user database for the first time since 2004.

Officers have recommended introducing the system, which would include free cards for those aged 17 and under, and the council’s executive member for leisure, culture and social inclusion, Coun Nigel Ayre, will make a decision next week.

“YorkCard gives free entry to the Yorkshire Museum and Castle Museum, which usually costs £7 and £8 respectively, so provides savings well above the proposed charge,” said Coun Ayre.

“Charging for something which was once free may not be a popular move, but compared with the impact of having to make savings elsewhere, it is a preferable option.”

He said proceeds from library services such as CD and DVD loans had dropped by 75 per cent in the last five years, and updating the database would allow “a more 21st century service”, including initiatives like email reminders for overdue books.

Coun Sonja Crisp, the Labour group’s leisure spokesperson, said: “The council is in a huge mess financially and one of the motivations of the proposed charge is to plug a £165,000 budget gap. But the Liberal Democrats [who control the council] are only tinkering if they agree this.”