THREE of York’s biggest museums and galleries are in danger of closing by January unless they get a massive injection of cash from City of York Council.

York Museum Trust - which runs The Castle Museum, York Art Gallery and the Yorkshire Museum - could close by January if it doesn't find immediate financial support, a council report shows. 

In an executive council report, The Trust said Covid-19 had created 'immediate financial threat to YMT’s continued existence" and without more financial support it would "run out of cash in January 2021".

The trustees - which have logged a serious incident report with the Charities Commission -  runs York Castle Museum, York Art Gallery, the Yorkshire Museum and gardens, and York St Mary’s, which are all at risk of closure. 

Due to the lockdown in March and April, the trust said it had suffered “a drastic loss of income at the very start of the peak visitor season” and faced a £1.54m deficit. 

York Council has confirmed that a programme of support is being proposed.

The report to City of York Council’s executive states: "Covid-19, therefore, creates an immediate financial threat to YMT’s continued existence, and the trustees have now logged a serious incident report with the Charities Commission reflecting the fact that they will require financial support to remain a going concern.

"Without this, they will run out of cash in January 2021."

The trust operates the museums on behalf of the council. The report adds that if it closed, all the attractions and their collections would revert to the direct control of the council, at an annual cost of  £2.15m.

The council currently gives £300K a year to York Museums Trust (YMT). The Trust added that is planning a series of redundancies which will reduce its size by 20 per cent - as well as launching a public fundraising campaign.

The report adds that the trust needs funding support of £1.35m this year, and up to £600k next year, "to keep the attractions open and to continue looking after the collections". 

It says:  “It is clear that the council must act to ensure that YMT remains a going concern as failure to do so will result in the potential closure of the city’s museums and/or the council facing a much larger financial cost if the museums are handed back to it.”

The council has proposed to write a letter of guarantee – promising to provide YMT with up to £1.95m of the funds it needs. 

And it adds: "Before the ultimate level of need can be assessed it will be important to know the outcome of a further round of government funding that has been announced for cultural organisations (a £500m “Culture Recovery Fund” being administered by ACE and designed to cover the period October 2020 to 31 March 2020.")

But it goes on to add that if councillors reject the guarantee, it could “result in all sites being closed until further notice and the winding up of the trust."

“Given the importance of the museums and art gallery to the city, this would be extremely damaging to the city’s recovery plans as well as to its long-term future as both a visitor destination and a city that provides excellent cultural opportunities for its residents.”

Senior councillors are now being asked to consider measures to mitigate the Trusts’ forecast of a shortfall of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Executive is considering writing a letter of guarantee to YMT, providing them with access to a maximum of £1.95m over the next two years.

Amendments to payment terms are also recommended, meaning the Council would continue to provide payroll services up to a maximum of 60 days.

The Executive is also asked to consider the next steps for lobbying efforts, including writing to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ask the government for additional funding to support YMT in their particular circumstances.

And, to work with the Local Government Association (LGA) to highlight the position of local authority museums in trusts. 

Cllr Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities, said: “York Museums Trust continues to make an invaluable contribution to making York such as a great place to live, work and visit. YMT is key to supporting the Council’s Tourism Marketing Strategy, having reopened the Art Gallery with free admission, reopening the Castle Museum for pre-booked tours and opening the Museum Gardens.

"As the curator of the city’s collection, a significant contributor to the city’s cultural life and tourist economy, we intend to do our best alongside York Museums Trust to secure its long-term future.”

Reyahn King, Chief Executive of York Museums Trust, said: "We recognise the huge part heritage, art and culture plays in supporting York's recovery as a tourism centre but also the importance of being open for local people to explore the spaces and collections they love.

“It is for these reasons we have reopened the majority of the sites in our care despite the fact we still face severe deficits. We hope the council will work with us to ensure we can continue to care for and share York's important collections and buildings and play a vital part in York's tourism economy."

A further report will be brought to the Executive in November about YMT’s funding needed for 2020/21 and 2021/22.