Funding cuts could spell end of free entry to majority of UK cultural institutions
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Funding cuts could spell end of free entry to majority of UK cultural institutions

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The Museums Association has warned that funding cuts could mean the end of free entry to UK cultural institutions, with York Art Gallery the first to consider charging visitors when it soon reopens after an £8m redevelopment.

Entrance charges to the many of the UK’s publicly-funded museums were dropped in 2000, as the sector sought to bring in a wider range of visitors.

The UK museum body made the warning that this could be reverted when it emerged that the refurbished York Art Gallery wants to charge local residents and tourists a £7.50 (US$11.62, €10.60) entrance fee when it reopens next week. Brighton Museum and Art Gallery did begin charging a £5 (US$7.75, €7) fee in May, but only to non-residents.

Museums Association president David Fleming said that this could be the start of a trend as charging for entry was now on the agenda at many other venues that face local council funding cuts.

"I'm absolutely certain that museums all over the country are considering introducing admissions fees in order to try to help plug the gaps that are appearing in their budgets," he said. Meanwhile Alistair Brown, the association’s policy officer, added that similar debates are taking place “behind closed doors” across the UK.

The government has pledged to keep entry at the UK’s national museums free, but that pledge does not factor in council-funded venues in towns and cities nationwide.

"It will work in some places," continued Fleming. "It might work in York. I doubt very much it would work in a place like Burnley or Rotherham. Those places are not full of tourists who are wanting to spend lots of money in museums.

"I'm sure that museums all over the country will be looking at trying to find other ways of raising income from different places. But introducing admission charges to museums isn't necessarily the best way of trying to resolve income problems."

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The Museums Association has warned that funding cuts could mean the end of free entry to UK cultural institutions, with York Art Gallery the first to consider charging visitors when it soon reopens after an £8m redevelopment.
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