Plan to charge residents for York Art Gallery rejected – for now

The wall of pots, part of the Centre of Ceramic Art at the York Art Gallery. Photograph: York Museums Trust
29 Jul 2015 @ 10.11 pm
| News

Councillors have rejected proposals to charge local people for entry to York Art Gallery.

York Museums Trust had applied to the council to end free entry for residents when it reopens on Saturday (August 1).

On Wednesday night (July 29), the council’s cross-party learning & culture policy and scrutiny committee halted the charging proposals – at least for now.

They called for further negotiation between the trust and the council ahead of a final decision being made by York’s ruling executive in September.

These calls were then backed by executive member Cllr Nigel Ayre at his formal decision session which followed the meeting.

Unhappy with the proposals

“The clear message from the cross-party scrutiny committee is that they are unhappy with the proposals currently on the table,” said Cllr Ayre, executive member for culture, leisure and tourism.

He said they had already negotiated some potential concessions with the trust, such as free access for residents aged under 16, and for all residents on a few days a year.

However, we need to ensure as wider access as possible for residents and I will be speaking again to the trust about what can be done in regards to increasing free entry days or offering discounted charges for York Card holders all year round.

It is clear that with continued funding cuts to local authorities the scope for generous subsidies to maintain free access will no longer be affordable.

In line with reduced council funding the trust needs the freedom to explore new ways of raising revenue.

Tonight’s decision will allow opportunity to pursue all avenues as well as assessing the impact that the introduction of charging for non-residents will have and whether this would mitigate the need to also charge York Card holders.

– Cllr Nigel Ayre

Protest planned

The decision leaves the charging policy in disarray. The trust says it needs to charge after the council cut its funding by 60 per cent in three years.

Under its proposals adults would pay £7.50 for art gallery access. Alternatively they could buy a YMT card for £22 (£17 for YorkCard holders) for a year’s access to all its venues.

On Tuesday we reported how Green councillor Dave Taylor was refusing to tour the gallery because of the entry fee. He was joining many residents on an ‘Art Strike’ at the move.