Exclusive: Museum bosses investigate £25,000 payments to top curator’s husband

AN investigation has been launched after the Yorkshire Post revealed the National Railway Museum had paid more than £25,000 to the husband of its senior curator.

The Science Museum Group (SMG), the umbrella body responsible for several of the country’s leading museums, said it would be looking at whether there had been any impropriety in the employment of Adrian Ashby, the husband of Helen Ashby, who is head of knowledge and collections at the York-based museum (NRM).

The Yorkshire Post revealed Mr Ashby received in excess of £25,000 for work which included painting a train engine due to be named after his wife.

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He was also given a contract to work on restoring the Flying Scotsman for which the NRM can find no supporting paperwork, and received contracts without competition from other suppliers.

The payments included nearly £16,000 largely for Mr Ashby to drive an engine during the museum’s production of The Railway Children, £9,300 of which was for trips to Canada when the play crossed the Atlantic last year.

The NRM insisted all its commercial relationships with Mr Ashby, a painter and decorator by trade, are legitimate. It said Mrs Ashby had no direct involvement with any decision to provide work to her husband and she had fully declared her interests.

In a statement, the SMG said: “The Science Museum Group will be undertaking an internal investigation focusing on circumstances regarding whether there has been any impropriety surrounding the employment of Adrian Ashby in relation to The Railway Children and locomotive painting jobs.

“The Science Museum Group are undertaking this as part of our normal internal audit procedures that seek to ensure that all parts of the Science Museum Group adhere to best practice in terms of procurement and are in line with our Code of Conduct.

“The investigation will be undertaken by the Science Museum Group’s internal audit team.”

A spokeswoman for the NRM said it took the matters “very seriously” and the inquiry would focus on whether procurement processes followed best practice and were in line with the museum’s code of conduct.

It will also look at any other areas deemed appropriate or relevant, she added.