'Underfunded' museums get £190,000 lifeline

MUSEUMS that have been "critically underfunded", leading to severe cashflow problems, have been bailed out by the council taxpayer to the tune of almost £200,000.

As revealed in the Yorkshire Post earlier this month, Museums Sheffield was forced to ask Sheffield Council for help after it became impossible for staff to balance the books.

At the time neither council or museums bosses would reveal the extent of the bail out, but figures released yesterday show top councillors have written a cheque for 190,000.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A spokesman for the museums trust, a charity set up to run the city's museums a decade ago, said the cash was officially paid into its account last week after a Cabinet vote.

The spokesman said: "Sheffield Council fund Museums Sheffield 2.3m annually to manage the city's largest museums and galleries – the 190,000 is additional to that annual funding.

"A recent independent financial review, commissioned by the Council, found that Museums Sheffield was chronically underfunded and could not continue to maintain its Service Level Agreement if its long-term funding shortfall was not addressed.

"The cash injection of 190,000 is a short term measure of support, intended to ease Museums Sheffield's immediate lack of cashflow.

"Much of Museum's Sheffield's funding is now received in arrears.

"Despite independently raising 2 for every 1 it receives from SCC, the organisation has recently struggled to meet monthly cashflow needs.

"The independent financial review recognised this cashflow gap and recommended 're-capitalisation' in the form of financial support to allow it to trade effectively.

"A longer term solution to Museums Sheffield's funding shortfall is still a matter of discussion between Museums Sheffield's Board of Trustees and Sheffield City Council."

"As such, no further information is available at this stage on the possible outcomes of those discussions."

Museums Sheffield was set up by Sheffield Council as an independent charity to run the city's Millennium Galleries and Weston Park Museum. It also runs the Graves Gallery and Bishop's House Museum.

It budget was cut by five per cent by the authority in March. At that time, the organisation's 100 staff took a voluntary pay cut of 2.5 per cent but that has not staved off the crisis.

Sheffield Council leader Paul Scriven said earlier this month the authority had approved financial help and would be working to develop long-term proposals to avoid similar problems in the future.

In July 2008, it emerged that Museums Sheffield was unable to pay debts from a multi-million refurbishment of the Weston Park Museum. Since then the trust has lost several staff and also imposed a recruitment freeze.