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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 05:41 GMT 06:41 UK


20m debt threatens military museum

The Royal Armouries Museum, which houses many of the UK's military treasures, may be forced to close because of a 20m deficit.

The BBC's Richard Bilton: "The Museum has been the subject of controversy from the start"
The government on Friday acknowledged the museum in Leeds was in financial trouble.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the 42.5m showpiece may have to close indefinitely in the next few days because of a 20m shortfall.

The newspaper says the museum has come under fire for failing to attract enough visitors and is said to be "on its knees".

Private sector money

The museum, which was opened by The Queen in 1996, is run by a private sector consortium. But the group, Royal Armouries International, is believed to have a deficit of 20m.

[ image:  ]
The consortium was set up to invest 14m to build the museum.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which contributes an annual grant of 4m to the running costs, said there had been a number of recent meetings about the museum.

"We are aware of the financial difficulties facing the Armouries," she said.

The building was one of the first constructed under the previous Tory government's Private Finance Initiative invented to attract private sector money into building projects. It holds more than 40,000 artefacts.

The museum had set itself a target of one million visitors a year, but last year had attracted less than half that number.

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