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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Brown boosts university museums
Natural History Museum
The free entry scheme is already enjoyed by many London museums
University museums are to benefit from a change in VAT rules, Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced.

Mr Brown heralded the move - in his spending review - as an extension of the free entry to museums scheme.

It means five university museums that charge an admission fee will now be able to reclaim VAT as well as 23 museums which are already free.

The chancellor also revealed a real term increase in the culture, media and sport department's budget of 2.3%.

The 230m of extra cash, which takes the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) budget to 1.6bn, has not yet been allocated by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, although Mr Brown is keen on a number of sports initiatives and improvements for regional museums.

Holburne Museum of Art, Bath
Oriental Museum, Durham
Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, East Anglia
Museum of Rural Life, Reading
Courtauld Institute, London
Museums and galleries have attracted nearly 11 million extra visitors since scrapping their entrance fees, although there was criticism that museums that were already free suffered and that the measures benefited museums in London most.

The 28 museum universities previously lost their VAT exemption if they did not charge for admission as they were no longer considered as businesses, a DCMS spokesman said.

The chancellor's move means the obstacle to going free for the five currently charging and the penalty to those that are currently free has been removed. The five retain the option to continue charging.

The five university museums which currently charge are the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath, the Oriental Museum in Durham, the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, the Museum of Rural Life in Reading and the galleries at the Courtauld Institute in London .

Mr Brown also said there would not be cuts in funding for either the British Council or the BBC World Service.

He said their budgets would rise from 173m to 197m and 225m to 252m respectively.

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