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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK


No museum entry fee in 2001

The Tate Gallery is one of the 11 institutions likely to gain

The Culture Secretary Chris Smith has announced details of £290m extra funding for the arts, museums and galleries but stressed that it is "not something for nothing".

The BBC's Rosie Millard: 'The regional centres of culture fear they might miss out'
At a news conference in the National Gallery in London, Mr Smith outlined how his share of Chancellor Gordon Brown's spending review will be used to widen access to museums and galleries, and invest more in the performing arts.

The money could be used by major national museums and galleries to establish universal free entry in 2001.

Mr Smith said a new watchdog would ensure the massive investment - which ends years of frozen funding for the arts - will be used effectively.

He called it "a new contract" with obligations on both sides and a "real partnership".

[ image: Chris Smith:
Chris Smith: " a new contract"
"This is a new start for Britain's cultural, heritage and sporting world. We are investing and providing stability. It's now up to you to use this money effectively. This is a historic opportunity, which we must grasp together."

Mr Smith's department will receive the money over three years with £30m extra in the first year, then £40m and £55m in subsequent years.

It adds to the current annual budget of £912m, which is one of the smallest in government.

Free entry in 2001

[ image:  ]
In that period there will be an extra £100m for museums and galleries.

Assuming that they reach targets it means major national collections could establish universal free entry in 2001. Children should get free admission by 1999 and pensioners in 2000.

Mr Smith also announced a £15m challenge fund for investment in 43 designated museums that are officially recognised for their important collections.

Speaking earlier on BBC Radio 4's Today programme the culture secretary said the money would be used to attract more people to the arts. He said the goal was to "maintain excellence but increase access".

'A contract with the arts'

Chris Smith: "It's not something for nothing..."
"I'll be more generous on the provision of good access for new audiences, new people coming in. I'll be generous on maintaining excellence of work because high artistic standards have to be maintained.

"And I will be generous where real managerial efficiency is put into place. This is not something for nothing," he said.

In return for the extra cash, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has agreed with the Treasury to ensure the money delivers clear improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.

[ image: Peter Aisnworth:
Peter Aisnworth: "smoke and mirrors"
Tories call for accountability

The Tory Shadow Cutlure Secretary, Peter Ainsworth, has criticised his opposite number for making the announcement by news conference.

Mr Ainsworth, speaking in the House of Commons, said it was "a disgrace" the Secretary had faced questions in the House and urged the Speaker to ask Mr Smith to attend.

He also criticised the government for giving with one hand but, in cutting national lottery money for the arts, they were taking with the other:

Peter Ainsworth attacks the Culture Secretary for going to the press
"There's a typical play with smoke and mirrors. They've raked off about a billion pounds over the next three years, which would have gone to the arts, and given it to very good causes like education. But they ought to be financed out of government expenditure."

Praise from peer

London Weekend Television Controller of Arts Lord Bragg welcomed the new cash. "It really is a fresh start. The thing that most appeals to me is that it is a three-year deal with an extra £100m a year on top of what's already there. Chris Smith has done the arts proud," he said.

Museums worry about inflation

But museums and galleries fear the money will not last very long. They say that because the money will not be pegged to inflation over the next three years, it will depreciate and they will lose out.

Mr Smith also hopes that extra funding for the country's key arts companies will enable them to establish themselves on a sound financial basis and deliver excellence to a wider audience.

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