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Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK


Armouries saved from the axe

The museum was attracting less than half its target number of visitors

The Royal Armouries Museum, which had been threatened with closure because of a £20m deficit, has been saved by a restructuring agreement.

The £42m Leeds-based museum, which houses 40,000 military artefacts including many treasures from the Tower of London, had been plunged into crisis after attracting less than half of its target number of visitors.

But on Monday, following an entire day of crisis talks in London on Friday, museum trustees announced a rescue package.

[ image: It cost £42m but had estimated debts of £20m]
It cost £42m but had estimated debts of £20m
The Royal Armouries was one of the first projects to be set up under the previous government's Private Finance Initiative, which uses private sector money to fund large public building projects.

Under the inititiative a private sector consortium, Royal Armouries International (RAI), had been set up to invest £14m in the site and manage the museum.

Under the rescue deal, the RAI will hand over the running of the museum to its public partner, Royal Armouries, which owns the artefacts.

Royal Armouries will assume full responsibility for managing the museum by 1 November, with the RAI continuing to operate corporate hospitality, executive catering and car parking.

Government grant safe

A spokeswoman for the museum said: "The partnership will be restructured to play to the respective strengths of the public and private sectors. Control will be simplified and economies introduced."

She added that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which contributes an annual grant of £4m to running costs, has agreed to continue funding the museum.

Sir James Glover, chairman of RAI, said: "The new agreement positions RAI to trade profitably in the future and secures long-term prospects for our dedicated staff."

Lord Younger, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Armouries, said: "The trustees' prime concern has been to ensure that the museum, of which we are very proud, remains open and is given a secure and prosperous future."

The museum, which was opened by The Queen in 1996, 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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