Is anybody surprised?
Free admission to Britain’s museums and galleries will be scrapped as part of radical proposals being considered by the Conservatives.
A future Tory government would end the Government’s policy of automatic free entry and allow institutions to levy a charge for admission. The move has angered Labour MPs and some senior figures in the arts world who say it is backward-looking, elitist and philistine.
The Tories wish to give the institutions greater freedom from Government control. Many in the arts world believe that the free access policy has restricted their ability to build up collections.
The policy of free admission, introduced by Chris Smith (now Lord Smith) when he was the minister for culture, has been one of the Government’s most popular measures. Figures released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last year show the policy has generated an additional 29 million extra visitors for the 14 institutions that had previously charged.
In London, visits to formerly charging museums have risen by 86 per cent. Elsewhere, there has been an increase of 75 per cent.
The biggest beneficiaries include the Victoria and Albert Museum, where annual visitor numbers have risen by 138 per cent, and National Museums Liverpool, which has seen a rise of 118 per cent. A recent poll showed the measure, which costs the Government £40 million a year in subsidy, is the most popular policy introduced by Labour since its election in 1997.