A GRANT of £2m could be given to a popular council-run museum as it seeks independence. 

Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in East Cliff, Bournemouth, is looking to part ways with BCP Council. 

Management at the museum previously warned the current arrangement with the council as its sole trustee with the council is “no longer fit for purpose”. 

In its current state, it’s expected more than £4m of structural repair work is needed on the Grade II* listed building because of severe water damage. 

A report to be put to BCP Council’s cabinet recommends senior councillors agree to a £2m upfront grant “to enable [the museum] to establish themselves as an independent organisation”. 

This grant would be spread over five years, according to Cllr Andy Martin.

Bournemouth Echo:

The report, by BCP Council’s director of customer, arts and property Matti Raudsepp, said a one-off grant of £250k should be handed to the museum for building maintenance. 

He also recommends the study centre, in Exeter Road and valued at £500k, should be transferred to the museum as an organisation as well as the transfer of reserves held by the council, valued at £299k as of December. 

Mr Raudsepp said: “Following independence, Russell Cotes will be responsible for its own operations and specifically expenditure the council would have undertaken previously on the charity’s behalf, including but not limited to, banking, insurance, maintenance, accounting and tax affairs. 

Read more: Bournemouth museum in need of 'significant' repairs

“As a result of Russell Cotes becoming independent, the council can remove the £530k net annual budget used to directly support the Russell Cotes from its medium-term financial plan. 

“Furthermore, annual savings of £96k can be realised from associated indirect support services such as insurance.” 

The Charity Commission has said the splitting could take between 18 months and two years, with a proposed vesting date has been given of October 1, 2025, but that could change, the report said. 

To transition, the National Lottery Heritage Fund will cover £96k of the costs and £20k will be used from the authority’s reserves. 

In 2023/24, BCP Council gave £530,000 of funding directly to Russell-Cotes, with an additional £100,000 provided through central and support costs for building maintenance, energy costs and payroll. 

In November, museum manager Sarah Newman said it is suffering from a “lack of investment in maintaining the building”. 

However, last summer the attraction saw visitor numbers rise by 14 per cent to more than 30,000 visits. 

Ms Newman said: “One of the key drivers for the move to full independence is to ensure the survival of this iconic Bournemouth landmark and to ensure it can continue to delight audiences with its powerful and immersive atmosphere and eclectic collections for the next 100 years.” 

The museum was established as a charity in 1908 with then-Bournemouth Council taking up the role as sole trustee.