QUESTIONS are being raised about the “long-term sustainability” of Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Arts Gallery and Museum.

The council is carrying out a “root and branch” review of the attraction, which costs the taxpayer £944,000.

It is often described as the jewel in Bournemouth’s crown and offers free entry.

However, government funding to local councils is being cut by 26 per cent over four years and all spending is under scrutiny.

Museum heritage director Sue Hayward said the review was roughly halfway completed and redundancies were expected among the 19 full-time post equivalents.

The opening hours may be reduced, it might start charging for entry, and it needs to be more energy efficient.

“We are putting this process in place to make sure that the Russell Cotes does have a future,” said Mrs Hayward.

Cllr Roger West said the expected cuts were “appalling” and he fears the museum will be seen as a “soft target”. He said: “We should be helping it to promote itself out of the financial difficulties that it is in.

“In any other town, as soon as you get off the train, there would be a big poster telling the world we have got one of the best small art galleries and museums in the country. Here, there’s nothing.”

The seafront museum is a Grade II* listed building and the former home of a globetrotting Bournemouth mayor and his wife. It is part grand house, part treasure trove of artefacts and part gallery space.

Last year it received £620,000 from Bournemouth council and £330,000 from the Department of Culture. Both figures are down on previous years and are expected to drop again next year.

The review is trying to make the museum as sustainable as possible. Mrs Hayward said it generated £175,000 last year.

Cllr Phil Stanley-Watts is the councillor assigned to the review.

He said: “Personally, I don’t want to see any charges introduced. Perhaps, to generate more money, it could be hiring out more space.

“We will be looking into whether it’s advertised enough and whether it’s promoted in the way it should be.”

He said a cut in council funding that threatened the viability of the museum was a “worst case scenario”, adding: “I don’t know of anyone on the council that doesn’t support the Russell-Cotes.”

JH Lawrence, the project manager for Pride in Bournemouth, described it as a “Victorian jewel”.

She is the artist in residence at the Royal Bath Hotel next door, but she said few guests know about the museum and she has to actually walk them over to it.

“People often say, ‘This has made my trip’,” she added. “But why don’t more people know about it?

“They could charge £1 for people to go in to help with costs.”