National Museum of the Royal Navy given £5.3m by treasury days before declaring itself insolvent after coronavirus closure

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has given a museum honouring the Royal Navy a stay of execution after green-lighting a multi-million pound bailout plan to save it from closure.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 11:57 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 4:01 pm

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) had been days away from declaring itself insolvent after losing £6.35m during the coronavirus crisis.

But today heritage chiefs at the organisation announced the treasury had granted a last-minute cash grant to see them through the rest of the financial year.

The News understands that a figure of £5.4m has been approved by the government.

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Dominic Tweddle, head of the NMRN, pictured in front of HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Photo: Habibur Rahman

The move now means the site has enough cash in place to finally reopen its sites across the UK, including those in Portsmouth and Gosport.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general for the NMRN, said: ‘I cannot express the relief we all felt when we were told that additional funding would be made available to us.

‘It has been incredibly difficult over the last weeks and months with so much uncertainty around the future of the museum.’

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Plans to throw open the doors to the treasured heritage sites based in England are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

An NMRN spokeswoman said: ‘The museum – which without this support would have had to declare itself insolvent within the next month – is now able to begin the investment it needs to remobilise its sites in Portsmouth, Gosport, Hartlepool and Yeovilton and will be making announcements about dates for reopening, in the coming weeks.’

But in a fresh warning, Prof Tweddle said that despite the treasury windfall the museum was still not out of the woods yet and that ‘difficult decisions’ about its future still needed to be made.

‘While the funding is crucial in stabilising our financial position for this year, it does not take into account some of the longer term costs and effects that it will have had on the business, which reach into the next financial year and beyond,’ he said.

‘We are realistic that whilst this money is welcome, difficult decisions will still need to be made to ensure that we will still be here next year and the year after.

‘The only real solution is a fundamental overhaul of our funding model, something I intend to pursue in the coming months.’

Heritage chiefs also hit out at the government for the unfair support provided to museums.

Many ‘national museums’ in the UK, like the Imperial War Museum and National Army Museum, receive between 60 and 80 per cent of their total funding from the government.

However, despite being classed as a national museum, the NMRN only receives 19 per cent of funding from the government, with the rest coming from visitor revenue and donations.

‘Whilst we are relieved and grateful for the support we have received, we do need to reflect on, and address for the future, what has left us in this financial position,’ said Prof Tweddle.

‘I simply cannot see why the historic ships and collections we care for, are not treated with the same significance as those in the care of our national museum peers. Is our naval history not of equal value?’

Belfast-based HMS Caroline will remain closed for the ‘rest of the year’, the museum added, due to different funding arrangements in Northern Ireland, which aren’t covered by the treasury.

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