Concerns raised over museum funding following news of People’s Palace and Winter Gardens closure

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 October 2018 in News

Glasgow City Council faces repair bill of up to £7.5m to bring the Winter Gardens back to a safe standard

People's Palace and Winter Gardens, Glasgow - Image credit: Patrick Down via Flickr

Glasgow’s iconic People’s Palace and Winter Gardens are to close indefinitely at the end of the year amid concerns over the safety of the Winter Gardens building.

Although there is no problem with the People’s Palace itself, the museum will have to close too, at least for the moment, because one of its fire escapes runs through the Winter Gardens.

The cost of repairs to the Victorian glasshouse is estimated at between £5m and £7.5m, Glasgow City Council has said.

In a statement Glasgow City Council said: “The Winter Gardens will sadly have to close due to concerns about the safety of the structure beyond that point.

“Your safety is our priority, but we are currently working on a plan to allow the People’s Palace to remain open independently of the gardens as we know how much this space means to both our citizens and visitors.

“At the moment, we do not know how long the Winter Gardens will remain closed, but we estimate that between £5m and £7.5m is needed to make sure it is safe.

“We want to ensure a sustainable, long-term future for this iconic building in one of the city’s most loved spaces, so we’re working on a full report of the plans to be submitted to elected members and the relevant committee.”

The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, which opened on Glasgow Green in 1898, are very popular with residents and tourists and the closure is likely to affect tourism in the city.

Glasgow City Council deputy leader David McDonald, who chairs Glasgow Life, the arms-length body that runs Glasgow’s museums, libraries and sports centres, said the closure “strikes a blow”.

However, he suggested that the situation provided a “chance to pause for thought”.

McDonald pointed out that Glasgow City Council spends more on cultural services than any other local authority in Scotland while receiving no national funding towards its museums and galleries.

He compared the Glasgow Museums’ budget of £12m attracting four million visitors annually with the National Museums Scotland budget of £27.7m for 2.7 million visitors.

Glasgow museums are the most visited outside of London, McDonald said, and visits to the city’s museums have increased by 62 per cent in 10 years, with 42 per cent of tourists coming to the city expressly to visit a museum.

The council also has “ambitious plans” to increase museum visits by an additional 700,000 by 2023.

“Unlike Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, Manchester, York, Bradford, Leeds, Cardiff and others Glasgow gets no national funding for its museums from the UK/Scottish Government, despite being the biggest, busiest and most efficient museum service in the country,” he said.

“This can’t go on. Can it?

“We now need to find a new way of working, an alternative way of supporting our cultural infrastructure that both protects what we have and builds for the future.

“It's a challenge greater than the usual political tribalism that surrounds local government funding.

“It's a serious question requiring serious consideration.

“Finding an answer will involve everyone who has a stake in the future of the city.”

Concerns over funding have also been raised by Glasgow City Council Labour group leader, Frank McAveety.

He said: “The announcement that the Winter Gardens will close is more proof that Glasgow needs a fair deal.

“The role that the Winter Gardens plays in attracting tourism and in supporting large-scale events is too important to be left unattended.

“With a fair deal from the Scottish Government – which includes properly funding local government and powers like those needed to introduce a tourist tax – we could continue to invest in Glasgow's assets.

"The story that the People's Palace tells is one of ordinary citizens working together to secure a better future for themselves.

“The Scottish Government should empower local government, so that we can support communities and invest to build a Glasgow for the many, not the few.”

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