A MUCH-LOVED York attraction lost revenue of £400,000 last year, and its owner says it cannot continue to trade at a deficit.

A report prepared for city councillors shows York Castle Museum has struggled since the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

It has been prepared by York Museums Trust's Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Blacker, for a City of York Council’s Children, Culture and Communities Scrutiny Committee meeting on April 9.

In the report the CEO said that the trust’s overall 2023/24 financial performance forecasted a loss of nearly £400,000.

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Ms Blacker says  ‘this will leave us with reserves of £800,000, which is less than two months of our operating costs and is below our reserves policy of three months.’

The trust is preparing a 2024/25 budget which will ‘at best project losses of around £250,000, which will further diminish our reserves position’, the report said.

Visitor numbers at York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum, and York Art Gallery in 2023/24 are each forecast to be lower than the previous year – in total, numbers for the three attractions are expected to be 5.7 per cent lower, at 404,876 visitors, according to the report.

Chief Operating Officer Paul Lambert told The Press that York Museums Trust has been through a robust review of visitor numbers setting realistic and achievable targets for this financial year.

He said: “The trust cannot sustain low reserves over the long-term.

“We have some funding to help us build a new business model in 2024-25, working with partners across the city, to help us develop that long-term sustainability for our museums, gallery and gardens, so that they can continue to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.”

The report for 2023/24 highlighted ‘a difficult year’ at York Castle Museum in particular, with the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

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RAAC was used between the 1950s and 1990s, but it is less durable than standard concrete and has a lifespan of around 30 years.

This forced the temporary closure of Kirkgate, its major attraction, in late September 2023, and also the Female Prison, the report says.

'Visitor numbers have been recovering' 

The report says £400,000 in revenue was lost with the closure and £80,000 was spent from Trust reserves for remedial works.

It adds that part of the Female Prison still closed off ‘because of the need to mitigate remaining RAAC issues’ and surveys have highlighted the ‘urgent need to replace or overhaul the roof covering.’

Paul Lambert said: “A substantial proportion of our funding is derived through ticket sales and last year that income was significantly impacted by the discovery of RAAC at York Castle Museum along with rising costs. 

“Visitor numbers at York Castle Museum have been recovering as we have reopened more parts of the site, including the much-loved Kirkgate.

“With the launch of 'Star Carr: life after the ice' at the Yorkshire Museum, the forthcoming 'National Treasures: Monet in York' exhibition in May and another exhibition due to open at York Castle Museum in June we have a strong programme on offer to help us achieve those targets.

“We care for the buildings and collections on behalf of the people of York and we will continue to work closely with the City of York Council on how we deliver that sustainability in the future, and the letter of credit is a vital part of the support they provide.”