Report highlights need to find funding to maintain Lloyd George Museum and Bangor’s Storiel
Gwynedd Council says it’s working on business plans to secure the future of two visitor attractions following the drying up of external funding sources.
A report presented to the Audit Committee found that long term solutions were needed for the Lloyd George Museum and Bangor’s Storiel after the future of both was listed on the authority’s corporate risk register.
Approved by members, the audit report noted there was a risk of the Llanystumdwy museum having to close unless a long-term solution was found.
The visitor attraction, opened in 1947, is a recreation of the former Prime Minister’s boyhood home and boasts a vast collection including the first pension issued and a draft copy of the Great War peace treaty.
After Gwynedd Council announced that it could no longer afford to keep the attraction open, the UK Government stepped in and offered an annual £27,000 grant over three years from 2017/18.
But after that deal ran out, the local authority stepped back in and offered a “one-off” lifeline for 2020/21.
The report went on to state: “Further assessment work will be undertaken into future options and to agree the council’s governance arrangements as a trustee in the meantime.
“Covid has affected the work resulting in delays in the agreed timetable between the council and partners.
“The Trust needs to consider its options and develop a new business plan to target future funding to support the museum.”
At Bangor, meanwhile, the expiration of Lottery funding saw the report raise concerns that “the quality of Storiel’s offer deteriorates as it does not provide sufficient income to carry out activities”.
Based at Bangor’s Bishop’s Palace, the former Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery was reopened as Storiel in 2016 following substantial upgrades worth £2.6m thanks to a partnership between Gwynedd Council and Bangor University.
The Grade II listed building is the city’s second oldest surviving building, with part of it dating back to around 1500.
With a contribution of £1.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it was transformed to incorporate a shop, café, museum galleries, an art gallery and an activities room.
But despite promising visitor figures after it opened its doors, a subsequent report highlighted “concern” regarding the financial situation, with Storiel having overspent its annual budget by £72,000 at the end of the 2018/19 financial year.
The report presented to the Audit committee on Thursday, went on to state: “Since Lottery grant funding came to an end and the management of the café was internalised, Storiel has been unable to meet its income targets.
“A 5 year business plan has been established to meet new income targets, but due to Covid-19 it will be necessary to review if the income targets are achievable.
“Café has now been closed and a review of options for the space will be undertaken.
“CRF grant application for work support to look at the income and business elements of Storiel in 2021. Review of all procedures ongoing as well as discussions with lead partner – Bangor University.”
Recommending the need to formally establish a Storiel Trust as a vehicle to support fundraising and a commission to review its operation, it added that new funding sources need to be found once such an action plan is in place.
Responding to the findings of the report, a Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “The council is developing a business case for both museums as a result of the pandemic to prioritise activity, our future direction and business models at both locations.
“We anticipate that these documents will help to address the current situation and provide a pathway for the future sustainability of these important facilities.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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