Sunderland council taxpayers to prop up Beamish Museum bid

The Tram, Beamish: The Living Museum of the North
The Tram, Beamish: The Living Museum of the North
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CASH-strapped Sunderland City Council is set to guarantee a £4.5million match-funding reserve to help Beamish Museum enter the 1950s.

Cabinet members will consider proposals to provide the popular open-air museum with a proportionate guarantee, shared with Durham County Council, when it meets tomorrow.

Beamish bosses are bidding for £10.75million of Heritage Lottery Funding, but to get that, it must put up about £4.5million worth of match funding.

The museum’s major redevelopment project, Remaking Beamish, is estimated to cost a total of £15.25million from April 2016 until December 2020, and create 95 full-time jobs and 50 apprenticeships.

It is expected to boost visitor numbers by more than 500,000 each year, and turn over £11million by the year 2024/25.

The development involves extending the period Beamish illustrates every day life from the 1820s through to the 1950s.

Beamish hopes to secure external grant funding of £2.9million, £300,000 from donations and use £1.3million from its own surpluses – rising to £4.2million if grant funding is not secured.

It is these amounts that Sunderland and Durham councils will act as guarantor for, should the museum be unable to raise them.

According to a report from Sunderland City Council’s head of financial resources, Sonia Tognarelli, the museum’s financial projections are considered “prudent”.

It further states that the programme can be scaled back if necessary to minimise any call on the guarantor authorities.

The guarantee will also be supported on the conditions that the museum will seek as much external grant funding as possible, then utilise all of its operating surpluses and reserves be fore any call would be made on the two councils as a last resort,

“In the unlikely event the guarantee is ever called, then it would be recovered by the guarantor constituent authorities on a commercial loan basis to be agreed,” the report adds.