A new cultural trust due to be set up to run the Royal Pavilion and city museums could now merge with the Brighton Dome and Festival trust as early as next spring.
Plans to set up the cultural trust were approved by councillors in January, with councillors being asked to note that a roadmap would be drawn up to consider merging it with the Dome and Festival trust within four years of it being set up.
But the council now wants to skip that phase and go straight to setting up a single trust to encompass the whole of the Royal Pavilion estate and the city’s museums.
Workers at the Pavilion and museums were told of the new plans last week, prompting fears over the implication for jobs.
But the council said all jobs would be transferred to the new trust with the same terms and conditions.
A source close to the Pavilion said many were concerned they may lose their jobs if the merger goes ahead. They added: “Meetings and briefings were going on at the highest level behind closed doors.”
The council said that the creation of a single cultural charity to manage the whole Pavilion estate and the Brighton Festival is a long-held ambition.
We believe that this will better protect their long term future by enabling us to take advantage of the opportunities for growing audiences through collaboration, and developing a sustainable financial model with greater fundraising potential.
A council spokesman said: “Our detailed work has shown that our objective could be achieved more quickly than a two-stage process (the path advised by consultants PwC), which would first create a museum and heritage trust and then seek to bring that together with the existing trust for Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival. Moving straight to a single trust would also mean less risk of disruption and duplication of cost.
“We are now exploring this further and discussions have now begun between the council, the shadow board of the proposed museums trust, and Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival about whether this is a preferable approach for all parties.
“We need to stress that nothing has yet been decided, and such a move would require approval of the council’s policy, resources and growth committee. Were staff to transfer into any other body, this would be under TUPE regulations, so all staff employed at the time would transfer on their current terms.”
Councillor Alan Robins, chair of the tourism, development and culture committee, said: “Partnership is key to the future of these services. Moving to a single charity is an exciting prospect for the Royal Pavilion and Museums.
“It would open up greater opportunities to work with Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival as well as protect our combined cultural offer for future generations.
“Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival is a trusted partner of the council, and highly regarded as a well-managed and ambitious organisation by the Arts Council.
“The shadow board, established for the new museums trust in May, has been working well. Our initial work on the “two stage process” is still relevant and discussions have now begun between the council, the shadow board and Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival to explore the single approach and to look at how it could work for all the organisations involved.
“If this approach is agreed, it is anticipated that the new arrangements for Royal Pavilion and Museums will be in place from 1 April 2018.”