Plans to hand over the running of the Royal Pavilion to a charitable trust have been delayed because of the coronavirus crisis.
The trustees had been due to take over the Royal Pavilion and Museums from Brighton and Hove City Council tomorrow (Wednesday 1 April).
But the trustees have asked for a delay of up to six months because of the current uncertainty – with all museums and art galleries ordered to close by the government.
The request from trustees was agreed at a “virtual” meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Urgency Sub-Committee today (Tuesday 31 March).
And the council could put the transfer off until April next year if necessary, councillors were told.
The council’s executive director for the economy, environment and culture Nick Hibberd said that keeping the present arrangements would protect jobs and provide security for staff who could be redeployed or furloughed.
But it also meant that the council would foot the bill for effectively mothballing some of its main visitor attractions.
Mr Hibberd said that the Arts Council would still honour a £700,000 grant for the 2020-21 financial year which starts tomorrow – even if the doors stayed shut.
He said: “The only reason for delaying this transfer is due to the emergency we find ourselves in.
“Without the virus, we would have been ready to transfer but it seems to make sense to delay the transfer until we can ensure the trust will be a success.”
The delay was backed by all three councillors taking part in the sub-committee meeting – Labour council leader Nancy Platts, Green finance lead David Gibson and his Conservative counterpart Joe Miller.
Once the trust takes over, it will run the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum, Hove Museum, Preston Manor and the Booth Museum.
The service generates about £4 million a year. As a trust, with charitable status, it is expected to be able to attract funding that is not available to councils.