In today's column, Polly Toynbee writes:
Chris Smith is one of the few politicians to retire knowing he has done something brilliant - restoring free entry to museums and galleries, swelling attendances by 50%.I hadn't appreciated that a seat in the House of Lords counted as retirement, but anyway. Swelling museum attendance by 50% looks like quite a good thing, until you consult the official figures. According to the ONS figures cited here, visits to museums and art galleries increased by 6% between 1997 and 2002. Social Trends 36 (the 2006 edition) says that between 2002 and 2003 they increased by 1% and between 2003 and 2004 they increased by 4%.
When we look at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's website, we can find a press release lauding the increase in visitor numbers here. The figures revealed are fascinating -- particularly in Table 3 which is linked to at the end of the press release.
Charges affected fewer than 30% of museum visits back when the charges were scrapped in 2001. Since then, there has been a 67% increase in visits to museums which used to charge (69% in the first year, so actually a fall after the first year boost). Museums which were always free saw a 2% increase. Overall visits increased 21%.
And not 50%.UPDATE: Also in the column, Polly writes:
Creative Partnerships was set up in just 36 deprived areas to bring artists of all kinds to work in 1,100 of the poorest schools.No. Creative Partnerships was set up in just 16 areas. It was then expanded to 34 and subsequently 36. For detail, see the Creative Partnerships website or the, er, Guardian.