How Bath’s heritage pays its way.


While, on the one hand, the city’s summer tourist crowds might be a little difficult to manoeuvre through – on the other it has to be said that the attractions they come to see are big earners for the local authority.

Bath tourist
The tourist season in full swing.

In a report – prepared for next week’s Bath and North Somerset District Council’s Cabinet meeting – Wednesday, April 12th – members will read:

Heritage Services generates external income for the Authority of over £18 million p.a. If the stretch target is achieved, this will increase to £20.5 Million p.a. by 2022. This income is a strategic resource for the Authority, and represents a direct contribution to its finances from the local visitor economy.

There are also indirect contributions via parking fees and the impact on rental values of Commercial Estate shops. The economic impact survey undertaken by the University of Bath in 2012 indicated that the Roman Baths levers £107 Million p.a. into the local economy.’

roman baths
The Great Bath – part of the Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

That’s an awful lot of money and, because the ‘department’ has been retained as an ‘in-house’ service, that has meant an annual profit growing by over 100% in the years from 2005/06 to 2016/17.

This Authority is unique in the country in operating its museums service at a net surplus (“profit”). The net surplus earned for the Council by Heritage Services since the inception of Bath and North East Somerset Council has totalled c.£79 Million.

In the financial year 2017/18 the target profit of £6.075 Million represents a reduction in each Council Tax bill in the district of c.£77. For example, the average Band D Council Tax bill would be c.£89 higher without this contribution to the Council’s

The Council’s still keen to make savings and in this new 5 year plan Heritage Services ‘incorporates two new Strategic Review initiatives totalling £340k. A further £50k p.a. will be removed from the cost base following an internal review.’

The report also states how aware the Council must be of assumptions regarding visitor numbers ,and how much they spend,  ‘together with the increasing difficulty that will be experienced in achieving further increases in profit in future years. The annual profit targets contained within the Plan are challenging, and their achievement is subject to a range of sensitivities and risks, including both local factors and world events.’

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The joint ‘saver’ ticket to the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum appears to have been a success. The report says: ‘The ticket to the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum was extended in 2015/16 to include admission to the Victoria Art Gallery’s large temporary exhibition programme. Gallery opening hours were temporarily extended in 2016 to align with those at the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum; this experiment was found to be commercially beneficial and the new opening hours have been made permanent.’

Money continues to be spent on the infrastructure pf the Roman Baths and Pump Room complex, ‘such as monument and building conservation, and will include in 2017/18 replacement of the site’s electrical distribution panel, which is old and at full capacity, and the replacement of the energy capture equipment installed in 1992 with a new state-of-the-art system below water-level in the King’s Bath.’

Here’s a bit more ‘forward planning’ involving the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery.

‘Roman Baths Development: during the lifetime of the five-year plan, proposals will be drawn up to review and bring forward investment proposals to update the first round of ‘Roman Baths Development’ revenue and capital investment instituted in 2006-2011, including a major refit of the main Roman Baths Shop.

Fashion Museum: work will continue with the Regeneration Team and Property Services on a strategy for the sustainable long-term success of the Museum, now considered one of the top 10 fashion museums in the world. This will seek to build on the burgeoning scale and reputation of the Bath Spa University Fashion & Textiles courses, with which the Museum has a mutually beneficial partnership.

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 Victoria Art Gallery: work will continue on the current investigation into the business case for extending the Gallery into the void behind it and potentially connecting with the riverside colonnade and Guildhall complexes on either side, to reduce the Gallery’s carbon footprint and make it more financially sustainable.’

On the negative side – and this is where the Cabinet report lists some of its ‘risk management’ items. There are three paragraphs of interest – including  concern as to how much the noise of structural repairs in York Street will affect the quality of a daytime visit to the Roman Baths.

‘Significant economic, environmental or geo-political events during 2017/18 could cause a drop in visitor numbers with an adverse impact on income and therefore profit returned to the Council.

York Street closure.

The closure of York Street for structural repairs will not impair access to the Roman Baths and Pump Room complex for daytime visitor numbers or people attending evening functions. However coach groups offloading at North Parade may be re-routed via Orange Grove and Marshal Wade’s Passage into Abbey Church Yard. As groups are nearly all pre-booked the Service has contact with them and will be able to give them prior warning.

A bigger concern will be the effect of noise from construction work on the quality of the daytime visit to the Roman Baths. Evening work in York Street could also disrupt civic, corporate and private functions in the Baths below and ‘sunrise weddings’ at 8am could also be affected. Evening work will also affect the evening torchlit opening which extends to 10pm between 17 June and 31 August.’

It all makes interesting reading and , just to remind you:

‘This Authority is unique in the country in operating its museums service at a net surplus (“profit”). The net surplus earned for the Council by Heritage Services since the inception of Bath and North East Somerset Council has totalled c.£79 Million.’ 




1 Comment

  1. All very true but contrast that with yesterday’s decision to demolish one of the largest remaining structures from the Stodhert & Pitt Works – the Victorian foundry builfing. Against the advice of not only SAVE, the Victorial Society and the Bristol Industrial Archaeology group but also its own officers. And only for outline planning permission Surely it could be incorporated into the design, so preserving the site for tourists as well as workers.

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