THE financial problems of an East Cleveland museum will be looked at by a Government minister.

The move comes after the problems facing the Tom Leonard Mining Museum in Skinningrove were raised in the House of Commons.

Museum volunteers have several plans to expand but have experienced serious difficulties accessing smaller Government grants.

Minister for Sport and Arts Richard Caborn promised to take the issue of too much bureaucracy up with One NorthEast, the regional development agency.

The area's MP, Ashok Kumar, told the Commons that red tape was preventing the museum - and others like it - from receiving money due to them. He said that there were serious fears that grants from the European Union could dry up as money begins to be channelled to Eastern European countries.

The small museum, which attracts about 5,000 visitors a year, has many plans to expand including creating a family history centre, building an auditorium and providing disabled access.

It is supported by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, the EU and the Government's Single Regeneration Budget.

Last year it received a £130,000 loan from the borough council to buy the museum buildings from its landlords.

The mine had serious financial difficulties in the late Nineties when a charitable trust closed following the collapse of Barings Bank.

It costs about £10,000 a year to run the museum. Meanwhile, new volunteers are desperately needed.

Volunteer Mike Turner said: "We're trying to involve schools more as well as the local community.

"We're having six-mile miners' walks and have already had a few school trips here this year. However, we really need guides and people to do other work as a matter of urgency."

The museum can be contacted on (01287) 642970.