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National Trust plans 1,200 job cuts as a result of pandemic

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The National Trust is planning to make 1,200 staff redundant as it looks to save £100 million in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The conservation and heritage charity, which has 5.6 million members, said it has lost almost £200 million as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which shut all of its houses, gardens, car parks, shops and cafes, and stopped holidays and events.

The trust said it had already saved millions of pounds through furloughing staff, drawing on reserves, borrowing and stopping or deferring projects, but still needs to make savings to keep it sustainable in the long term.

It has proposed £100 million in annual savings, equivalent to almost a fifth of its annual spend, through changes to operations and cuts to staff and budgets.

Director general Hilary McGrady said the organisation will continue to care for historic sites, and tackle climate change, loss of wildlife and unequal access to nature, beauty and history.

Some 1,200 salaried staff face redundancy as part of £60 million proposed pay savings – around 13% of the 9,500-strong salaried workforce.

The move, which comes after a decade which saw the National Trust nearly double in size, would bring staffing levels back to what they were in 2016.

The plans also include £8.8 million savings by cutting the budget for hourly paid staff such as seasonal workers by a third.

The remaining £40 million of savings will be made in areas such as reducing travel and office costs and IT spending, cutting marketing and print spending in favour of digital communications, and renegotiating contracts.

The trust has already announced it is stopping or deferring £124 million of projects this year.

The charity said it is refocusing its efforts to protect cultural heritage, with limited cuts to staff caring for houses, gardens and collections.

There will be a shift from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to properties, with reviewed opening hours at some places and in some cases running a pre-booked guided tour system for visits.

The trust will continue its ambition, announced in January, to step up action against climate change, cutting emissions to net zero by 2030, planting millions trees and creating green corridors for people and nature, it said.

It plans to restart the strategy in March next year, but Ms McGrady said the organisation would have to be “flexible” in achieving it.

She said: “We are going through one of the biggest crises in living memory.

“All aspects of our home, work and school lives and our finances and communities have been affected, and like so many other organisations the National Trust has been hit very hard.

Our focus will remain on the benefit we deliver to people, every day

“The places and things the National Trust cares for are needed now more than ever, as the nation needs to recuperate and recover its spirit and wellbeing.

“Our focus will remain on the benefit we deliver to people, every day.

“It is deeply upsetting to face losing colleagues and we are committed to supporting all of those affected.

“Sadly, we have no other course of action left open.

“In making these changes now, I am confident we will be well placed to face the challenges ahead, protecting the places that visitors love and ensuring our conservation work continues long into the future.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect – the union for National Trust workers, said the priority was minimising the number of redundancies, maximising voluntary redundancy and getting as good a deal as possible for those who lose their jobs.

And he warned: “At the moment there are no plans for National Trust to close whole properties, but they are shutting ‘unprofitable’ shops and cafes and the worry is that it’s only a matter of time.

“Once jobs are lost and assets are closed it is very hard to recover them.

“Access to our cultural heritage should be an essential part of society’s recovery from the pandemic, and the Government should be doing everything it can to protect it.”

He said Prospect would be pushing ministers to ensure the rescue package announced for arts, culture and heritage get to where it is needed in a timely manner.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said the announcement was a “devastating blow for all those who work to connect the public with our cultural heritage”.

She said the Government had given some details around its funding package for the cultural sector – more than three weeks after it was first announced.

“This announcement from the National Trust highlights how vital it is for the money to make it to where it’s needed as quickly as possible to prevent further job cuts. We know that once these jobs are lost it will be hard to get them back,” she said.

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