The National Trust has confirmed it has been able to halve the number of compulsory job losses following the biggest redundancy consultation in its 125-year history as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Following 45 days of consultation, which saw the Trust consider more than 14,500 pieces of feedback from staff and volunteers, the charity has said it is making 514 compulsory redundancies, which includes 62 hourly paid staff, as a result of the impact of the coronavirus crisis. It has also accepted 782 voluntary redundancies, including 146 from hourly paid staff.
In July, the Trust warned job losses and budget cuts were inevitable after almost every aspect of its income was hit by the coronavirus crisis. It had proposed making 1,200 compulsory redundancies, saving almost £60m of its annual staff budget. But following a wide-ranging consultation with affected staff and voluntary redundancies, the number of compulsory job losses has reduced by half.
Following the consultation, a number of changes have been made to the original proposals, including retaining roles focused on helping children learn, keeping curation specialists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, increasing buildings maintenance roles, and introducing new specialist roles for land use, soils and carbon reduction. There have also been changes in other areas covering marketing, retail, holidays, IT, legal and the let estate.
Director General Hilary McGrady paid tribute to staff, volunteers and members who have shared their views on the proposals, and said the charity’s plans were putting it on course for a secure financial future.
She said: “It’s with deep sadness that we have to make redundancies. I certainly don’t want to stop any of the extraordinary work done by the people of the National Trust.
“But our consultation has done as intended. It provided proposals to reach our savings target, and sparked such thorough feedback and collective intelligence, that we’ve been able to adapt our plans while still making the savings we needed. It’s been a difficult process with some very hard choices. I want to thank everyone who has been involved – especially those whose jobs have been affected and the members and volunteers who care so passionately about the Trust. They’ve really tested the ideas put forward, and helped shape our proposals so that we are in the best possible position to recover well.
“This is a very painful time for so many organisations, businesses and communities. The Trust is only as strong as it is because of its people – our staff, volunteers and supporters.
“No leader wants to be forced into announcing any redundancies, but coronavirus means we simply have no other choice if we want to give the charity a sustainable future. We have exhausted every other avenue to find savings, but sadly we now have to come to terms with the fact that we will lose some colleagues. We will do all we can to support those who are leaving, and others affected by these significant changes.
“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 nature needs, and ensuring our conservation work continues long into the future.”
In addition to staff redundancies, the Trust has also confirmed it will save about £41m from non-pay budget cuts, including reducing travel and office costs, reducing marketing and print spend in favour of digital, renegotiating contracts, reducing IT spend and introducing more efficient processes to manage key areas of the charity.
The Trust has already announced it is stopping or deferring £124m of projects, and as a consequence 162 members of staff were told in August they were being made redundant or their contracts were ending early. It also introduced a recruitment freeze to reduce its staff costs. To help it get through the short-term impacts of the crisis it also drew on the Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus loan scheme and is grateful for support from some rescue and stimulus packages being offered by the government.
While these measures have helped reduce the financial impact, Hilary McGrady said the short-term hit, coupled with the longer-term implications of social distancing and suppressed trading, led to a full review of the organisation’s spending and priorities.
Since May the Trust has reopened its places following government guidance, and by the end of September it had welcomed more than five million visitors.
And this week Hilary McGrady pledged the Trust will ‘grow back stronger in the long-run’.
She said: “While the UK continues its fight to manage coronavirus and while government restrictions remain in place, we will continue to open as many places as possible.