Coronavirus: National Trust boss denies expert job cuts would ‘dumb down’ charity


Petworth House, West Sussex,

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PA Media

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The National Trust, which has 5.6 million members, looks after properties around the country

The National Trust’s director general has denied the charity will “dumb down” after a leaked document suggested many top experts could lose their jobs as a result of coronavirus.

The heritage charity is facing £200m of losses after closing its shops, cafes, houses and gardens during the pandemic.

Hilary McGrady said the charity was finding “creative ways” to save money.

But she added: “We simply can’t afford to keep doing everything the way we were before.”

An internal briefing document, leaked by the Times newspaper, outlines plans for the charity to “dial down” its role as a major cultural institution – including holding fewer exhibitions and putting collections into storage in favour of becoming a “gateway to the outdoors”.

Ms McGrady told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she could “understand why” documents had been leaked, because people were “very anxious” about their jobs.

Some 1,200 National Trust staff were told they faced redundancy – about 13% of the 9,500-strong salaried workforce – last month.

Ms McGrady said on Saturday that a large number of “seasonal” hourly-paid staff would also lose work. It is not clear how many seasonal staff would be affected but a spokeswoman said the charity would reduce its budget for those workers by a third (£8.8m).

Ms McGrady said she was “hugely sad” at having to propose losing any staff but that the charity had been hit “extraordinarily badly by Covid-19”.

She dismissed a suggestion the trust would be “dumbed down” as a result of arts specialists losing their jobs.

More jobs would be cut in areas such as the charity’s marketing and catering sectors in order to maintain roles in houses and gardens, she said – with 80 of 111 people with “curator” in their job title expected to stay in position.

But Ms McGrady added: “I cannot pretend that we’re going to keep them all because we simply can’t afford to keep doing everything the way we were before.”

“This is a really serious thing that we are going through at the moment.”

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The National Trust closed its houses, such as Blickling Hall and Estate, to visitors to help to tackle the spread of coronavirus

The National Trust is the UK’s largest conservation charity and looks after more than 300 historic houses and almost 800 miles of coastline across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ms McGrady said the charity’s main aims in the face of its “financial stress” were to preserve its houses and outdoor spaces “to the best of our ability”, and to reduce the impact of cuts to visitors’ experiences.

The National Trust’s 5.6 million members would be able to share their thoughts and have some input before proposals were confirmed, she added.



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