The National Trust is proposing £100m of annual savings following the impact of the coronavirus crisis, after warning almost every aspect of its income has been affected.
The Trust expects to lose up to £200m this year as a result of the pandemic, and is today proposing spending plans that include a possible 1,200 redundancies as it seeks to reduce its annual spend and the size of its workforce.
Staff were given the news today, as Director General Hilary McGrady opened consultation on the proposals. McGrady told staff: “It’s with huge regret that I am telling you today about the need to cut jobs. The Trust’s strength is its people. Our institution has survived so long – through two world wars and a number of economic downturns, thanks to staff, volunteers and supporters. We would not be making these savings had we not exhausted every other possibility. We need to act now to ensure we are sustainable in the future.”
McGrady also pledged the Trust will ‘grow back stronger’ in the future, stepping up its efforts to help the nation get the rest, recuperation and recreation it needs. She said in future, visitors will play a greater part in bringing National Trust places to life, adding: “The nation’s beautiful places are not only for looking at, but for singing and dancing and reading, learning, cooking, crafting and creating in. And they belong to everyone.”
Like most organisations, the Trust has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus. When the country went into lockdown the charity closed all its houses, gardens, car parks, shops, cafes, holidays and stopped events, quickly losing tens of millions of pounds of support.
As part of the review, the Trust hopes to save £100m – almost a fifth of its annual spend – through changing the way it operates and reducing its payroll and budgets.
Nearly 40% of the proposed savings (£40m) will be non-pay spending 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 introduced a recruitment freeze to reduce its staff costs. To help it get through the short-term impacts of the crisis it also furloughed the majority of its staff, drew on the Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus loan scheme, and is reviewing other 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, meant there was a need for a full review of the organisation’s spending and priorities.
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.
“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
“We have reviewed our spending and ways of working to ensure we emerge from this crisis in a strong position to keep on protecting and caring for places so people and nature can thrive.
“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.”
The charity says the reorganisation will allow it to continue the ambition it set out in January to step up its battle against climate change; becoming carbon net zero by 2030, planting millions of trees and creating green corridors for people and nature.
It will also refocus its efforts to protect cultural heritage, with limits on cuts to staff caring for houses, gardens and collections, enabling the Trust to carry out plans to tailor its care for places according to their unique characteristics, ensuring they offer visitors and supporters the first class experience they have come to expect.
The Trust has drawn up a plan to restart its strategy from March next year. But to do this, the charity says it must be “leaner and more flexible, and reduce its operating and project costs.”
Hilary McGrady said: “The ambition I set out in January, our renewed focus on caring for nature, beauty and history, becoming carbon net zero by 2030 and improving access to nature in towns and cities, remains as strong, but with such significant financial losses we will have to be more flexible in how we achieve it. We expect to work more in partnership with other charities and with local communities, and to fundraise more in the future. At a time of climate crisis, it’s essential that conservation charities make the case for donations of money and time, so the nation can face up to the challenges ahead.
“Our purpose remains clear, to provide benefit to our nations and bring people closer to nature, beauty and history. That was the vision of our founders 125 years ago and it remains undiminished today. To achieve it we now need to adapt to the changing world around us.”
The Trust’s plan and proposed redundancies, which are also being discussed with its union Prospect, are now subject to a 45-day consultation period.
The Trust has also said that while some forms of giving have been suppressed, online donations from individual visitors to its website and to properties where visitors can now text to donate, have increased significantly in recent months. The Trust pledged to step up its fundraising, seeking public support for its efforts to protect the natural environment.