York Museums Trust enters redundancy consultations

'Survival depends on reduction in costs,' trust warns
Covid-19 Cuts
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Rebecca Atkinson
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The ceramics gallery at York Art Gallery
The ceramics gallery at York Art Gallery

Staff at York Museums Trust have been warned their jobs may be cut in order to survive losses of £1.5m incurred during its four-month closure.

The trust, which runs York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum and the Yorkshire Museum, entered into a 30-day consultation with staff on 1 September. In total, 96 jobs are at risk, the equivalent of 59.9 full-time employees. This includes the 17 roles that were accepted for voluntary redundancy in August.

The trust currently employs 141 people (the equivalent of 113.15 full-time employees). 

In a statement, York Museums Trust said the Covid-19 pandemic hit during its peak season and despite reopening sites it is forecasting a “significant” reduction in visitor numbers and income. York Art Gallery, which reopened on 1 August, is currently waiving its entry fee in a bid to increase and diversify its visitors.

About 70% of the trust’s income comes from the sale of tickets and other visitor spend, and it warns that its “survival depends on reduction in costs to offset huge losses in income”.

The trust has received an emergency grant from Arts Council England, and the City of York Council has also agreed to guarantee funding up to £1.95m over the next two years should it be required to prevent administration.

But Reyahn King, the trust’s chief executive, said this does not alleviate its operational costs and that it had “exhausted every type of government aid currently available, negotiated rental agreements and tirelessly sought other ways of reducing our costs”.

“We are now in a position where we have to make some very difficult decisions,” she added. “It is only by doing this that the charity will be able to survive and continue to share and care for York’s collections."

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In June, Birmingham Museums Trust announced that about 50% of its staff were at risk of being made redundant due to financial losses. A spokeswoman told Museums Journal that the collective consultation has completed and individual consultations with those at risk are now underway.

The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland are also among the institutions that are restructuring as a result of Covid-19.

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