Expenditure at the National Trust rose 24% in 2022-23 as the cost of living crisis began to bite.
According to its latest annual report, published this week, the charity’s total spend came to £733.3m, outweighing the £681.9m it raised in income.
In comparison, the trust spent £591.6m in 2021-22 and raised £651.6m in income.
In a foreword to the report, chairman Réné Olivieri wrote: “Over the last year, many of us have been affected by significant cost-of-living increases, and as a charity we have also felt the effects.”
However he said the charity was “faring well” overall. The report shows that the trust raised a record £117m in fundraising and invested more than £179.6m in conservation in 2022-23.
Legacy income exceeded £70m for the first time, while onsite fundraising was bolstered by £2.5m in sales through second-hand bookshops.
Meanwhile conservation work accounted for 65% of the charity’s project funding budget, the highest level yet.
Conservation projects included the restoration of Glendurgan’s Maze in Cornwall, the transformation of Dyrham Park house and estate, and the £7.4m restoration of Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland.
The trust has also agreed a renewed approach to conserve and renew Clandon Park which will see it returned to full public use after a devastating fire in 2015.
It upgraded the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio in Kent, which now offers in-house conservation of paintings and picture frames.
The charity has continued its growing focus on nature and the climate crisis. More than a million trees were planted on trust properties – but the charity also had to deal with the fall-out from extreme weather events such as Storm Arwen, which downed hundreds of trees.
Other achievements highlighted in the report include the trust’s partnership with RSPB and the WWF to commission the first UK-wide citizens' assembly to develop the People’s Plan for Nature. It also made 1.7 million single-use free passes available to families to increase access to green spaces.
The trust has invested in career pathways, launching a new programme to train apprentices in key heritage skills, and overhauling recruitment processes to reach a wider diversity of job applicants. It also appointed its first horticultural scholar at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent.
Among the trust’s new openings in 2022-23 were the Children’s Country House at Sudbury, Derbyshire, and the Garden in the Ruins at Nymans, Sussex.
“The record funds we dedicated in the last financial year reflect the National Trust’s enduring commitment to the beautiful historic places in its care, and the nation’s enthusiasm for this,” said director-general Hilary McGrady.
“We were able to make this significant investment during a particularly difficult economic environment, with rising costs and continued recovery from the pandemic, thanks to the millions of people who support our cause. Despite the challenges, our priority has been preserving the historic houses, buildings, gardens and collections in our care, for current and future generations to enjoy.”
The report comes as the National Trust prepares to hold its AGM in November. It is facing a renewed challenge from the breakaway members’ group, Restore Trust, which has put forward five candidates for election to charity’s 36-strong council this year.
In recent years the group has been vocal about its concerns that the trust has strayed from its founding mission. In addition to putting forward electoral candidates, Restore Trust is proposing two members’ resolutions on the trust’s voting system and the restoration of Clandon House.