Bath Preservation Trust says it’s been forced to introduce a ‘significant redundancy programme’ with staff as a result of the closure of its four museums – because of the coronavirus pandemic – and the resulting loss of 90 per cent of its total income.
In a letter to members, staff and volunteers the Trust Chair, Thomas Sheppard, announced:
‘After much work, we have decided it will be very difficult to reopen our museums to comply with the social distancing requirements although we are looking at a trial opening at Number 1 in August.
It is also becoming clear that visitor numbers are unlikely to return to previous levels this year and maybe for a longer period.
Closure of our museums has meant an immediate loss of 90% of our total income and we have taken immediate action to safeguard the Trust’s survival.’
Mr Sheppard says the government’s Job Retention Scheme allowed the Trust to support staff since closure and they were successful in securing £45,000 in other government grants. Plus members contributed £25,000 through fundraising.
(However) ‘Our historic monthly running cost is over £50,000 and with the loss of more than £700,000 budgeted visitor income, we must take steps to reduce our expenditure.
We have some reserves but these will run down quickly and we do need to have something held back to maintain our buildings and collections and make sure we have the ability to re-open in the future.
Lockdown is now easing and, as the furlough scheme begins to wind down from August, museums have been given permission to open.
However, our ability to open and develop ‘social distancing’ in our small, essentially domestic, museums is very challenging. In addition, current experience in the museum sector is that the tourist market is not predicted to recover for 2 or 3 years and at present domestic tourists are focusing mostly on outdoor attractions.
Our best assessment is that our income for the Trust is not going to recover to pre-COVID levels in the foreseeable future.’
The letter continued:
‘We want our members and volunteers to know we have commenced a significant redundancy programme with our staff and the consultation with staff started yesterday. This will be a very difficult and upsetting process for all involved and we wish it could be otherwise.’
Mr Sheppard said the Trust had received an emergency lottery grant which gave them some time-limited funding to finance the trial of a low key pre-booked opening of No 1 Royal Crescent in August to learn what may be possible.
But, he said:
‘MoBA, Herschel and the Tower will remain closed to normal visitors. We will be organising garden-based astronomy events at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy supported by the Herschel Society, and continue to develop the lottery-funded repair and improvement work at Beckford’s Tower.
Throughout the lockdown, we have maintained our core advocacy and planning-related work, and we are committed to keep this going as best we can.
We know that whatever happens, we will have to continue to be adaptable to respond to the changing world around us.
Our focus will remain on our charitable purposes and we are determined to come through this period as best we can.’