2nd Dec, 2020

Avoncroft Museum withdraws staff restructuring following consultation and furlough extension

AVONCROFT Museum has withdrawn a staff restructuring which could have put 11 out of its 13 employees at risk of redundancy.

The venue’s chairman of trustees Michael Woolley was responding to a life member who contacted the Standard with questions about the changes in light of the museum receiving two large grants.

Avoncroft was awarded £183,943 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) last month and a £141,400 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in July.

The life member, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was the excellent staff who had kept the place going through difficult times and found themselves at risk of redundancy.

The restructuring was withdrawn after a consultation with the staff and taking into account their comments, suggestions and alternative proposals.

Staff have been returned to the Government’s furlough scheme until new proposals are agreed or the furlough scheme comes to an end – whichever is soonest.

Mr Woolley said the past eight months had been ‘dreadful’ for the attraction after it was forced to shut because of the lockdown and then could only open on a part-time basis which meant it had generated hardly any revenue at all.

The special events programme and wedding hire had to stop altogether and the museum has had to close during the latest lockdown, further adversely impacting the museum’s finances.

He added the trustees, all unpaid volunteers, have pursued every avenue to keep the museum afloat and he was grateful to members for their support, donors who came to the museum’s aid and visitors who returned during the brief reopening.

He added the trustees remained determined to keep the museum solvent and the only way to do that was to protect its buildings and collections so they could continue to tell the Midlands’ historical stories.

The HLF and CRF grants would allow the museum to finance a small staff structure to suit the limited operations.

“Our staff are one of our greatest assets, but quite simply our current income does not allow us to pay all those we currently employ and we had to take the difficult decision to consult with staff about redundancies.

“As in any business, staff are both a major asset and our greatest cost.

“With a much lower service offer, we need less staff.”

He added it would be wrong to pretend the process was going to be easy or painless and trustees were working to ensure the museum still had a future.

The CRF grant was provided against a business plan that included reducing the staffing costs at Avoncroft and without that the application could not have been successful as the museum would not be a going concern by the end of the grant support period.

The CRF grants is time limited to the end of March and required the venue to demonstrate how costs would be reduced. Therefore, it only contains a limited amount towards salaries.

The staff structure under consultation shows around seven salaried staff (with increased individual hours) plus casual staff and volunteers.

Mr Woolley added: “We hope that your readers appreciate the time, energy and commitment the staff, volunteers and trustees put in to ensuring the Museum remained open as long as possible in these difficult times and that Avoncroft can hopefully have a sustainable future once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.”

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