The lizards who run the National Trust have announced that they are to sack 1200 staff, 13% of the workforce, to save £60 million as part of a £100 million package of cost cuts. Some homes it owns will have to restrict hours going forward. My grandfather, Sir John Winnifrith, was Director General of the NT and will, yet again, be spinning in his grave at the deceit and the inevitability of this outcome after years of folly.
Natch’ the Trust’s Director General Hilary McGrady blames Covid 19 and says that there was no other option. At some stage, Covid will blow over so this is just a temporary measure to deal with reduced visitor numbers. So why not dip into the Trust’s reserves? It sits on an investment pool which, at 28 February 2019, stood at £1.3 billion of which £308 million was marked as completely unrestricted, i.e. it could be used for anything. Given movements in equity markets since then, it is probably at around about that level now. Surely given the paltry returns most bonds and equities now yield, dipping into that pool to pay wages would be an option? But empire building McGrady appears not to consider that. It is better to sling hard-working staff out on their ear.
As a committed socialist and a good Christian, my Grandfather would have found such an approach to one’s workforce as utterly deplorable and he would have, in his own quiet way, have been seething at the way McGrady insists there is no alternative. There clearly was. She is lying.
But there is a wider issue. The 2019 annual report says that income from legacies was £66.5 million, just over 10% of total income. If one looks back to the 2012/13 annual report, the income from legacies was £67.7 million. In other words, in seven years when an asset bubble has created a massive increase in the value of estates left in folks’ wills, the National Trust has actually managed to shrink its income from this source.
It should be doing far better. Membership is, I concede, growing, albeit slowly. However, I suspect that as the economy heads into the worst recession for, possibly, 300 years, that will reverse. Indeed I wonder how, as the grim reaper deals with the large number of, largely elderly, life members, if the NT will be able to replace them at all.
But it is the legacies that are most worrying. I have noted on these pages before the major efforts the Trust has made to promote the LGBT agenda and to fight man-made global warming. Personally, I support the LGBT agenda by giving a donation to the Tatchell Foundation. But in spending cash on matters other than old houses and aggressively promoting a political agenda, the Trust alienates folks my age and older who may have money, certainly do make wills and who are far less likely to buy into an aggressive woke agenda than poorer young folks who may not care about old buildings at all.
Covid should be a wake-up call for those running the Trust. I have brought forward the time when the organisation learns that when you go woke you go broke. Had the Trust not pissed off so many of we old folk with its woke nonsense in this time of Covid, it might be enjoying a windfall. Instead, it might now see a vision of the future. I know that Sir John Winnifrith would not have treated both members and staff in this way as it is wholly counter-productive. My father and I concluded last night that Sir John would, though sad at the outcome for staff, be cheering as his, post truth era, successor is forced to confront grim reality.