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Questions over English Heritage and their management of Pevensey castle persist

The headline news is that 3 years since English Heritage was given charitable status and £80million by the Government, there are concerns expressed over staff cuts.

The question of staff cuts has again hit the mainstream press. Dr, Simon Thurley, the ex-Chief Executive was good enough to give us a private visit here in Pevensey back in the summer of 2015. What might have helped us was if he could have given us a little bit of his precious time.

On the day that the big change was announced, he forgot to tell his staff first. He announced the decision on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. That morning we conveyed the news to the hard working staff at Pevensey castle,the staff member on duty did not know. The email sent about the matter was only sent that morning to the staff as the announcement was being made to the media.

The deal was to help them get their act together by 2022/23, at which point the goal was that they would be self-funding.

The news that they are now facing staff cuts, with a variety of figures quoted from 80 to 160 jobs, inevitably means that there are now big questions being asked about the management of the organisation.

Would English Heritage like to tell us about how they have spent our share of the £80 million here at Pevensey castle or would that be too much to ask?

In a joint statement with fellow councillors on 25 March 2013, I said “We have concerns and are objecting most strongly to the way the castle, the very core of the village of Pevensey, and a valuable part of both local and national heritage, is being left to become overgrown and neglected.”

The Castle Cottage Tea Room is now re-open after a seven year campaign by local residents. The success of that campaign, in my view, does not give the right to English Heritage to say, what more do you want?

I am writing to English Heritage this week to ask them to detail what money has been spent on Pevensey castle since the date the organisation became a charitable body on 1 April 2015.

I will see that what English Heritage says is published.

With or without a review of staff at English Heritage, questions about the management of Pevensey castle persist and these problems continue to be brought to my attention by local residents.

There are lots of visitors to Pevensey castle and many are disgusted at the state of the site. I see some of the illustrations from the 18th century, and 19th century, the castle was in a better state then.

The  Dianne Dear blog is written by publisher of Bay Life, and the Bay Life Journal, Dianne Dear. She has been a Wealden District Councilor for 16 years. In the blog she looks at community affairs in Pevensey and Pevensey Bay and local campaigns. She offers thoughts and insight with regard to the local community and business. Big questions in the Bay, such as the preservation of precious community assets, and campaigns which support the regeneration of the local economy, feature as her headline news

English Heritage became a charity in April 2015, supported by a grant offered by the Governement of £80 million

As a charitable trust, English Heritage relies on the income generated from admission fees to its properties, membership fees and trading income from (e.g.) catering, holiday cottages and shops. It also has income from fundraising and grants. To ease the transition, the government has supplied £80 million a year until 2023 to cover the backlog of maintenance to the sites in English Heritage’s care

Members of the public are encouraged to join English Heritage as “members”. Membership provides benefits such as free admission to its properties and member-only events as well as reduced-cost admission to associated properties

In 2014/15 there were 1.34 million members.

In 2013/14, prior to becoming a charity, English Heritage employed 2,578 staff.

English Heritage is the biggest provider of heritage education in the UK, with nearly 400,000 education visits per year.

English Heritage presents nearly 500 historic events annually, from medieval jousts to ghost tours, on over 1,000 event days at 46 different historic properties,.

English Heritage is planning to cut staff numbers in a bid to be financially sustainable by 2022/23.

The charity, which was part of the public sector until 2015, has consulted its staff on the restructure. It says it expects to make around 4 per cent of its staff redundant.

Trade union Prospect published a statement saying 90 jobs could be lost, with up to 160 “at risk”. Prospect said the majority of the proposed losses were in the charity’s professional, management and specialist roles within visitor operations management, marketing and curatorial teams.

In a statement English Heritage said: “As a result of this review, it is likely that we will reduce English Heritage’s workforce by approximately four per cent. We are presently consulting on this with our staff.

“Decisions of this nature are never easy but we believe it is better to take these decisions now – from a position of strength – in order to ensure the charity’s long-term success.”

Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s chief executive, said: “We have had a tremendous first three years, with record visitor numbers, but to ensure we become financially independent, we need to change how we are organised.

“These changes will involve some difficult decisions but they are vital if we are to continue to look after the sites in our care and tell their stories to this and future generations.”

Prospect said the charity made a loss of £6.2m in the most recent financial year, and a loss of £4.8m the year before. But in 2014/15, it made an £80.7m profit after receiving an £80m grant from the government.