National Trust for Scotland trustees back restructure plan

After consultation, the original proposals have been amended, but 90 staff still face compulsory redundancy

Culzean Castle: National Trust for Scotland property
Culzean Castle: National Trust for Scotland property

Trustees at the National Trust for Scotland have voted in favour of its controversial restructure plans, which have left 90 jobs at risk.

In June, the charity announced a wide-ranging restructure programme designed to address a £47m "conservation backlog" and save £4m a year.

The plan includes relocating staff and services from its headquarters and a three-year £17m investment plan for some of its 129 properties.

The original proposals said that 142 of the charity’s 540 staff could be at risk of redundancy, and the plans were put out to a 90-day consultation.

The charity said in a statement yesterday that, having considered feedback from staff, volunteers and the charity’s recognised trade union, Prospect, the trust had reduced the number of staff at risk of compulsory redundancy to 90.

The charity said that the plans would create 73 jobs, into which some of those at risk of redundancy would move.

Simon Skinner, chief executive of the trust, said that losing some people through the changes was "inevitable", but he hoped "as many as possible can find roles in the new structure".

The changes to the trust’s structure will see it reduce the number of directorates and departments from seven to four, with headquarters functions streamlined to support a new regional properties structure. The charity said this meant there would be six regional groupings of heritage properties and one nationwide grouping of natural heritage properties.

But the reforms have prompted staff to raise concerns, with Prospect claiming last week that 82 per cent of respondents to a survey it carried out had no confidence in the charity’s original plans.

Ian Perth, negotiator for Prospect, said the union agreed with some of the charity’s changes to the original plans, but still had some concerns.

He said: "We had a detailed and robust dialogue with the trust throughout the consultation period, and we found the lack of detail on aspects of the proposals extremely frustrating.

"We remain concerned about the plans and the commercial direction of the charity. However, it would be unfair not to note significant efforts made by the chief executive in recent weeks to reduce the level of compulsory redundancies."

He said the charity had assured Prospect that the 90 staff at risk of redundancy would be given priority when applying for any newly created roles.

"I think the trust would be wrong to spend charitable donations gathered from the public and members on forcing loyal members of staff to leave on compulsory redundancy terms, and then make external appointments," said Perth.

"There is an abundance of skills and experience among the 90 staff who remain at risk and we hope that the majority of those who want to stay can be accommodated."

Skinner said: "It was clear that the need for change was fully endorsed and, as a result of the information and practical suggestions received, we have made changes to our proposals that enhance the programme we are now enacting.

"The changes allow us to retain a core staff of specialists, who will support conservation and visitor services at properties, enable us to bring in new skills and competencies that ensure we offer world-class experiences and deliver a new regional structure that puts the places we care for firmly at the centre of decision-making and planning."

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