Royal Opera House lost about a quarter of staff due to ‘financial devastation’ of pandemic

The charity's latest accounts show it spent £1.3m on redundancies and terminating staff contracts last year

Royal Opera House (Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Royal Opera House (Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Royal Opera House spent £1.3m on redundancies and terminating staff contracts in its most recent financial year.

The number of full-time equivalent staff at the charity fell by about 25 per cent in the year to August 2021, from 1,098 to 822. Total salaries dropped from £5.6m to £4.3m.

The changes were part of a Covid-19-enforced restructure at the ROH, according to the charity’s accounts for 2020/21, which were published with Companies House over the weekend.

The charity warned last summer that it was setting aside several million pounds to cover redundancy costs as part of what it called a “four-point recovery plan” from the pandemic.

The ROH has spent £6.5m on the restructure over the past two years.

Coronavirus restrictions were in place during most of the period covered by the accounts, leading to the cancellation of nearly all performances and events.

Writing in the introduction to the latest finances, Sir Simon Robey, chair of the ROH, acknowledged that Covid-19 had left the charity in “a less robust financial position than we would like”.

He said that as a result, the ROH had undertaken “a far-reaching restructuring of the organisation to ensure our long-term viability and preparedness to respond to a rapidly changing world”.

Total income at the charity dropped sharply in 2020/21 compared with the previous 12 months, from £118m to £84m.

The charity spent £82m during the year, achieving a surplus of £1.4m before investment income. The ROH incurred a deficit of £9.7m in 2019/20.

It accessed a total of £23m through the government’s furlough scheme in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

A spokesperson said: “It was with huge regret and great sadness that the ROH had to undergo an organisation-wide restructure in 2020 as a result of financial devastation caused by the pandemic and almost a year of closure.

“After full staff consultation there was a reduction of more than 250 posts, including through redundancies, non-renewal of contacts and resignations, negotiated as part of wider restructuring agreements reached with our three trade unions in October 2020.”

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