STAFF who have worked at Avoncroft Museum for decades have been “left in tears” by news of mass redundancies – announced despite the museum claiming more than £300,000 in grants this year.

The Advertiser understands that 11 out of 13 full-time staff, 85% of the workforce, at the Stoke Heath museum of historic buildings are at risk of being axed.

A life member of the museum, who contacted the Advertiser on condition of anonymity, said the plans were “ill thought through and over the top”, adding that staff were “being treated terribly”.

However, Avoncroft says its latest grant was only provided against a business plan that involved reducing staffing costs and that the coronavirus pandemic has left the museum no alternative.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

The Advertiser reported last year that Avoncroft had lost £50,000 in the 2018 financial year and it was forced to ask the public for donations this summer after Covid led to it closing for three months.

Two grants, a Lottery ‘lifeline’ of £141,400 in July and a Government gift of £183,943 last month have helped but museum chiefs insist it need to make cuts in addition to those for the facility to survive.

The disappointed life member who contacted the Advertiser said: “The museum is dependent on the excellent staff who have kept the place going in difficult times.

“To now threaten most of them with redundancy without having talked to members about what can be done to avoid this shows how out of touch they are with the rest of us.

“We understand that there may be a need for further measures to save costs, but these seem ill thought through.

“Some of the staff at risk were in tears after the meeting, including one who has worked at the museum for more than 20 years.

“I just believe it is an over the top step when they could have applied for a grant for all the staff costs through to March, when it is more likely they could begin the new season of opening on something more like a normal basis.”

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

In response, Avoncroft’s chair of Trustees, Michael Woolley, issued a lengthy statement to the Advertiser illustrating the museum’s plight and the danger that it could be forced to close for good.

Mr Woolley said: “Like all museums, the past eight months have been dreadful for Avoncroft. Our special events programme and wedding hires had to stop altogether.

“Although we have been able to open on a part-time basis since July, these restrictions have meant that we have earned almost no money and of course we receive no support from local or central government.

“This puts us in an almost impossible position. The Government’s latest lockdown restrictions will require the museum to close again. This will further adversely impact on the museum’s finances.

“The Trustees, all of whom are unpaid volunteers, have pursued every avenue to keep the museum afloat and we are very grateful to those Members who were able to support us, and to those other donors who came to our aid, as well as the visitors who have come back to see us.

“The Trustees remain determined to keep the museum solvent as this is the only way we can discharge our responsibility to look after our buildings and collections so that they can continue to tell the stories of the Midlands’ community.

“Without radical action the museum faces certain insolvency once the Government’s furlough scheme ceases to support our staff costs which has now been extended to the beginning of December.”

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

On the grants received, he added: "This income will allow the museum to fund a small staff structure that suits our limited permissible operations at present and allows some planning for what we hope will be an eventual return to some more normal level of operation.

“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. It’s as simple as that.

“In the end, the museum must still exist for the future, and this is what the Trustees have reluctantly concluded is needed to achieve that.”