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Science Museum Group

As we remain in the grip of a global crisis, Sir Ian Blatchford, Director & Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group outlines the challenges ahead.

More than six months after the five museums of the Science Museum Group had to close their doors to the public as part of a nationwide effort to control the spread of COVID-19, we remain in the grip of a global crisis.

Like the communities we serve, and so many other cultural organisations, the Science Museum Group has been hit very hard.

The entrepreneurial spirit behind the transformation of our Group over the past decade, that saw us grow the proportion of self-generated income to cover half of our annual turnover, cannot resist the financial impact of this pandemic.

We have lost around £23 million in expected revenues this year from hugely successful activities such as corporate events, fundraising and retail and our forecasts for next year suggest revenues will be down by around £15 million.

With ongoing restrictions and the deep impact on international tourism, it will be several years before we can return to a position of strength. Until March 2022, our museums will only be open for five days a week outside of holiday periods.

The support of Government through emergency funding and the Job Retention Scheme, alongside our loyal supporters and partners, has been vital in allowing us to navigate the past six months, but self-generated revenues will remain severely depressed for some years.

So, despite significant cost-saving measures already taken and others planned, we have no choice but to further review our operations and reduce the scale of our organisation. This strategic review will be a phased process examining all levels in all departments and all aspects of our work, lasting at least six months.

Given the severe impact of coronavirus-related restrictions on visit numbers and the move to five-day opening outside of holiday periods, the first phase of the review has focused on diminished need.

We will be conducting a collective consultation process covering proposals to reduce the overall number of positions by 65 full time equivalents, which could result in a maximum of 95 redundancies, though likely less as colleagues consider voluntary options. Sadly, it is inevitable that more positions will go during subsequent phases of the review.

This is a step we take with huge reluctance; recognising the pain it will cause colleagues who contribute so deeply to our mission. This concern will inform our approach to this difficult period, which will involve constructive engagement with colleagues and our recognised trade unions.

While the road to recovery may be long, we will remain focused on the great benefit we bring to our audiences: to the wellbeing of communities across the country; to the wider economy and tourism industry; and through inspiring future generations of scientists, technicians and engineers whose vital importance in addressing global challenges has been so starkly illustrated by this terrible pandemic.