Business

Hillsborough Castle to cut 33 jobs as Covid-19 decimates finances

Hillsborough Castle reopened in April 2019 after a £5m makeover.
Ryan McAleer

THE charity which runs Hillsborough Castle has said it needs to cut 33 full-time equivalent post after Covid-19 decimated its finances.

The Co Down visitor attraction is the Queen's official residence in the north and home to the secretary of state.

It has been managed by self-funded charity, Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), since 2014.

The castle and its 100 acres of gardens reopened in April 2019 by Prince Charles after a £20 million makeover, which took five years.

But in a statement, HRP said it had been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The prolonged closure of the castle, Covid restrictions and the major downturn in international visits to Northern Ireland, have left us facing a significant shortfall in our planned income this year and for the foreseeable future.

“We need to act now to reduce our costs and ensure that the castle can thrive again as a sustainable visitor attraction.

“We would not be proposing redundancies if we had not exhausted other all other avenues.”

Read more: Translink to cut Ulsterbus tours as part of £20 million cost-saving effort

HRP said it had furloughed staff and halted all but essential expenditure since the outbreak of the pandemic.

But with the furlough scheme due to end on October 31, the it said its charitable reserves will be exhausted by the start of 2021.

“We continue to pursue all remaining avenues for additional funding and are enormously grateful for the continuing support of our members, donors and visitors.”

HRP said it remains committed to the castle, but said the building will close over the winter, reopening in the spring. The gardens and café will remain open.

The castle will still be available for private hire during the closure.

It’s understood HRP is seeking to cut 145 jobs across its six UK sites after its income went from £110m to £10m.

The State Entrance Hall in Hillsborough Castle.

HRP said the proposal being considered for Hillsborough Castle includes a reduction of 33 full time equivalent posts. The charity said the final decision will be made once the consultation is complete at the end of October.

Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle said: “After a glorious opening year in 2019, 2020 could not be more different for Hillsborough Castle.

“This is a difficult time for the tourism industry and we are determined to play our part in its recovery.

"It is a matter of enormous regret that we can only do so if we act now to reduce our payroll costs and make the castle financially sustainable.

“Our staff care passionately about the castle and their work. We are deeply sad that it has come to this.”

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