Kenwood shows will not solve cash crisis

EVEN a return of the Kenwood concerts would not save English Heritage from its financial crisis at the estate, the conservation body warned this week

Katie Davies

EVEN a return of the Kenwood concerts would not save English Heritage from its financial crisis at the estate, the conservation body warned this week.

English Heritage told the Ham&High its money problems at Kenwood are too serious to be fixed simply by a return of the picnic concerts and redundancies are on the cards.

The job cuts will be enforced from April and opening hours at the historic Grade II listed house, which is home to portraits by the likes of Rembrandt and Constable, will also be slashed.

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The new hours will be from 11.30am to 4pm and the home will be rented out for weddings and corporate events in order to reduce the £1million debt.

"We have had a deficit even in years when we had the concerts so we still need to save money elsewhere," said Rebecca Kane, the visitor operations director for English Heritage in London.

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"We have expenditure like a £2million refurbishment of the roofs coming up, so the concerts aren't enough for Kenwood even though they make a significant contribution.

"We absolutely want them back. In terms of profit these concerts are really worth six-figure sums to us and there is a 55-year tradition of them.

"We never expect Kenwood to have no deficit. However, for the next five or 10 years we would like to get the debt halved.

"We have to be more efficient and fair to the taxpayer."

An equivalent of four full-time employees will go - either by reducing working hours across all staff or through redundancies.

Kenwood's concerts were restricted by Camden Council in 2006 and then scrapped completely in 2007 after noise complaints from residents but they are due back this summer.

Ms Kane continued: "It is no secret the grant in aid English Heritage receives from the government has reduced year on year over the last 10 years. It means our buildings have to make more and more money to cover that gap.

"People have started renting it out as a private hall - to have a wedding reception, or use the dining room. We have had two or three private hires this year and in the next year we want to increase that business.

"This is obviously not a good thing for staff to hear and it is not the message anyone wants to deliver. However, I think they recognise working in the public sector that there are these problems and I'm sure they know we are trying to broker this in the best way possible, without redundancies.

"First we are looking at cutting hours or redeploying people to another of our 400 properties."

A licensing hearing into the Kenwood concerts is due to be held on February 21 by Camden Council which is currently looking at planning applications for the concerts' stage.

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