Dominic Hare, chief executive of the historic building, said lengthy closures have led to plummeting profits and he predicts they will continue making huge losses into June. Blenheim has been forced to furlough staff to cut costs, which has meant other employees taking on roles they would never have dreamed of a year ago. The historic building’s closure has also seen a £50million reduction in income for the local economy. Mr Hare said: “We furloughed a lot of people and that meant those of us who were left were just having to cover all the basics.
“We have had HR people in the lambing shed. We have just had teams completely mixing, so instead of gardeners doing gardening and shepherds doing shepherding, we had people from all over the estate drop what they were doing and go to assist the shepherds with lambing.”
The business boss of the UNESCO heritage site, built in 1722, is calling for the Government to extend its furlough scheme and the current VAT cut for the hospitality sector.
Blenheim Palace and its 150-acre gardens first closed to the public in March last year at the start of the pandemic.
The gardens are set to reopen on April 12, the provisional opening date for outdoor hospitality. Under the Government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions on indoor hospitality, the palace can finally reopen its doors to the public on May 17.
“Each month we lose over £1million of revenue,” said Mr Hare. “The contribution to the area drops by about £4million.” Over the course of a year, Mr Hare said, this would “suck £50million out of the local economy”.
“We hope the Chancellor will stand up this week and give us protection by extending the five percent VAT and retaining some sector-specific furlough.”