South Shields' Customs House announces job cuts to 'safeguard its future' amid ongoing uncertainty around reopening
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In an statement on the Customs House website on Monday, July 20, executive director Ray Spencer MBE, confirmed that formal redundancy consultations had begun with staff.
The action is said to be a ‘last resort’ to ‘safeguard the future’ of the Mill Dam venue if current restrictions on trading continue past the end of the furlough scheme.
The venue has not released specific numbers of potential redundancies and Mr Spencer stressed that the process could be stopped if cultural venues were to receive more ‘clarity’ and ‘certainty’ from Government.
The Customs House – which employs 72 members of staff across the organisation– closed when the lockdown restrictions were imposed in March.
Despite the Prime Minister last week giving the go ahead for theatres to reopen to live audiences from August 1, the social distancing measures required would mean reducing the venue’s capacity by more than half.
Earlier this month Mr Spencer welcomed the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts sector, but fears it won’t be enough to support the many cultural venues impacted by the pandemic across the UK.
Speaking to the Gazette on Tuesday, July 21, he said: “We’re doing the best we can to get the Customs House up and running, but without direction and the ability to trade fully, no business can go on as if nothing has happened.
"These are awful times for everyone and we will do everything we can to minimise job losses.”
The theatre is hoping to reopen from next month for cinema screenings and outdoor performances.
But a survey of over 1,000 people carried out by the organisation, showed only 40% of regular customers would feel happy to return immediately.
An announcement is set to be made in August around the 2020 Christmas pantomime Rapunzel.
Mr Spencer added: “The uncertainty about when we can trade fully – and how many people will return when we do – are the two things that have led to us staring these discussions, but we can stop them at any time if we start to receive the guidance and direction we need for Government.”