20 Jul Coronavirus: Beefeaters facing redundancy because of lockdown impact on tourism | UK News
Beefeaters are facing redundancy for the first time because of the “devastating” impact of the coronavirus lockdown on tourism.
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), which runs the Tower of London – the beefeaters’ home – has seen its income fall by £98m this year, it has said.
The charity has been left with “no choice but to reduce our payroll costs,” chief executive John Barnes said in a statement, adding: “We are heartbroken that it has come to this.”
“We have taken every possible measure to secure our financial position, but we need to do more to survive in the long term,” he said.
“The yeoman warders are a valued part of the Tower of London and popular with our visitors. They will continue to be part of the tower’s story in the years to come.”
There are 37 yeoman warders, nicknamed beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels and live inside the tower’s grounds with their families.
They were originally part of the Yeoman of the Guard – the monarch’s personal, crack bodyguard who travelled with them everywhere.
They began their famous occupation in the 16th century, when Henry VIII ordered that part of his guard should protect the tower.
At least two beefeaters have taken voluntary redundancies but the self-funded HRP, which has seen its income fall by 87%, has warned compulsory measures may be enforced.
HRP said in a statement it is “almost completely dependent on visitor income”, and the near four-month closure of its six sites “will be compounded by the expected slow recovery of inbound tourism“.
The industry, it notes, is not forecast to fully recover to 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest.
Looking after its six sites, which also include Hampton Court and Kensington Palace, cost £32m in the last financial year, with £10m going on basic maintenance, HRP said.
The running costs of buildings like the Tower of London are “eye-watering,” it added.
“Our electricity bills for Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London total three quarters of a million pounds annually,” the statement said.
HRP said it believes this is the first time beefeaters have been made redundant and has told staff “it is likely” that a compulsory redundancy scheme will follow the voluntary one, which began in June and closed last week.
“Clearly it’s an absolutely unprecedented situation – they are valued staff and we have been forced into this position out of circumstance rather than choice,” the statement said.
In 2019, beefeaters went on strike for the first time in 55 years, over a pensions dispute.