Old Sarum opening hours cut to save cash
OLD Sarum will be closed to the public on weekdays for five months every winter under English Heritage cost-cutting plans.
The news comes as another blow to Salisbury's tourism industry, which already faces the closure of the city's youth hostel and cuts to the tourist information service.
Five jobs are affected, and consultation is taking place with staff.
The monument will remain open during February half-term, but will otherwise close from Monday to Friday between November 1 and March 31. The car park will also shut.
All but two English Heritage properties where entry fees are charged face similar closures. Stonehenge has escaped, because it is profitable all year round.
PCS union branch chairman Mike Hodgson said indiscriminate government funding cuts are to blame, rather than English Heritage management.
The organisation's income is being slashed by £40milllion, or 32 per cent, over four years, with the brunt of the cut - £20million – falling in the first year.
The 62 sites affected lose a total of £7million every winter.
But Mr Hodgson said staff cuts will only save £928,000 nationally. Closed sites will have to be maintained and kept secure. They will also have to be opened up for pre-booked educational visits.
"For the sake of another £1million the government could keep the sites open," he said.
"Most staff are only on £12,500 to £13,000 a year and they will lose five months' pay.
"Our strategy is to put pressure on the government via local authorities to give English Heritage more money."
MP John Glen is to raise the issue with English Heritage's local project director.
He said: "The security of those employed at Old Sarum and the accessibility of the site should be sacrosanct. There are wider implications for Salisbury."
Wiltshire Council's Cabinet member for tourism, John Brady, is an English Heritage member. He believes some members will cancel their subscriptions because they are being devalued.
He described the closure as disappointing but said research shows that most people who go to Old Sarum are local and the impact on tourism will be marginal.
"People will still be able to walk round the rings," he added, "and at least there will still be weekends, and Stonehenge won't be affected."
An English Heritage spokesman said: "Only four per cent of all our visitors come during the winter weekdays.
"Most of our 260 free properties, such as Woodhenge, will remain open throughout the winter.
"In light of the reduction in our grant, we believe that this option is the best one."
Posted by moss
6th April 2011ce