The code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park is facing a financial crisis, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
After being forced to close over three months after Covid-19 ravaged the UK and the rest of the world, the world famous centre is preparing to make 35 people redundant, which is a third of its workforce.
It was a very different message in May this year, when on the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day, on 8 May 1945, the final encrypted intercepted message from a German military communications (Brown) network was revealed by GCHQ.
Bletchley Park Trust announced the proposed organisational restructuring last Friday.
“The Bletchley Park Trust is proposing to restructure as a result of the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis,” it said. “The impact of the pandemic has meant that from March to July this year it lost over 95 percent of its income leaving a large gap in its annual budget.”
Indeed, the Trust said that it expects to lose around £2m this year as a result of the pandemic and is “today proposing a restructuring that includes a possible 35 redundancies, approximately a third of the workforce, as it seeks to reduce its annual spend and the size of its team.”
A consultation period with staff has begun.
“It with deep regret that I am informing you today that the Trust needs to cut jobs,” Bletchley Park CEO Iain Standen told staff. “We have built a very successful heritage attraction and museum at Bletchley Park and its principal strength is its people. However, the economic impact of the current crisis is having a profound effect on the Trust’s ability to survive. We have exhausted all other avenues, and we need to act now to ensure that the Trust survives and is sustainable in the future.”
Bletchley Park was forced to close its gates to the general public on 19 March 2020. The UK entered a full nationwide lockdown on 22 March 2020.
It reopened its doors again on 4 July, but said that there were “significantly reduced visitor numbers, which has impacted on its revenue.”
The Trust furloughed 85 percent of its staff and managed to secure some additional funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Savings have also been identified within the Trust’s annual budget which include reducing costs in marketing, new exhibitions, travel, IT, printing and introducing new processes to improve the efficiency of the organisation.
But these are short-term measures and with social distancing now a fact of life for many, it has “meant the need for a radical review of the Trust’s organisation, spending and priorities.”
“I cannot stress how deeply saddened I am to announce the need for such a severe restructuring,” said Standen. “We have built a brilliant team on the back of huge success and with great ambitions for the future, which we will now need to re-examine. I had hoped that we might avoid the need to do this, but we find ourselves with no other choice if we are to secure the future of the Bletchley Park Trust.”
The centre has received funding over the years from a number of sources.
In 2010 it received £250,000 in funding from the British government for urgent repairs.
Then in 2011 Google was said to have invested £100,000 into the £200,000 National Heritage fund that managed to purchase the papers of computing genius Alan Turing.
In 2012 Bletchley Park Trust secured £7.4 million in funding from the National Lottery to renovate the historic “Huts” in which British code breakers were working on decrypting ciphers created by the German Enigma machines.
The activities of Bletchley Park were so top secret, that even its existence as a code-breaking centre only emerged many decades after the war came to an end.
Maybe the tech industry can rally around and support Bletchley Park going forward?
After all, it is widely considered to be the birthplace of modern computing.