National Trust’s financial difficulties must not impact landlords’ contractual obligations to tenant farmers, the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has said.
The warning came as the conservation and heritage charity announced 1,200 jobs were at risk as its sought to reduce its annual spend and size of its workforce to negate further impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
George Dunn, TFA chief executive, said it was incredibly sad to see the extent to which the trust will scale back its operations but understood estate management functions will not be affected to the same extent as the organisation’s project work.
“While we are fully anticipating budgets for repairs, maintenance and improvements to be under pressure, we will need to work with the National Trust to find innovative ways of ensuring that its contractual obligations to tenant farmers are fulfilled,” he said.
“It is not an option for these matters to be left.
“In some cases, it will be possible to postpone works but this will not be an option on all farms.”
Mr Dunn added any budget shortfalls should not be resolved by hiking up farm rents.
Earlier in May, Farmers Guardian reported a number of National Trust environmental initiatives, such as mass tree planting, were under threat as the charity ran into financial difficulty.
However, with some fearing of the effects such schemes could have on farming businesses, including reducing stocking densities, NFU uplands chairman Thomas Binns said any pause provided time to reflect on how farmers could be affected by these initiatives in the medium- to long-term.
Expected to lose up to £200 million, the trust has said millions of pounds have already been saved through various measures, such as furloughing staff and deferring projects. The proposed redundancies, equivalent to 2016 workforce levels, will save almost a fifth of its annual spend.