Now abbey staff look set to lose their jobs

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A TOUR guide at Newstead Abbey says staff have been left in the dark about their futures after the decision to close the historic house to the public for much of the year.

Dramatic cuts to the opening times at the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron were rubberstamped last month by the abbey’s owner, Nottingham City Council.

The controversial decision, which was revealed in a Dispatch front-page exclusive, has sparked outrage among Byronites and supporters of the abbey, including some from as far afield as the USA.

The changes, which come into force today (Friday), will see the house closed apart from certain Sunday afternoons, Bank Holidays and for guided tours. The gardens will remain open as normal.

The city council says the alterations at the Grade One listed building will save £300,000 a year as it looks to make cuts to offset a multi-million pound reduction in government funding.

It means jobs will also go at the abbey — a move that has been lambasted by Bette Abbott (66), a retiring museum assistant who has conducted tours at the house since 2001.

“It was a wonderful job and the people there have so much knowledge to pass on,” she said.

“But it is very disappointing to see the way we have been treated by the city council. No-one I have spoken to has received written word about the future of their jobs.”

Bette, who decided to leave her position at the abbey last week, questions the city council’s commitment to the building.

“I have always felt it was much less interested in Newstead than in its attractions within the city,” she said.

“It is such a shame because the abbey’s history and what it has to offer are unsurpassed around here. If Newstead Abbey had been promoted as much as Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, it would have been just as popular.

“It makes no sense to dismiss staff while intending to operate tours and events.

“Experienced, knowledgeable guides pass on their expertise to newcomers at the abbey. This cannot happen in an empty shell.

“Guides do not earn a big wage, not more than the minimum wage, but our job is done with enthusiasm and passion. Newstead Abbey is a gem.”

A 90-day consultation is underway between the city council, staff and unions regarding job-losses.

A spokesman said every effort was being made to re-deploy staff where possible.