Halle chiefs take pay cut to ease debt crisis

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SENIOR MANAGERS at the Halle Orchestra have taken a pay cut to ease its financial crisis. Kent Nagano, the orchestra's conductor, has also made "generous gestures" towards its plan to break even by 2000, it emerged yesterday.

The orchestra was on the verge of bankruptcy in February and has accumulated debts of about pounds 1.8m. The six-strong senior management team, including the chief executive, decided a pay cut of an average 10 per cent would show it was taking a positive lead.

It will mark a saving of about pounds 18,000 for the six months of the financial year so far.

But Andy Ryans, the marketing director, said: "As much as the actual saving, it was intended to show how committed we are to the organisation and what we're doing. We were anxious that before we were prepared to ask anybody else for help we should help ourselves to the absolute limit of what we could do."

The orchestra members, whose numbers have been cut from 98 to 80, have accepted a pay freeze and management has been reduced from 30 to 22.

A public appeal aims to raise pounds 3m over the next four years and currently has pounds 600,000 in the bank. Mr Ryans said the orchestra needs to have raised pounds 750,000 by March just to keep going.

"If we don't get another pounds 150,000 in there the orchestra will be in very serious trouble," Mr Ryans said.

But he added that there had been a "dramatic improvement" in the financial situation since last year when accountants highlighted poor financial management.

"We are now confident that we will get to the end of two years. That buys us time to develop longer term plans. We are a lot more confident now that the Halle will be here in five years' time than we were three months ago."

The orchestra has just returned from Salzburg, Austria, where it was lauded by the New York Times as one of the most impressive performances in the music festival.

Mr Ryans said: "The point of what we're about is maintaining an international symphony orchestra in Manchester, not about producing a town band.

"We have the action plan so that Manchester and the country has something of which it can be exceptionally proud."

The management was "united, solid and very clear in its ambition", he said.

To streamline communication between management and the board, next month's annual general meeting will hear a recommendation to cut the number of board members from 25 to 12.