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No happy birthday – or Christmas – for sacked Ivy House Hotel manager

 A far from happy birthday and a far from happy Christmas.  That is the prospect facing Ina Thomas, general manager of Marlborough’s Ivy House Hotel, which has been sold to Marlborough College for conversion into a hostel.

She has lost her job in the wake of the controversy over the fate of the grade II listed hotel, one of 19 full and part-time members of staff who face the prospect of unemployment as from January 10.

And for Ina, who joined the staff as assistant manager in June, 2009 and was promoted to manager last February, it is a double blow as she celebrates her 46th birthday on Tuesday.

“And none of us are going to have a very happy Christmas,” she told Marlborough News Online.  “We are all in the same boat.”

“It is pretty sad.  Nobody is prepared to enjoy the Christmas season because of what has happened to us.  And it looks very scary right now for the staff to go out and find a job. It would be good if someone could help.”

The 28-room three star hotel, which dates back to 1707 when it started life as a school, is owned by Hunt’s Foodservice, a family company that  has Michael Douch as its hotel director, which bought Ivy House in 2008.

None of the staff, to Ina’s knowledge, has yet found a new post at a time when unemployment has hit its highest peak for 17 years.  Ina too, though she has been too busy to seek new employment.

“I am so busy,” she explained.  “The hotel is full for Christmas and we have functions happening.  The occupancy rate for the last three to six months has been about 85 per cent.”

“It is not a question of the hotel losing money, not at all.  The owner has been very apologetic about it.  I cannot fault him.  He is very helpful about everything.”

Was he surprised by the outcry in Marlborough over the loss of one of its two hotels, sold to the College for what is believed to be £1.8 million for conversion into a hostel for girl students?

“I think Yes and No,” replied Ina, who lives in Tisbury and will be looking initially for a new post nearer home.  “Obviously there is a company board and it is not one person’s decision.”

“The owners have let the hotel drift because they have always been in the process of selling and pulling out.  It started in October last year.”

“That’s when we all thought we might lose our jobs.  And it has just gone on from then.”

And she added: “There has been tremendous support for us from the town, from the people, neighbours, everybody, even the guests.  They are surprised about the outcome after all the protests.  They were sort of over-ruled by the planning inspector.”

“We didn’t have any contact with the College during this time, but we do now as they are sending all their contractors to carry out asbestos checks, everything, electricity, plumbing. It is all in the process of happening.”

But Ina is determined to stay in the hotel business.

“It’s been great fun here,” she said.  “It’s a lovely hotel and we’ve got some lovely guests.  I love the business.  It has always been my business until now.”

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