FINANCE NEWS: RSPCA to slash spending by £6m

The RSPCA has frozen staff pay and postponed building animal centres in a belt-tightening exercise to counteract the post-11 September stock market falls which have wiped £16 million off the value of its investments.

At a meeting at the end of September, the charity's council directed that expenditure should be cut by £6 million during 2003.

All building projects have been put on hold for 12 months. This postpones the spending of £12 million and saves £1 million in associated revenue costs for 2003. One member of the RSPCA's ruling council is reported to have resigned in a row over these plans.

Staff will have no cost of living pay increase during 2003 and no incremental pay increases for two years. The relevant unions will be consulted over these proposals.

The number of regional press officers will be halved from 10 to five.

Vacant positions in one animal centre will remain unfilled and another will function at only partial capacity. Up to 10 part-time livestock market inspector jobs will go and animal-collection officers will have changes in their shift patterns.

A review currently being carried will aim to knock a total of £2 million off departmental budgets.

"Two years ago when the stock market was buoyant, we and other charities were being accused of hoarding too much money,

said director of finance and support Mark Watts.

However, he pointed out that the RSPCA's free reserves stood at only £34 million at the end of 2001, £6 million below the six months' expenditure recommended by the charity's trustees.

As a result, he said, the charity would not be dipping into its reserves to bridge the current funding crisis. "It is a rainy day, but it's a rainy day in a falling market,

he said. "As well as trying to maintain animal welfare, we are trying to maintain our investments."

The charity's investment strategy will remain unchanged at 70 per cent equities and 30 per cent bonds and cash.

Former RSPCA trustee Joe Saxton said: "If the RSPCA had taken fundraising more seriously a decade ago through regional fundraising, charitable trusts and corporate fundraising, the crisis could have been largely avoided."

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