RSPCA proposes centre closures

The RSPCA is considering closing its wildlife hospitals and drastically reducing its campaigning and prosecution work in response to the most severe financial crisis in its history

The cuts are among a series of new cost-reducing measures that will be put to council members, who need to save £8 million by the end of 2004.

The proposals, leaked to Third Sector, were made two weeks after the council rejected management plans to reform the charity's regional structure to save money.

If accepted, they will result in the closure of three hospitals, cuts of 20 per cent in campaigning and a 25 per cent reduction in the prosecution policy team. They will also lead to a 25 per cent cut in the charity's grant to the Freedom Food brand and further reductions in publications, international work and education in the field.

A head office source said that the management team had become "increasingly desperate" to find viable ways to cut costs.

"We're fast running out of ideas on how to make the necessary savings," said the source. "There is a general feeling that the long-term health of the charity cannot be sustained through such patchy financial cuts."

The source added that morale within RSPCA management was at an all-time low, with many directors expecting to face serious opposition to the new plans at the next council meeting on 11 June.

"I'm in no doubt that the closure of the wildlife hospitals will be fought in the regions," said the source. "None of the council members seem to have any recognition that serious sacrifices have to be made in order to meet the £8 million target."

The new proposals follow the council's decision on 30 April, reported last week in Third Sector, to reject all plans by new director-general Jackie Ballard to reform the charity's existing regional structure. The council did, however, pass a proposal to reorganise the head office, a move which will result in the loss of 13 director posts.

"This has been going on for far too long," said the source. "We were supposed to have agreed a cost-cutting plan by last September, but nothing gets done because the council throws out every plan we come up with."

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