Actress faces charity fund row

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PENELOPE KEITH was last night facing calls for her resignation as president of the Actors' Benevolent Fund. The actress, best-known for her roles in television comedies, was under pressure after the fund settled out of court a claim for wrongful dismissal from its former general secretary.

The agreement spared Ms Keith from having to give evidence to support the sacking of Rosemary Stevens, 48, who was at the charity for 16 years.

Michael Thornton, 58, author and fund supporter, called for Ms Keith, president for nine years, and the executive council to resign. He said it was the second employment tribunal claim to be resolved by the charity in six months. "They have chosen not to face the music," he said. "They should all go, and go now, handing over their responsibilities to others with better judgement and a greater sense of accountability to the members and supporters of the Actors' Benevolent Fund."

The acrimonious departure of Mrs Stevens, who held a pounds 28,500-a-year post, last summer plunged the fund into crisis. The institution, founded in 1882, looks after retired and needy members of the theatrical profession. Four of the executive council's 16 members, including Nickolas Grace, who was in Brideshead Revisited, and Angharad Rees, star of Poldark, resigned in protest.

Ms Keith, 58, who starred in BBC Television's The Good Life, left the tribunal in central London without comment. Kathy Pavey, the fund's solicitor, described the settlement as "amicable" and said the terms would remain confidential.

A written statement from the fund council welcomed the settlement, saying: "The fund is running extremely efficiently. The president has the support of the whole council and does not intend to resign."