Charity gifts slide as Heron tightens belt

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THE LEVEL of charitable giving fell last year for the first time in more than a decade.

The fall was almost entirely due to Heron International, Gerald Ronson's troubled property and garages group, which scrapped almost all its donations.

In 1991 Heron was the third largest corporate giver in Britain, with donations of pounds 5.3m. But last year, according to the 1994 Major Companies Guide, published by the Directory of Social Change, Heron did not feature in the top 400. The company is now only honouring existing commitments through the associated Ronson Foundation.

Charitable donations have held up remarkably well during the recession. In the year 1992-93 they totalled pounds 151m, just 0.28 per cent down on the previous year's total of pounds 157m. Community donations, which include items such as arts sponsorship and Business in the Community, were also down slightly, from pounds 255m in 1991-92 to pounds 248m.

Most generous corporate giver was British Petroleum with pounds 9m, followed by Glaxo with pounds 6m and BT with pounds 4.9m.

Donations to charity by the electricity companies rose markedly over the year. National Power, National Grid and PowerGen together gave nearly pounds 1m more than the previous year. This trend follows the significant increases in giving by earlier privatised companies such as BT and British Gas. Of the electricity companies, only those in Northern Ireland and South Wales are giving less than pounds 50,000 a year.

Donations from IBM, Thorn EMI and TSB each dropped by more than pounds 500,000. As members of the Per Cent Club their donations were governed by their falling pre-tax profits.

The survey editor, Dave Casson, said he expected arts sponsorship to increase, particularly if Allied-Lyons' pounds 3.3m sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company proved successful.