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RSPCA donations drop by £7m as campaigns fail to find support

Charity is being forced to restructure business and cut jobs as spending has become 'unsustainable'

Animal welfare charity the RSPCA is facing a tough year ahead as it battles a drop in donations of £7m.

The charity, which “only exists because of public donations”, is known for its hard-line defence of animal rights and its strong political campaigns such as denouncing the government’s badger cull, and its successful prosecution of hunting in Oxfordshire.  

But now the charity is being forced to restructure its business and cut jobs across the organisation to tackle the drop in financial support against a “net cash outflow” of £6.1m last year.

The RSPCA has seen a £5.7m plunge in legacy income, with gift donations having dropped by £1.3m.

In a letter sent out to staff, the RSPCA’s chair Mike Tomlinson said that the charity would need to restructure in order to create savings of £4.5m a year, while confirming that jobs would be cut from its 1,500 strong workforce,according to Third Sector magazine.

In a statement Mr Tomlinson said the RSPCA has made significant budget cuts already, but that the figures, when set against the organisation’s cash outflow on its core work of over £6m, are “unsustainable”.

He said: “Given rising costs, including private boarding as well as fuel, energy and veterinary bills, our operational costs are increasing faster than income is being generated.

“We have already started to implement plans to diversify the society’s income into new areas such as events and business, which will see the RSPCA move away from reliance on legacy income.”

He added that these are long-term plans however, and that the RSPCA needed to address the reduction in its income in the short term.

Mr Tomlinson’s remarks come at a difficult time for the charity, which does not currently have a chief executive. Gavin Grant stood down in February after two years in the role, due to health issues, and John Grounds, the charity’s director of marketing and campaigns, was expected to represent the charity in its public commitments in Mr Grant’s absence - but he left the charity six weeks later with immediate effect.

Sir Barney White-Spunner, of the Countryside Alliance, told the Mail on Sunday: “The RSPCA has undertaken high-profile, political campaigns on subjects such as hunting, the badger cull, live exports and horse-racing – campaigns we feel have done little to further animal welfare and should not be the priority of the RSPCA.  We hope it will reconsider how it spends donors’ money.”

The news follows revelations last year that the RSPCA’s own deputy chairman, Paul Draycott, feared the charity’s campaigns had become “too political” and that the work could harm the charity’s future.

A leaked discussion paper written by Mr Draycott and seen by The Telegraph last September showed his concerns about the potential risks around the charity being seen to be too political, and the effect it could have on the attitudes of the RSPCA’s wealthy donors, or the brands that support the charity through commercial sponsorship worth millions of pounds.

The Charity Commission was petitioned by a group of cross-party politicians in late 2012 urging it to investigate the RSPCA for spending over £320,000 on the prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire, after the group’s members were filmed killing a fox, which is in violation of the law.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA tonight said: "Income always tends to go up and down but was at its highest in 2012 which was the year when we were being accused of being our most political, so this clearly isn't the reason.

"Donations to the RPSCA were not down last year, just legacies, which are decided by those who chose to leave money to the RSPCA years in advance of us actually receiving the money.

"Support for the RSPCA remains strong because we are doing exactly what people expect us to do- fighting cruelty to animals."