British Red Cross announces over 100 redundancies as part of effort to save £10m a year

25 Feb 2016 News

The British Red Cross is set to make over 100 redundancies in a move to save £10m a year over the next three years, its chief executive has revealed.

Red Cross with Mike Adamson

The British Red Cross is set to make over 100 redundancies in a move to save £10m a year over the next three years, its chief executive has revealed.

The move comes amid concerns that changes to fundraising practices could see the charity sector lose somewhere in the region of “hundreds of millions of pounds” or more.

In an exclusive interview with Civil Society News, chief executive Mike Adamson said the charity is following a new strategy that will see it transform from a “geographical model” to a “service-based model”, involving the closure of regional buildings. With much of the cost savings made in property and procurement, some 173 of the charity's 675 local depots will be sold off.

The strategy, called Refusing to Ignore People in Crisis, comes at a time when the charity expects to see income from direct marketing drop by as much as 10 to 20 per cent a year, in line with sector-wide changes to fundraising practices in the wake of fundraising scandals last summer.

“That’s very material for us. It’s why we’re looking at £10m of savings per annum as a target,” says Adamson.

Adamson said the charity will implement a “comprehensive quality assurance framework”, which will be overseen by an internal committee to provide “complete assurance for the board that the charity is doing this in the right way”.

As part of the new strategy, back-office operations will be streamlined to become “as lean as possible”, with procurement and supplier arrangements centralised to streamline costs and reduce localised staff efforts.

“Where we are currently doing things many times, because we have a geographical-based model; we will now do things once,” says Adamson.

As part of the first stage of the restructure, the charity is appointing a new team of directors to implement the process. Initial interviews will begin this week for positions including director for independent living and crisis response services, director of refugee support services and director of event first aid and ambulance support.

Adamson revealed the charity is also holding senior management talks this week to develop the charity’s “embryonic digital strategy”.

“We want to take digital onto another level to make sure that we are using digital technology both internally to do things more smartly – for example where volunteers can declare when they are available and match them up with slots when we need volunteers, right the way through to how somebody who needs a wheelchair can book one online and then have it delivered at a time of their choice,” he said.

NCVO’s working group

Adamson is currently chairing NCVO’s working group to develop guidance for charities in the run-up to new EU regulation that will require charities to have “unambiguous consent” before contacting donors.

“We’ve got to create the environment where people manage their own data,” he told Civil Society News. “The working group’s vision is of a world where people can give consent for their data to be used. That’s what the working group is looking at and that’s the direction the British Red Cross is going in.”

Adamson said the group has a “really good team of people who are really committed and giving very diverse perspectives”.

“It’s about us creating the conditions in which charities do the right thing,” he said.

“We are using the framework of the European Union, so in terms of this, 'opt-in' is clearly the phrase that ministers have latched onto. The Etherington Review also supports it. By 'opt-in', the definition we are using and have agreed with the Information Commissioner, is the European Union’s definition of 'unambiguous consent, specifically and freely given'. A cruder definition of opt-in just throws the baby out with the bathwater."

The group will produce a set of recommendations in June or July.

Click here to read the full interview with Mike Adamson.

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