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Call to arms as BEN suffers loss

The message is unequivocal: fund us or lose us.

BEN, the automotive industry charity, is facing a deficit of up to £750,000 in its financial year to March 31 after tough market conditions, a drop off in legacy donations and plant closures like Longbridge and Ryton hit its fundraising income.

Already BEN has been forced to close its Palliative Care Unit at its Alexandra House care centre in Southport, a move that will cut costs by £150,000 per year through staff redundancies and internal changes.

BEN chief executive Gerard Barclay warns that further changes will have to be made unless industry support for the charity improves. “We will be forced to review the level of service we provide and there may be some reduction in our services,” he says.

Plant closures are a double-whammy. Not only does BEN lose revenue from the business, but it inevitably results in more families to look after, raising costs. BEN is still caring for 88 families from the Linwood plant in Glasgow, Scotland, which closed 25 years ago. It expects to be caring for families from the Peugeot and Rover plants for the next 30 years.

Despite keeping costs to budget, the financial situation is a worrying downturn from the 2005/06 trading year, BEN’s centenary, when additional funding pushed revenues to £12m and a small surplus.

Half of BEN’s revenue is from rents and fees, which is in line with expectations. The problem is donations.

Carmakers, dealers and suppliers give £2m via profit-related donations. But many companies do not support.

“The message to companies is: if you are not supporting BEN, why not? The industry owns this charity –come and talk to us,” says Barclay. “And if you can’t afford a corporate donation, then give us the opportunity to talk to your staff about payroll donations.”

Staff payroll contributions bring in nearly £1m. It also helps raise BEN’s profile, which usually results in more people seeking its support. BEN’s welfare programme supports around 6,000 families; its four centres have 350 residents, ranging in age from 23 to 102.

Just 20,000 staff donate on payroll, in an industry of some 800,000 individuals. “If everyone does a little bit it fixes the problem,” says Barclay. “But if the industry doesn’t support us, we won’t celebrate another 25 years, let alone 100 years.”

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