RNLI funding burkinis for Africans while cutting jobs
RNLI spending on foreign projects has increased from £1.13 million to £3.3 million in the past five yearsANDREW MCCOY/GETTY IMAGES
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been accused of diverting donations to give burkinis to Muslim women in Africa while laying off staff in the UK.
The charity’s spending on lifesaving schemes overseas is rising by more than 10 per cent this year. It said this week that it was preparing to cut 135 jobs.
Overseas “anti-drowning” projects funded by the RNLI include the Panje Project in Tanzania, which gives devout Muslim women and girls full-length burkini swimsuits and swimming lessons. It also funds crèches in Bangladesh, which it claims will prevent children from swimming in the sea.
Spending on foreign projects has risen from £1.13 million to £3.3 million over the past five years and the charity plans to increase annual spending by £400,000 this year.
Vice-Admiral Paul Boissier, 65, who was chief executive until May, said in the RNLI’s most recent report that it planned to “expand our international programmes and continue growing our influence as a global thought leader in drowning prevention”.
His successor, Mark Dowie, 57, who earns £188,871 a year, announced the job cuts on Tuesday to ensure that the charity was “living within our means”. He added that it faced reduced funding and increasing demands for its help.
The RNLI, founded in 1824, has been accused of becoming obsessed with political correctness, which has led to the resignations of volunteers who crew its boats. Its registration with the Charity Commission now lists the areas covered as the British Isles, Tanzania and Bangladesh.
Mr Dowie said yesterday: “The programme of activity we are undertaking to reduce our spend is intended to ensure we can maintain our domestic world-class search and rescue service.
“Providing the very best service in the UK and Ireland remains our priority but we also wish to use our expertise, knowledge and influence to help others save lives across the world, particularly in countries where drowning rates are high.”
A spokeswoman said that the institution’s founder, Sir William Hillary, had said that its work on drowning prevention should be extended to “the most remote quarters of the globe”.
The RNLI said that 2 per cent of its income was spent on overseas projects and this did not have an impact on its domestic rescue services.
Providing free crèche places reduced a child’s risk of drowning by 82 per cent, it added. The Isle of Man government announced in June that it was spending £57,855 from its international development budget to support the Bangladesh project.
In 2016 the RNLI announced that it was provided training and equipment to Greek, German, Dutch and Swedish organisations to help save migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece.
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP who has raised concerns about the RNLI’s spending on overseas projects, said that the schemes could deter British donors from funding the service.
“While these causes are no doubt worthy they are more suitable for support from our international aid budget than the RNLI,” he said. “At a time when income is down and demand is increasing in the British Isles it should be sticking to its core priorities or it could have a detrimental effect on UK giving. There is an urgent need for the RNLI executive to review this spending. It is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, not the Royal International Lifeboat Institution.”
Two crewmen from Whitby, North Yorkshire, were dismissed last summer after tea mugs were found decorated with “inappropriate material of a sexual nature”. The entire volunteer crew at St Helier, Jersey, resigned after the coxswain was sacked following a dispute over a launch. The coxswain at Arbroath was sacked after failing to prevent a prank in which a crewman bared his buttocks.
The RNLI has said that it will not accept “lifeboats being taken for joyrides in rough weather”, “hard-core, graphic pornography in lifeboat stations” or “bullying or aggressive behaviour”.