What was said at last week’s AGM?

The RNLI’s AGM took place last Thursday in Poole at the All-weather Lifeboat Centre. If you were unable to attend, you will find a round-up of the key points raised at the AGM below.

Photo: shutterstock_336137057/Underverse

To start with, our Chairman, Stuart Popham, and Chief Executive, Paul Boissier, spoke about a range of topics which are summarised below. If you’d like to find out more, you can take a look at the Annual Report here

Although it’s been a challenging year for both RNLI staff members and volunteers, in particular with the recent media coverage, it has also been a year of successes and new experiences for our charity.

Lessons learned from media coverage

Recently, the RNLI has received negative media coverage after decisions we made to address some poor behaviour from a very small minority of our people. However, despite this we have been able to tell our side of the story and live out our values – trustworthy, courageous, dependable and selfless – which sit at the heart of every decision that the RNLI makes. We do not take the decision to stand anyone, staff or volunteer, down unless it is absolutely necessary, but we will not tolerate the kind of behaviour that we have seen which is against our values, especially if these behaviours put our crews’ safety or the RNLI’s reputation at risk. As a result of our stand, we have been commended by the Charity sector and have received support from across the media and from our staff and volunteers.

Our Executive Team recognises that this has had its impact on everyone, but it’s now clear to staff, volunteers, the public and the media that we won’t tolerate behaviour that goes against our values and what the RNLI stands for, particularly if it poses a risk to saving lives at sea. This stand is the right thing for us both now and in the future.

If you’d like to read more about the recent media coverage, please click here.

At the AGM, Paul also talked about the media’s unfair portrayal of RNLI staff members as a bunch of hopeless ‘pen-pushers’. We celebrate our volunteers and their contribution all the time, but it’s also our staff members who are here to keep the RNLI going. It is both staff and volunteers that keep supporting those on the frontline of lifesaving.

Paul thanked staff in particular on this occasion. He said, ‘Thank you for all you do to contribute to saving lives at sea, because to be a world-class lifesaving service, our staff need to be the best and they are people who genuinely care about saving lives.’

What we’re working on for our lifeboat stations

During 2017, the RNLI has been trying to provide better support for our coastal communities. We have listened to feedback and have worked hard on some of the following things:

  • providing adequate cover for the critical members of a lifeboat crew – so that people can take their fair share of downtime 
  • the new rescue and reporting system for our lifeboat stations is not working as well as it should, and we need to do better 
  • our crew training system has become too complex and demanding for the crew to use, and needs to be simplified
  • improving the accuracy and timeliness of spare part delivery to the coast – which is something that is causing great frustration for some of our mechanics.

Although there is still much to be achieved, we are determined that we will continue to improve things for our crews and lifeguards throughout 2018 and beyond.

Lives saved statistics

This year’s Annual Report does not include a provisional figure for lives saved in 2017, but we are able to share figures on the following: 

  1. People rescued or assisted: 32,116 in 2017 (this is the joint figure for lifeboat crews and lifeguards)
  2. Lifeboat launches: 8,436 in 2017 (this is around 200 fewer launches than in 2016).

We’ve also recently seen that the official statistics for accidental UK coastal drowning show that the annual number of deaths has reduced from 163 in 2016 to 109 in 2017. Although this is positive news, there are a number of possible reasons for this fall, including the summer of 2017 being the 11th wettest summer since records began. However, it does show that our safety messages are starting to have an impact.

Financial statistics for the RNLI

In 2015, we took the decision to move the RNLI to a system of opted-in communications. Initially we expected that only 160,000 people would opt-in, however this year we celebrated that over 500,000 supporters have opted in. It was also thought that this would cost the RNLI £35M in revenue over the first five years, but it’s now looking like it will cost us around £31M.

Legacy income – which was over £135 million – saw a 3.5% increase on the 2016 statistics, which is a great result. We’re also looking at how to diversify our income to make the RNLI more sustainable so as to protect our future. To help with this we’re encouraging people to put money into an expendable endowment – this means that we can invest the money we’re given rather than having to spend it straight away, so we can draw on the income in the future to support a station or a particular activity. In 2017, we have been given around £12M in endowments and we will be looking to build on this in the future.

Our shop volunteers have helped us have a record trading year by generating sales of more than £5.7 million – thank you for all that you’ve done to make this happen.

Our Mayday and Fish Supper campaigns have also been vital for raising funds and awareness of the RNLI in our communities. In 2017, more than £607,000 was raised during Mayday, and over £215,000 was raised through Fish Suppers.

Changes to International funding

There is fantastic work going on abroad with our International Team who have helped create a complete range of lifesaving training, such as search and rescue and lifeguarding, that we and our partners can deliver internationally.

The RNLI is continuing to work with global leaders to make drowning prevention a worldwide priority and to reduce the number of people – over 360,000 – who lose their lives each year to drowning.

To reflect the importance of this work to our long-term strategy, our International activities will now have access to RNLI general funds – in the same way our domestic work does. However, we currently spend less than 2% of our total annual expenditure on international and this investment does not, and will not, impact on our domestic rescue services. These vital programmes will also be supported by donations from specific trusts, foundations, and others.

The Annual Report

You can find the 2017 Annual Report here.

The Report contains some fantastic lifesaving stories as well as more information about our finances and statistics, please take a moment to look through it to find out more about what the RNLI has achieved in 2017.

Thanking you

Our Chairman, Stuart Popham, had these words to share:

‘Let me take this opportunity to thank all who have helped the RNLI do such great work over the last year; whether that is crewing lifeboats, working at lifeboat stations or on the beaches, raising funds, spreading safety messages, holding events, rattling collection tins, baking cakes, running marathons, wearing yellow wellies and, importantly, working here building boats, making sure the finances are managed, the legacies collected, our buildings maintained, the complaints answered and the myriad of activities that I haven't mentioned – including attending meetings like this one.

‘And a big thank you also to your families and friends who support your work with the RNLI – who also make sacrifices, whose plans are disrupted, and who may feel that the RNLI comes first in your lives. Your hard work makes such a difference to so many people, families and communities every day. You make the RNLI possible, so thank you for everything you do.

‘Volunteers and staff: thank you. I have visited many stations in last year, spoken to lots of you and every time I am nothing short of amazed at what you all do for the RNLI. Together, you are all saving lives. Thank you.’