THE RNLI is axing 135 jobs – with the majority coming from its Poole HQ.

The lifeboat charity says it faces “major challenges”, with a shortfall in funds and a rise in demand for its services.

Staff at its West Quay Road base were told about the proposed job losses yesterday.

Poole’s MP has called the news a “sad thing” for the town.

Ninety-five permanent jobs will go, with the rest made up of temporary roles which will come to an end or empty posts which will be left vacant.

Mark Dowie, who became the RNLI’s chief executive four months ago, said: “The RNLI is facing some major challenges – we have a shortfall in funds, but more people than ever need our help. It’s a perfect storm.

“And that means we’re having to make some very difficult decisions. This includes proposals to reduce our staff by 135 roles, pending a period of consultation. The 135 positions include 95 permanent jobs, with the remaining 40 roles made up of temporary positions that won’t be extended or current vacancies that will not be filled.

“This is part of a programme of activity that, combined with increased investment in fundraising, is designed to help us get back to living within our means and deliver our world class rescue service across the UK and Ireland. The majority of the proposed redundancies will be based at the RNLI’s Support Centre in Poole as we look to focus on our frontline services and provide support at a local level.”

He added: “In my four months as chief executive at the RNLI I have been incredibly impressed with the dedication of the staff here and the quality of their work. This reduction in jobs isn’t a reflection on the value I, or the organisation, places on individuals. But we must do things in a more efficient way and this means we will need fewer people. So I understand that the next few months will be challenging for all involved, but we have to take action now if we are going to weather this storm. And I know everyone at the RNLI is as committed as I am to making sure this 195-year-old charity continues to be a world class rescue service that is still saving lives in 200 years’ time.”

Poole MP Sir Robert Syms said: “I’m sorry to hear that they’re losing jobs and will do what I can to talk to them about how we can get further support so that those people are deployed into other employment.

“The good thing is there’s quite a buoyant employment situation in Poole and there will be other alternatives for skilled people who work for the RNLI to find employment but it’s still a sad thing.”

In its 2018 annual report, the RNLI said income from legacies had reduced by £8.5million – or 6.4 per cent – as money from donors’ estates took longer to release. It expected the problem to be short-term but said “executors are struggling to sell properties in the current climate and estates take longer to process”.

Its investments reduced in value by £10.1m in an “uncertain” economic climate.

The charity’s spending was up 2.8 per cent to £4.5m at the same time. Its RNLI’s final salary pension scheme, which is closed to new contributions, has an overall liability of £46.5m.