THE RSPCA is to base its new national call centre in the Dearne, it was announced this week.

The Ventura call centre at Manvers, near Wath, has been chosen to handle calls made to the animal welfare charity in a major restructuring of its services.

The move comes after the troubled society was forced to close five of its regional headquarters and ten call centres in a bid to offset millions lost in the stock market in the past three years.

RSPCA director general Jackie Ballard is confident Ventura has the knowledge and experience to deliver the best possible service to callers. She said: "We hope to have a national call centre with Ventura up and running by the end of February 2004.

"Staff at the new centre will receive ongoing training to ensure people who call us receive he best information and advice. We will ensure people answering calls are informed, efficient and deal with calls sensitively.

"Control of call-handling will be retained by the RSPCA and there will be inspectors to advise call centre staff."

She added: "By outsourcing to a national call centre company we can make significant efficiencies, while concentrating our efforts on what we do best: preventing cruelty to animals."

It is not known how many jobs will be created by the move, but a spokesman for trade union AMICUS said around 250 existing jobs would be lost nationally.

RSPCA staff had decided against industrial action following a ballot. He said the union had negotiated improved redundancy terms and Ventura had offered existing staff the option of transferring to the company.

He said; " Although we still think it is better to have local call centres we want this national call centre to be a success."

* THE AMICUS trade union says some call centre companies are damaging their brand image by exporting call centre work overseas.

Workers feel their jobs are threatened by the growing phenomenon of 'outsourcing' work to places like India and South Africa.

But Dearne call centres which have created some 10,000 jobs in the thriving Manvers regeneration zone, say they are committed to the region and its workforce.

A spokesman for Powergen, which employs 150 in the

Dearne said there were no plans to outsource Dearne Valley jobs: "We announced some time ago that 300 jobs are going to India in a phased process - they are back-office type jobs. We are still recruiting and we are committed to our UK workforce.

The Post Office/SSL call centre employs around 300. A spokesman said: "The call centre in the Dearne Valley is a major investment and a vital part of our support function. I can reassure the workforce the centre is part of our long term plans."