Speaking at yesterday’s BPIF AGM (4 July) Woodward said that the key areas identified were research, lobbying and the provision of networking opportunities and strong products and services.

With the AGM following the first training workshops for those starting a new Level 5 Graduate Management Programme, Woodward heralded the launch of this initiative as one of the year’s key successes.

“The Level 5 programme is one of only 30 schemes that got the employer-led funding. Bidding for the government funding has enabled us to start to train 250 people for free. That would have cost £10,000 each otherwise,” she said, adding that another success was having 700 apprentices now working within the industry.

Woodward also pointed to the growing take-up of BPIF consultancy advice services and supporting products. She highlighted that 225 companies now participate in the BPIF’s climate control levy scheme and 1,087 have now used BPIF insurance support services.

Further roll-out of such products would help combat a fall in membership income for the organisation of around £300,000 from last year, added BPIF finance director Michael Gardner. He reported that the drop was due to a drop in membership, which itself was down to a gradual decrease of companies in the industry and the number of individuals within these.

The “skeleton in the closet” continued to be the BPIF’s ongoing pension deficit, which, as a result of an increase in pension liability bond yields, inflation rates and mortality tables, increased from £1.1m to £1.8m this year.

Gardner reported, however, that a successful outcome in August of a tribunal reassessing the BPIF’s obligation to pay VAT on membership subscriptions, could help reduce this deficit. The decision on whether the BPIF can be considered equivalent to a trade union and so exempt from this tax, could deliver a £5/6m rebate.

Gardner also highlighted that the BPIF’s net surplus, after pension deficit deductions, was up to £17,000 this year, compared to £3,000 last and a net loss of £268,000 in 2011.

Opening the AGM, president of the BPIF Tony Garnish said: “We have not let this year’s successes distract us from what really needs to be done in regards to the deficit. But successes such as the management programme are a real tangible outcome of a new self-belief we have in the federation.”