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RSPCA gets official warning over ‘six-figure’ pay-out to former boss

A probe was launched after acting head Michael Ward left in May amid reports he was paid a sum more than his £150,000 salary.

The RSPCA has been given an official warning by the charity watchdog after a reported six-figure pay-off to a former chief executive.

A probe was launched into the animal welfare organisation after acting head Michael Ward left in May amid reports he was paid a sum more than his £150,000 salary.

The Charity Commission has criticised RSPCA trustees for not ensuring the decision was made properly, “particularly given the large sum of money involved”.

The regulator found a group of the RSPCA’s trustees failed to ensure they were properly informed before making a settlement offer to Mr Ward and said they “failed to act with reasonable care and skill in negotiating” with the former executive.

The charity’s governance has fallen short which has led to people asking legitimate questions about the payout to the former executive David Holdsworth, Charity Commission

An official warning, which did not name Mr Ward or include details of his pay-out – concluded the failings amounted to “mismanagement in the administration of the charity”.

The RSPCA declined to comment on the settlement, but said its ruling council is “fully committed to the very highest standards of governance”.

The Charity Commission’s deputy chief executive, David Holdsworth, said: “The RSPCA is a much-loved national institution performing a crucial role in animal protection, with its staff and volunteers undertaking vital work.

“The public, and the RSPCA’s many members and supporters, need it to succeed and to deliver important benefits for society. They rightly expect that it should be run by its trustees to the highest standards.

The RSPCA ruling council is fully committed to the very highest standards of governance RSPCA spokeswoman

“Unfortunately, that has not been the case and the charity’s governance has fallen short which has led to people asking legitimate questions about the pay-out to the former executive.

“Issuing an official warning signals to the trustees that we expect them to resolve this important issue and take immediate steps to improve the charity’s governance.”

Mr Holdsworth described the use of formal legal powers as a “significant step”, adding the commission would not hesitate to take further regulatory action if the trustees do not act on the official warning.

He said the RSPCA’s appointment of a new chief executive, the election of a new council and the introduction of a new code of conduct provided an opportunity for a “fresh start” for the charity.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “The RSPCA ruling council is fully committed to the very highest standards of governance.

“Council continues to implement the recommendations of the governance review, with more than 90% of them completed, and is working hard with our new chief executive on the outstanding items.

She added: “Council remains united in its commitment to ensuring the RSPCA is a modern, outward looking organisation that is fully focused on pursuing our goal of creating a world which is kinder to animals.”

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