News analysis: How Heyday payout was calculated

Annual accounts include details of payment to former head of trading arm.

Gordon Lishman and ACE's annual report
Gordon Lishman and ACE's annual report

All this year, Age Concern England has declined to answer detailed questions about the finances of Heyday, its unsuccessful membership organisation for people over 50, saying that the relevant figures would be published in its 2006/07 annual report and accounts.

That report, published last week, does contain new figures, but does not give readers a full picture of the situation. This is partly because the accounts cover only one year, and money was first invested in Heyday in 2004.

However, ACE has simultaneously produced an explanatory note on Heyday covering three years, saying this is available to anyone who asks for it. The summary confirms that the total invested so far in Heyday is £16.4m - £3.5m so far of £5m allocated from the charity's reserves, and the rest from commercial partners (Third Sector, 1 August).

On the subject of the £815,000 payment last autumn to Tony Page, however, the accounts are not easily understood. Page was the managing director of Age Concern Enterprises (Acent), the charity's trading arm, and led Heyday until he left after a dispute last summer.

Full disclosure

A draft of the ACE accounts contained no reference to the amount paid to Page. But a memo to ACE from its accountants Grant Thornton, which has been seen by Third Sector, said that a fuller disclosure should be made in order to comply with accounting standards.

The last of the notes to the published accounts is called 'related party disclosures' and states that Acent was charged £328,000 excluding VAT by Page's company, Network Enterprises Ltd. This comprised £90,000 "for the assignment of intellectual property rights from NEL to Acent in respect of new business ventures"; £80,000 "for an agreement on commercial confidentiality and other protection of Acent's business interests"; and £158,333 "for consultancy services after waiving unpaid/unclaimed expenses relating to a 16-month period". The note concludes: "As at 31 March 2007, the balance owed to NEL was nil (2006: £571,574)."

It is understood that the £815,000 payment to Page, which is confirmed in the memo from Grant Thornton, was the figure obtained when the sum of £328,000 and £571,574 - which is £899,574 - was adjusted downwards.

A spokesman for Age Concern said: "As Third Sector will know if it has seen that private correspondence, it would be inaccurate to suggest that ACE's professional staff were in any way seeking not to comply with a clear-cut accounting standard."

The confirmation of the size of the payment to Page is the latest of a series of embarrassments over Heyday. These include the resignation of two other senior figures - Des LeGrys, chair of Acent, and Norman Biddle, chair of Age Concern Enterprises Holdings (Third Sector, 14 February).

They also include the spectacular failure to meet recruitment targets of 300,000, initially by employing staff to sell subscriptions to people directly, and later by trying to persuade companies to pay for their staff to join. The latest figures from ACE are 44,000 members, 31,000 of whom were transferred from an existing ACE organisation.

Questions about Heyday have been raised by the Charity Commission, including whether an organisation targeting the over-50s could fall within the charitable purposes of ACE, which relate to "the elderly" (Third Sector, 16 May). There has been continuing criticism within the Age Concern federation, especially the London region, of ACE director general Gordon Lishman and chair Catherine McLoughlin (Third Sector, 19 September).

Veiled criticisms

The ACE leadership has fought back, producing an 18-page review of Heyday, seen by Third Sector, which makes veiled criticisms of Page and concedes that Lishman should have delayed last year's launch by six months when things started going wrong, but otherwise exonerates senior staff and trustees.

The preface to the report records, in a phrase also used in press statements, that the June trustee meeting voted "warmly and unanimously" to express its confidence in the chair and director general. It also says trustees decided no further inquiry was necessary and applauded the chair's deprecation of the tone of critics and the leaking of documents.

Two extra elements in this unstable mixture are a current review, using outside consultants, of ACE's complex governance structure, and an impending decision by Age Concern and Help the Aged about whether they should merge (Third Sector, 22 August). After such a merger, things might look very different.

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