Two RSPCA trustees resign over management and governance concerns

Christopher Laurence and Sally Phillips cite issues at the animal charity, including the charity's vice chair acting as interim chief executive

Home of the charity
Home of the charity

Two RSPCA trustees have resigned citing concerns about the management and governance of the charity.

Resignation letters from Christopher Laurence and Sally Phillips, seen by Third Sector, express concern about the running of the animal charity, which has been without a chief executive since the resignation on medical grounds of Gavin Grant in February 2014.

David Canavan, vice chair of the charity, has been acting chief executive while a permanent replacement for Grant is found.

Laurence’s letter, dated February 2016, says he has been concerned for many months at the manner in which the charity has been governed and managed.

He says: "I have recently spent much time agonising over my continuance as a trustee and the potential risks to my personal reputation as a trustee of several other charities.

"I have regretfully come to the conclusion that I can no longer be perceived to support the current arrangements."

He says that if there is a significant external review of the charity’s governance in the future he would be delighted to return as a trustee.

Sally Phillips told Third Sector today that she had resigned as a trustee in September after serving for 13 years on the board.   

She says in her resignation letter that since the search for a new chief executive began a year ago she has become "concerned at the behaviour of the officers of the RSPCA and the selection group" set up to oversee appointment of the new person.  

She says the selection group had seen fit to amend the criteria for the role of the chief executive without referring back to the RSPCA council.

Phillips says the decision to appoint a trustee as acting chief executive and allow him to remain a trustee was an "appalling blurring of the governance and management of the RSPCA".

She says in the letter that she had questioned the existing governance structure of the RSPCA, arguing that it was unlikely to deliver the best possible trustee board because the candidates for election are drawn from a very "narrow pool of RSPCA members".

She also calls for changes to the way the charity's regional representatives are elected by a group of branches. "At the very least an outside independent body such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (of which the RSPCA is a member) should conduct a review of our governance," she says.

She says in the letter that RSPCA staff are being treated with a lack of professionalism, with many on short-term contracts. "Many good people have left because of their treatment," she writes. "This has allowed the acting CEO to proudly state that ‘compulsory redundancies have not been necessary' to reach the goals of the financial review."

She describes this as "appalling management rather any attempt to keep good staff".

She writes: "The failings of the council to properly address its governance role and put in place an effective management regime is adversely affecting the purposes of for which the society exists – animal welfare."

Phillips told Third Sector that she had informed the Charity Commission about her concerns but had not raised a formal complaint. 

A spokeswoman for the charity said it would not comment publicly on the reasons for the resignations.

"We can confirm two of our trustees have resigned since September," she said. "We would like to thank them for their service and contribution to the society during their time here."

Third Sector was unable to contact Laurence for comment.

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