Alzheimer's Society defies protest over branch closure

Outgoing chief executive Neil Hunt says tensions between local branches and central office are not the reason for his departure

The outgoing chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society has defended the decision to close 240 local branches and impose a more centralised structure.

The charity's planned merger of the branches into 49 regional centres on 1 April has led to a backlash.

At least two branches - Sunderland and Guernsey - have set up rival groups and others have voiced their disapproval.

The committee of the Bailiwick of Guernsey branch resigned to form the Guernsey Alzheimer's Association. Had they stayed, they would soon have been controlled by a regional manager at Dorchester in Dorset. "The society has been funded by the ground upwards, not from the top down," said Michael Tanguy, chair of the branch.

Roger Newman, a committee member of the Canterbury and District branch, said volunteers would not join the new structure. "We're dispirited and disillusioned," he said.

The society's chief executive, Neil Hunt, who is due to leave at the end of February, said branches wrongly feared the London head office was raiding local coffers because they would no longer have control over local finances.

"It's always difficult to find a balance between central and local needs, but we want to make sure we don't miss any opportunities because we're not structured properly," he said.

Hunt, who does not have a job to go to, denied claims made to Third Sector by a staff whistleblower that his departure was linked to tensions between head office and local branches. "I have been here seven years and don't want to go on indefinitely," he said.

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