Decision to stop running hotels could cost Action for Blind People more than £1m

The charity's latest accounts give an estimate for the maximum it might have to pay in redundancy and dilapidation costs from three premises which cater for blind and partially sighted people

Windermere Manor
Windermere Manor

Action for Blind People could have to pay up to £1.1m to cover redundancy and dilapidation costs at three hotels it has announced it will stop running.

Last month, the charity said that it was going to stop running the Cliffden in Teignmouth, Devon, the Lauriston in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and Windermere Manor in the Lake District because the hotels, which cater for blind and partially sighted people, would require a "significant subsidy" to continue operating over the next three years.

Two of the hotels, the Cliffden and Windermere Manor, are owned by Guide Dogs, and all three are up for sale. The three hotels employ a combined 71 staff.

Action for Blind People’s latest accounts, covering the year to 31 March and published on the Companies House website this week, say that closure costs for the hotels, including redundancy and dilapidations, are not expected to exceed £1.1m.

The accounts value the Lauriston Hotel at £300,000, and income from all three hotels was £2.6m over the year, with expenditure of £2.7m.

The accounts also confirm that the charity plans to stop running the hotels during the six months after 25 August, and that it is exploring with Guide Dogs "alternative leisure options so that blind and partially sighted people can holiday freely with the confidence that their needs will be met". 

Options to transfer ownership of the hotels in their current form are also being considered, the accounts say.

An Action for Blind People statement said: "As a responsible charity and employer, Action for Blind People has to be prepared for all eventualities. Although Action for Blind People’s latest accounts include an estimate of up to £1.1m to cover the potential expenses of withdrawing from the Vision Hotels, we continue to do everything we can to sell them as going concerns.

"If this is the case there would not be any redundancy costs and if any dilapidations costs were necessary they will be negotiated between Guide Dogs and Action for Blind People."

The charity’s latest accounts also show that total income was £27.9m, compared with £14.1m in 2015, although £19m was received from the RNIB under the terms of a new partnership agreement between the charities, a £12m increase on the previous year.

The two charities have had an association agreement with each other since 2009 and more than 400 RNIB staff transferred to Action for Blind People last year. 

Expenditure was £28.4m, compared with £18.8m the previous year.

This was due to increased activity – the accounts say there would have been a £17m increase in expenditure if the changes had been in place for the whole financial year.

The accounts show the charity had a net unrestricted expenditure of £0.6m, £1.7m less than planned due to the delayed implementation of an expansion of its eye clinic liaison officers programme.

Staff costs were £15.3m, compared with £11.5m the previous year, according to the latest accounts.

The charity's highest earner was paid between £100,001 and £110,000.

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