Insolvency Service bans 'irresponsible' former chief of Lifeline Project for seven years

The service says Ian Wardle, 70, of Greater Manchester, entered the now defunct charity into payment-by-results contracts with 'unachievable targets', leading to its demise

The "irresponsible" former chief executive of the collapsed drugs charity the Lifeline Project has been banned as a company director for seven years after entering the charity into three payment-by-results contracts with "unachievable" targets, the Insolvency Service has said.

A statement from the Insolvency Service today said that Ian Wardle, 70, of Bolton in Greater Manchester, had entered into contracts without the necessary due diligence.

The Lifeline Project went into administration in March 2017 with a financial shortfall of £1.4m, before eventually being put into liquidation in June 2018.

Before its collapse, the charity had an income of £61.4m for the year to 31 March 2016.

All 1,300 jobs at the charity were eventually saved when the charity Change Grow Live took on approximately 1,000 staff and 40 projects from the Lifeline Project, with the rest moving to a number of other service providers and local authorities.

During its investigation, the Insolvency Service found that Wardle had entered into the payment-by-results contracts between August 2015 and January 2016 with various local authorities.

Because the contracts had "unachievable" targets, according to the Insolvency Service, this meant the charity was unable to pay a bill of £1.4m, causing the charity to go into administration.

Wardle, who had been chief executive of the charity for 24 years and whose LinkedIn profile says he is retired, was banned from being directly or indirectly involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company for seven years, the Insolvency Service said.

Robert Clarke, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: "This case highlights the damage an irresponsible director can do even to long-standing charities and businesses that have served their communities well for decades.

"The lengthy disqualification is a warning to other directors who handle charitable funds that the Insolvency Service stands ready to take action to prevent the infliction of further damage to the charity sector."

Third Sector was unable to contact Wardle for comment.

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