Regulator re-opens Air Ambulance Service case after admitting previous advice 'fell short'

The move comes after The Sunday Times newspaper made allegations about the running of the charity yesterday

The Charity Commission has re-opened an investigation into an air ambulance charity after admitting its previous advice to the charity "was open to misinterpretation" and "fell short of our procedures".

The commission published a case report into the Air Ambulance Service in 2015, which accused the charity of "serious governance failings".

It said the charity’s processes for managing a fundraising event in 2012 that lost £111,000 were "significantly inadequate" and amounted to a "serious failure" by trustees. The regulator added that it had given trustees an action plan to address failings.

But after a Sunday Times investigation published yesterday alleged chief executive Andy Williamson "abused his position" to satisfy a fascination with celebrities, the commission admitted its previous investigations were flawed and that it had opened a further regulatory compliance case.

The charity denied any wrongdoing. 

The regulator said in a statement today it had used language in a letter to the charity's trustees in February 2017 that was "clumsy and open to misinterpretation".

It said: "In light of this, and new concerns that have been raised with us about this charity, we have reopened our regulatory compliance case into the Air Ambulance Service".

It added: "Our actions in this case fell short of our procedures and were not dealt with in line with our regulatory approach."

The regulator said the purpose of its new inquiry was to "investigate specific concerns raised with us and to establish more broadly whether the trustees are fulfilling their legal duties and responsibilities, including in overseeing their staff and ensuring that the charity is run for the benefit of the public".

According to The Sunday Times, the air ambulance service hired the Sincura Group, a luxury concierge service, in March 2016 to raise extra funds. It said Williamson was given a complimentary membership, which he failed to declare on his register of interests.

The charity, which has annual income of about £16m, runs air ambulance services covering Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.

The charity said its contract with Sincura lasted only from March 2016 to July 2016 and Williamson’s complimentary membership was not declared because it fell between updates. It denies any wrongdoing.

A spokesman said: "We always act in the best interest of the communities we serve and are proud that the money we’ve raised has funded more than 30,000 missions in the past fifteen years."

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