RSPCA tight-lipped over claims that interim chief left after age discrimination row

The Times claims today that Michael Ward, who left the charity on Monday, was awarded 'a significant sum' after challenging the recruiting process

RSPCA headquarters
RSPCA headquarters

The RSPCA has declined to comment on claims that Michael Ward, its interim chief executive, left the charity with a significant pay-off amid a row over age discrimination.

The charity confirmed this morning that Ward, who had been interim chief executive since the sudden departure of Jeremy Cooper last year, had stepped down with immediate effect on Monday.

But it would make no comment on claims in The Times newspaper today that the 57-year-old Ward had been awarded "a significant sum" by the charity after he challenged the process for recruiting the chief executive because he believed he was turned down for the role because of his age.

The settlement was "understood to be far bigger" than the £150,000 salary offered to the RSPCA chief executive, The Times claimed.

Ward was due to continue as interim chief executive until the arrival of Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the relationships charity Relate, in August.

The RSPCA said it would not comment on employment matters, but confirmed Ward’s departure from the charity and said the charity’s deputy chief executive, Chris Wainwright, would step into the interim role.

Ward had been at the charity for 10 years and was serving as chief operating officer before taking over the interim role in July when Cooper resigned as chief executive with immediate effect after just over a year.

In a statement, the RSPCA said that after "10 very successful years" at the charity, Ward had decided to move on.

The statement said: "Michael has played an instrumental role in restoring the society’s financial health and has led a number of significant projects to modernise the society and transform how it functions.

"He has done an exemplary job as interim chief executive over the past 12 months. We wish him well in his future endeavours."

Sherwood will become the fifth person to fill the top job at the charity in a permanent or temporary capacity in four years.

Cooper’s stint as chief executive was preceded by more than two years in which the RSPCA did not have a permanent leader after Gavin Grant stepped down in 2014 for health reasons. Grant was in the role for just over two years.

Ward was one of the staff members at the charity who took on some of the chief executive’s duties between Grant’s departure and Cooper’s appointment.

The charity had an income of £143.5m in 2016, employs about 1,700 people and manages about 8,000 volunteers.

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