Welcome for Arthritis Care chief

Arthritis Care's new chief executive is the right man for the job but he will have to work hard to rebuild trust between its board and regional branches, according to its members.

Neil Betteridge, acting chief executive since January and formerly the charity's public affairs director, was officially announced as the new head last week.

"The board lost the trust of an awful lot of branches," said Arthritis Care member and former regional treasurer Liz Kwantes. "Many will just sit on the sidelines and see how things go before they decide whether to involve themselves fully with it again."

Previous chief executive William Butler resigned last October, soon after Arthritis Care members narrowly failed to oust the entire trustee board.

They succeeded, however, in stopping controversial plans to change the charity's branch structure, which would have expelled branches that did not fundraise, campaign or provide information.

Kwantes, founder of Arthritis Grassroots, the members' group that led the opposition to the restructuring plans, said: "I think Neil is the right man for the job. He knows the inner workings of Arthritis Care and he's a very dedicated person."

Betteridge has already instigated regular meetings between chairs of regional groups and the board in order to discuss plans and build bridges.

"People feel less threatened now there is no hidden agenda," he said.

"I am sure there will be things we disagree on, but the difference is that there is communication and a willingness to work together on all sides."

Betteridge admitted that it would be "complacent to think that their trust can be rebuilt overnight", but he said he had been encouraged by the positive response to his appointment.

Kwantes said she had one concern about Betteridge: his lack of financial management experience.

Arthritis Care is currently operating on a £200,000 deficit, despite a recent fundraising drive. "There was some negative feedback on the push," said Kwantes. "It didn't go down well after the uproar of last year. People were thinking: 'We've done so much to remain part of the charity, why are we being asked for more?'"

But Betteridge insisted plans were in place to get costs down and said members could look forward to "great security and stability" with his appointment.

ALSO...

Liz Kwantes, the former regional treasurer of Arthritis Care, plans to launch a new web-based charity called Arthritis Connections this year.

It will be aimed at people "left with nowhere to turn" by the closure of some of Arthritis Care's regional branches. The south-east and south-west branches of Arthritis Care merged to form a single southern branch last year.

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