Air ambulance charity lost £111k on show tickets

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The Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) celebrated its seventh birthday in April.

Call-outs, which rely on fundraising and donations because there is no Government funding, are on the increase with 100 more missions being flown in 2014 compared to the year before.

In March this year alone there were 87 missions, with 29 of them attending emergencies in Leicestershire. The majority of call-outs were to road traffic collisions, with medical emergencies and sports injuries also ranking high.

Since the DLRAA started in 2008 it has provided a cutting-edge level of pre-hospital clinical care to over 6,700 missions, using paramedics who are trained to critical care standard, allowing them to perform a range of additional skills at the scene of an accident as well as on-board doctors able to bring the hospital to the patient.

The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS), which raises cash for the helicopter serving Leicestershire, Rutland and Derbyshire, bought tickets for the stage version of The Bodyguard, intending to sell them on to raise money, but many were never sold for the musical which received mixed reviews.

The commission, which received complaints about ‘significant losses’ made by the charity, has published a report saying the 2012 was ‘poorly planned’. Its report added: “We concluded the processes in place for managing the event were significantly inadequate and that this amounted to a serious failure on the part of trustees.”

The commission also received complaints about a £27,000 loan made by the charity to an senior employee without board members being informed until after the event.

Its report said: “It was not clear on what legal basis the loan was made. We established the loan was put in place by the CEO and the chair. The wider trustee board was only informed after the event.

“The trustees insist the loan was in the charity’s best interests, as it helped the charity retain a high performing member of staff. However, they remain unable to demonstrate that trustees made the decision properly and collectively at the time.

“The staff member in question is repaying the loan and payments are up-to-date.”

In response to the criticism over the 2012 incidents a spokesman for the Air Ambulance Service said lessons had been learnt. In regards to the fundraising event, he said that buying and reselling theatre tickets was ‘a method of fundraising used by other UK charities.”

He added: “Unfortunately the event was not commercially successful due to poorer than anticipated ticket sales. 2012 was a record year for fundraising for TAAS and this was the only event not to make a profit.

“TAAS now has in place an experienced fundraising team and robust strategy to ensure each event is profitable in its own right.”

Regarding the loan, the spokesman said: “The loan referred to in the report was a one-off and made to a valuable employee facing unforeseen personal circumstances. We’ve worked closely with the Charity Commission to ensure governance is tightened.”

In 2008 Melton Times readers helped raise more than £25,000 within about 10 weeks by supporting our fundraising campaign in aid of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA).

That was also the year Kirby Bellars man Michael Dilks was almost killed in a motorway crash, with Mr Dilks crediting the skill of the air ambulance doctor and crew and the speed of them getting him to hospital for saving his life.

Mr Dilks went on the raise thousands of pound for the service and starred in a TV fundraising and awareness campaign for the DLRAA.

Speaking after the Charity Commission’s criticism of TAAS, which flies the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, Mr Dilks said he’d become ‘disillusioned’ with the charity’s commercial interests and, although he continues to make a monthly donation, he no longer raises money for them.

He said: “When I raised £11,000 I was very curious as to how much of that went into keeping the air ambulances flying. The crews are amazing and deserve better.”

In response TAAS said the Charity Commission had best practice guidelines, covering how much of a charity’s income could be invested in fundraising campaigns or spent on running costs. A spokesman said it ‘had always been comfortably within these parameters.

The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS) is launching its first ever Air Ambulance Week appeal next month and is appealing for help from supporters in Melton, Leicestershire and Rutland to keep its lifesaving helicopters in the sky.

The service is aiming to turn cities, towns and villages bright yellow by handing out thousands of pin badges in exchange for donations.

It says every rescue mission it flies across Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire costs £1,700 – funded by donations as it receives no Government funding.

Supporters are being urged to sign up to join an army of collectors out on the streets handing out our new yellow cross pin badges in exchange for donations. Fundraising slots are two hours long. Most collections will take place on Saturday, September 26. For more details visit https://www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/give/

Two women from Rutland are urging people to come forward to help set up a group of volunteers to provide fundraising for the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA).

Jo Payne and Charlotte Marson, from the DLRAA, want to create a Rutland and Melton group to help with fundraising.

Jo said: “It’s working in other towns across our region and it would be great to set up another one in Rutland and Melton. Some people find it hard to give money, but they can help us by giving support.”

If you are interested in volunteering contact the Air Ambulance on 08454 130999.