Air ambulance lost £111,000 on tickets

The Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance EMN-151002-122200001
The Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance EMN-151002-122200001

An air ambulance service has been criticised by the Charity Commission after it lost £111,000 buying tickets for a West End musical which it wasn’t able to sell on.

The Air Ambulance Service, which runs both the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland service and the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire service, as well as the Children’s Air Ambulance, 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 booking was ‘poorly planned’.

A spokesman for the Air Ambulance Service said lessons had been learned.

He added that buying and reselling theatre tickets was a “method of fundraising used by other UK charities”.

The Charity Commission’s report said: “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 a 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.”

The Air Ambulance Service spokesman said The Bodyguard event was “not commercially successful due to poorer than anticipated ticket sales”.

He added: “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 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.

l The Air Ambulance Service 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.

For more details visit https://www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/give/