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Gloucestershire Business News

BREAKING NEWS: Police move on charity's missing £460,000

Gloucestershire police have confirmed that they have interviewed under caution an employee of the county's Barnwood-based Age UK charity, following the identification of a black hole in the charity's accounts which dates all the way back to 2016.

And amid the developing story, the charity's Gloucestershire boss has spoken to Punchline-Gloucester.com on what he stresses to be an entirely separate decision to stand down.

BNN Breaking News has reported that the future of Age UK Gloucestershire, which relies heavily on donations, could be uncertain due to the financial blow dealt by the fraud.

The global news website said: "The charity is focused on maintaining transparency throughout this crisis and is committed to implementing measures to prevent such fraudulent activities in the future. However, the loss of nearly half a million pounds is a severe setback that puts the future of the charity and its ability to continue supporting those in need in peril."

A file passed to officers in Gloucester accuses the charity's county operation of losing almost £460,000 in what police believe may be a "sizeable systemic fraud".

In reaction to the news, Gloucestershire's Age UK chief executive Matt Fellows voiced profound concern and stressed that the loss severely hampers the charity's ability to operate effectively.

Mr Fellows said: "With this money we would have been able to do so much more. We're talking about 5-6% of our annual income, so we would have been able to do 5-6% more. That funding would have been huge."

Age UK was "really worried about the future", he said. "We rely on individual donors. What we want to do is be really open and transparent about the fraud itself but also the response to it and making sure that it can't happen again."

A red flag was first raised in July 2023, when a finance manager identified a payment on their accounts that did not match the budget.

In a LinkedIn message posted yesterday, Mr Fellows signalled that he is looking to step down from the leadership role.

He said: "I have been remarkably fortunate to lead the team at Age UK Gloucestershire towards our vision of making Gloucestershire the best county in which to grow older.

"There is still much to do, but the team are not short of passion, enthusiasm and commitment. They are looking for the right person to lead them forward. Could that be you?"

When asked to expand on his decision, Mr Fellows told Punchline-Gloucester.com: "I am leaving Age UK Gloucestershire at the end of next month. An interim CEO has been appointed and the permanent replacement for me was advertised for recruitment last Friday with the hope an individual will have been selected, appointed and started by the spring.

"I live in Herefordshire and will be moving to a role with a larger, but aligned charity which is very much closer to home, and a significant development opportunity. The recruitment process for that role was many months ago and I am working hard to ensure that I leave the charity in the best possible situation at the end of my four-month notice period.

"My departure is in no way linked to the incident. I have loved every minute of leading the passionate, enthusiastic and forward-thinking team of colleagues and volunteers at Age UK Gloucestershire and will be very sad to leave them but am committed to ensuring the future of the organisation is as secure and sustainable as possible before I move on."

Punchline-Gloucester.com also approached Age UK for comment. 

A spokesperson at Age UK said: "We can confirm that a police investigation is underway regarding a former employee from Age UK Gloucestershire. As this is an on-going investigation, Age UK Gloucestershire are supporting the police with their enquiries and no other comment is possible at this time."

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