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Website attacks directors' salaries at Fire Fighters Charity

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Website attacks directors' salaries at Fire Fighters Charity2

Finance | Tania Mason | 1 Dec 2010

A website has been created to highlight the "excessive" salaries paid to directors at the Fire Fighters Charity.

The site, called ‘Our Ben Fund!’ urges supporters of the charity to consider stopping donating to and fundraising for it in protest at the “excessive salaries” and “inflated operating costs” incurred by its management.

The site’s authors, understood to be serving and retired firefighters, have combed the charity’s latest annual accounts to establish that in 2009/10 it paid five staff salaries that ranged from £70,000 to £130,000.  

They also compare the salary of the Fire Fighters Charity chief executive – between £120,000 and £130,000 - with those paid to the CEOs at Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund and SSAFA Forces Help. All these charities have higher income and lower fundraising costs than the Fire Fighters Charity, but pay their chief executives less, according to the site.

Mystery still surrounds CEO’s post

The website does not shed any light on whether the charity’s chief executive Jan Barlow is still employed there or not, following the charity’s refusal to answer Civil Society’s recent questions about the situation.

However, it does confirm that other directors have recently resigned, contradicting the charity’s denials last week. The website quotes Keith MacGillivray, the charity’s chair, as responding to claims about the high salary levels on 15 September: 

“The posts of fundraising and communications director and HR director were advertised in The Sunday Times on 5 September 2010,” he said. “These posts are not new posts within the charity. The roles have existed for many years and pre-date the appointment of the current chief executive.

“The current recruitment is to replace one director who left in August, and another who will be leaving the charity early in 2011. Similarly, the post of director of operations, which was advertised at the end of June 2010, was to replace a long-standing vacancy for a role which had also existed in the charity for many years.

“The remuneration of the charity’s chief executive and directors is set by the board of trustees, not by the chief executive. The levels of remuneration of the senior management team is a matter of public record…and is in line with other similar roles across the charity sector.”

'We must pay market rates'

McGillivray went on to say that the charity is a “complex organisation” that “must attract high calibre individuals”.

“This requires that we pay market rate for the roles, particularly given our location outside of London.”

He also said: “It is deeply regrettable that a small number of serving and retired members of the Fire & Rescue Services should behave in such an unprofessional and ill-informed manner by attacking our new chief executive, Jan Barlow, in such a personal way for undertaking her role in implementing the direction set by the charity’s trustees.”

The website publishes a number of comments from unnamed supporters of the charity who claim to be outraged by the content on the site and threaten to withdraw their support for the charity.  It also publishes an email from Dave Smith, volunteer regional fundraising co-ordinator for the Fire Fighters Charity in the West Midlands, who describes the website as cynical, amateurish and unprofessional and suggests the authors should have complained to the charity through the proper channels rather than setting up an anonymous website to undermine its work.

Still 'no comment' from Fire Fighters Charity

The Fire Fighters Charity refused to answer any questions from Civil Society, reiterating its statement last week that it does not comment on any matters relating to staff.  Asked about the salary levels, it said it had nothing to add to MacGillivray's statement of 15 September.

Pay ratios survey

Civil Society Media has this week launched a survey to establish pay ratios among charities in the sector.  Click here to take part.

Stewart Stacey
2 Dec 2010

Interesting that they use being outside London as justification for high "market rate" salaries - most people use being INSIDE London as the reason for that!

Pete
Life Exp Project
2 Dec 2010

Without prejudice:

Googling this subject seems to present a number of UK and Stateside websites all addressing the salary values of charity executives. In tough austere times we do this, especially if you have experience the loss of a job (like I did in 2008 right at the very beginning of all of this) and those in 2009 and 10 and very possibly in 2011 as well.

When times are hard every penny counts, including those pennies that people have paid out for for welfare and help during job loss or any other time of hardship. It is right to question publicly accountable bodies where the money goes for welfare and support costs and services, but the question of salaries and pay are matters to be discussed with those decision makers - ie: Board of Directors and using methods established in charity law to raise questions in legitmate ways, which then have to be answered under the same charity laws.

I have had direct experience of dealing with a public service benevolent fund before and have come across others where these kind of questions are asked - very often it's the way you ask them that get's the result not projecting feelings which while people might agree with, still don't get you the answers you seek.

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