|Mark Clyndes and Age Concern|
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
"Mr. Mark Clyndes former chief executive of Age Concern Salford, said that he used 'creative accountancy' to keep the charity afloat during the past eight years."
"Dismissed for gross misconduct"
It was Mark Clyndes, agent for Green Tops who directed "Chainsaw Tuesday" as reported in the local press and the Hebden Bridge Web. Following the publicity given to this event, two cuttings have been sent to us about his involvement with Age Concern in Manchester in the 1980s. They are from the Guardian and Manchester Evening News.
From the Guardian, Saturday, 11th July 1987
Debts put old people's charity at risk
A charity for the elderly - Age Concern, Salford - faces debts of £45,000 and "needs: a rescue operation to save it from bankruptcy, a postponed annual meeting will be told on July 29.
The charity, which is an independent group under the umbrella of Age Concern, England, has been running some prestige projects funded by the Manpower Services Commission.
Mr. Mark Clyndes former chief executive of Age Concern Salford, said that he used "creative accountancy" to keep the charity afloat during the past eight years. "Perhaps I sailed closer to the wind than I should have done but all the blame is being put on my shoulders when only some of it rests there."
Mr. Clyndes joined Age Concern, Salford, as its only full-time official in 1979 at 22 after graduating from Preston Polytechnic. It had a small MSC grant for painting and decorating homes for old people.
He said that the MSC, then in its infancy, was anxious to prove that it could get people off the unemployment register. His group thought up a series of 12 month schemes to employ long-term unemployed and had its plans funded by the MSC.
He said: "To do these things we had to bend all the rules. The civil servants knew what we were doing but they wanted to show that they were getting people off the register and thought what we were doing was worth while. Throughout the eight years they inspected the books every three months. Everyone knew what was going on."
Age Concern, Salford, had a rolling programme of expansion for the next few years, employing up to 300 people at one time. Each year the MSC had to have new schemes to fund and the charity invented them.
Some of these attracted national attention including the first dial-a-ride scheme for old people. Another used a double decker bus as a mobile resource centre and the charity created a day centre for elderly people with severe mental problems who the health and local authorities had deemed "too destructive."
"We had an extremely high profile, were featured in thenational papers and subject to research projects by the Mental Health Foundation," said Mr. Clyndes.
The organisation grew too fast, he said. It soon had nine full-time staff. Money had to be borrowed from one set of projects to pay off others, and at the end of each financial year up to £50,000 had to be borrowed to keep the charity afloat with surpluses which would have been returned to the MSC.
Mr. Clyndes said that after the annual audit the money was paid back some months later out of new grants to keep the books straight, but at the end of each financial year the same process began again.
"We had to bend the rules, we had no alternative if we were to keep the charity afloat."
Mr. Clyndes claimed that the MSC and his own executive committee also knew about it. By August 1984, Mr. Clyndes said, the situation grew worse and the organisation was technically bankrupt.
Mr. Gerry Burke, regional field officer of the umbrella organisation, Age Concern, England who is acting chief executive of Age Concern, Salford, until the current crisis is resolved, denies that he approved the sanction. "I talked to Mr. Clyndes on a number of occasions about creative accounting. Putting available money to use is acceptable in this day and age but I was not aware of the details of what was going on and had I known I would not have sanctioned them," said Mr. Burke.
Mr. Clyndes said the executive committee did nothing about the unhealthy overdependence on MSC funds.
Mr. Clyndes said that in 1986 the MSC had begun to run its schemes more by the rule book and discouraged his use of creative accounting, particularly the transfers of surpluses from one scheme to fund deficits in another.
Mr. Clyndes claimed that he frequently warned the executive of the position, but last November could take no more and resigned. A month later, he said, he received a letter saying that his resignation was accepted and he was being dismissed for: "gross misconduct."
He said: "I admit I made mistakes, we were over ambitious; but we were held up as the shining example to other Age Concern groups to what could be done."
Mr. Burke said the executive committee hoped to have an accountants' report to present at the postponed annual meeting. He said the committee believed that the best option was to try to keep the charity afloat.
From the Manchester Evening News
Shock Facing Second Charity
A FINANCIAL storm which broke around a charity group provided another thunderbolt today.
Age Concern Salford first hit the headlines when its holding company Action on Ageing went into liquidation with debts of £120, 000.
More shocks came when a Manchester Evening News investigation uncovered details of a second charity company formed by three senior ACS officers.
The three were sacked after it was claimed they had acted without the knowledge of ACS chiefs and that charity funds had been transferred to the second company -Age Action - without authorisation.
Today it was revealed Age Action itself was heading towards liquidation.
The head of Age Action is Mark Clyndes, who until he was fired was chief executive of ACS and also secretary of Action on Ageing.
He said today: "We have called a meeting of creditors and the shareholders will meet beforehand to decide what we are going to do.
"But in all honesty, we have already decided that there is no way that we can continue. We estimate that we owe between £20,000 and £30,000 and we have already ceased trading."
A firm of accountants from Leeds is handling company affairs and the creditors will meet in that city on September 16.
Age Action was based in Hebden Bridge and operated the Gallery Gift Shop in Manchester's Arndale Centre.
Mr. Clyndes was sacked along with two other ACS officers June Guthrie and Graham Whittaker. The three became directors of Age Action along with Mr. Clyndes' wife, Andrea, herself a former ACS officer, and Darren Bethell, who had been made redundant as ACS training manager.
Meanwhile, ACS is holding talks with Salford Council and Salford Health Authority to try to clear its own debts of £45,000.
An ACS spokesman declined to comment on the latest development.
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