West Lothian charity awards joy marred by resignation chaos

Willy Boyle with Harry Cartmill and John McGinty
Willy Boyle with Harry Cartmill and John McGinty

The board of a trouble-hit West Lothian charity have all quit their posts, leaving their successors to deal with an urgent cash crisis.

Voluntary Sector Gateway West Lothian (VSGWL) directors resigned after a letter from Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil is said to have bluntly stated the board had lost the trust and confidence of those it was intended to serve.

Now a new interim board is in place, but is already facing money problems with funds set to run out next month.

In a website announcement the interim directors say they face “formidable challenges” after what has been a “turbulent” year – and outline a six point plan to turn the situation around.

VSGWL is said to have received more than £1 million in grants and donations in recent years.

At the charity’s recent awards ceremony, the organisation lauded community charity volunteers for their efforts throughout the year.

But this week all directors had left, including the chairman, Bathgate SNP councillor Willie Boyle – who failed to return calls.

VSGWL is publicly funded, and seeks to give advice and support to charities while acting as a link between these organisations and West Lothian Council.

The council had earlier lodged a freedom of information request to gain access to a Scottish Government-commissioned report on the charity.

It’s understood this report may now be published, as it won’t be needed to inform a separate enquiry by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Jim Dixon, executive councillor for voluntary organisations, said: “The council has had concerns about the governance of VSGWL for a long time and given that the board has resigned en masse that is an indication that our concerns were not without foundation.

“We therefore welcome this opportunity for a fresh start for the VSGWL Board.”

But he added the council has been told VSGWL’s cash will run out at the end of January because all reserves have been used.

“This extremely difficult financial situation has only come to light in the last 24 hours.

“These are exceptional circumstances and we will work with the board to identify their short term funding needs and identify what support can be provided. “The council will work with the new board and staff to ensure VSGWL has a positive future.”