A FORMER fundraiser at one of the region’s top visitor attractions has been given a £85,000 settlement over claims he was unfairly dismissed.
Philip Spencer, ex-director of development at Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, said he had been forced out of his £80,000-a-year role after raising concerns over the use of donations to the attraction and problems with the Garden’s website.
Yesterday the employment tribunal in Newcastle was halted as the two sides reached an agreement in which Mr Spencer was given £65,000 compensation, £20,000 towards costs and a job reference.
“I think it was a grown-up thing to settle and realise what I said was perfectly true,” he said.
A spokesman for Alnwick Garden said the charity was “delighted” to have reached a settlement with Mr Spencer but added the trust would continue to defend itself against any claims it considered to be “spurious”. Mr Spencer’s tribunal had heard evidence from the Garden’s managing director David Ronn – who himself faces redundancy, to be replaced by the Duchess of Northumberland – that Mr Spencer had questioned how donations were being spent and raised concerns that a new £140,000 website and online ticketing system could breach rules on collecting gift aid.
Mr Ronn had also told of huge financial problems at the Garden last year, but the spokesman moved to reassure people that the formerly floundering attraction, which attracted 3.8m visitors in its first 10 years and has contributed £150m to the North East economy, was back on an even keel.
The tribunal was told by Mr Ronn that at least part of the disputed donations had been paid back to Alnwick Garden Trust by Alnwick Garden Enterprises, its business arm, and put towards funding the Jamie’s Ministry of Food classroom that was opened by the Prince of Wales last July.
The Garden spokesman said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the claimant. The trust will always vigorously defend against what it considers as spurious claims.
“Along with many other businesses, during what is a tough economic time, the trust has experienced financial issues and difficult decisions had to be made.
“As a result, the business is reclaiming a financially stable position and is moving forward with confidence.
“The Alnwick Garden Trust has always worked within the rules governing charities and we look forward to another successful year delivering our charitable projects, unique events programme and ultimately great value days out for visitors.”
I think it was a grown-up thing to settle and realise what I said was perfectly true