FACT General Manager resigns

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A six hour council grilling leads to Joanne Philpott’s departure, with the organisation vowing to improve its procedures

Joanne Philpott (left) has resigned, with Training Manager Steve Shannon (right) taking on the role of temporary manager

Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) General Manager, Joanne Philpott, has resigned in the wake of a six-hour grilling from the audit committee of Cambridgeshire County Council.

The meeting was called following a lengthy investigation into FACT’s affairs, triggered by a sustained campaign from coach and taxi operators. The investigation resulted in a report almost 300 pages in length which identified up to £300,000 the organisation and its subsidiaries Huntingdonshire Association for Community Transport (HACT) and Ely & Soham Association for Community Transport (ESACT) potentially owed local authorities.

The organisations were accused of overstating demand and the size of their membership bases in order to gain funding. FACT had previously claimed the issues were historic and had been dealt with. Councils were also found to have not followed the correct procedures on several occasions.

FACT’s Vice-Chair, Cllor Kit Owen, said in a statement: “Trustee members who were present were left in no doubt that methods of operation needed to change. We have listened to the concerns and debate and to that end we will continue to work with the audit and accounts committee and the council to look at additional ways to improve our own procedures and how we operate.

“The trustees have not lost sight of the reason for its existence, to provide community transport to the most isolated, elderly and those with mobility issues. We heard loud and clear during the meeting that we need to explore the board membership and so we will introduce people with the skills and expertise to further enhance the top-quality community transport that we provide.

“FACT, HACT and ESACT Trustee boards have already appointed a finance and general purposes committee to ensure closer scrutiny of the general management of all three organisations. In addition to these actions we have already opened separate bank accounts to create a clear distinction between the community transport/Dial-a-Ride and the commercial activity and will have repaid all loans by end of August 2018.

“In light of recent events Jo Philpott has decided to resign from the organisations. We have appointed Steve Shannon as temporary manager, who has resigned as a trustee.

“We welcome the involvement and scrutiny of the county council and will be working closely with the county to ensure there are proper checks and balances – we can all do better. We remain committed to providing a community transport service that is seen as a lifeline for many especially in our very rural area where there is a lack of provision or other forms of transport that are maybe too expensive for some.”