Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 06:24 UK

Rescue centre 'mismanaged money'

Westlea Animal Rescue centre
The centre is now closing down

A Gloucestershire animal rescue centre has closed after evidence of serious financial mismanagement was uncovered.

Derek Holland, trustee of Westlea Animal Rescue, stood down after admitting he failed to declare more than 34,000 in the charity's accounts.

The BBC also found up to 600 a week raised from a shop run by the centre's owners was not being accounted for.

Owners Stella and George Harris said all the money was spent on costs associated with the centre.

Mr Holland, who oversees the registered charity's accounts, failed to tell the Charity Commission about the money left in a will from the sale of a property in 2003.

'Aware of concerns'

Instead, he filed accounts showing an income of just 5,987 and outgoings of 5,392.

He said: "I was doing it under pressure. I didn't want to get an accountant in just for a one-off situation.

"It appeared on our expenditure list and we have got cheques and invoices to balance it up so no-one has actually not spent it on the charity.

"If I have failed then it's my responsibility and I have to say 'right-ho, I give up'."

Mr and Mrs Harris also admitted a shop they were operating in Ross-on-Wye had been actively portrayed as supporting the registered charity.

None of the money raised has appeared on the charity's accounts.

It is kept by Mr and Mrs Harris in a box at the sanctuary and no detailed accounts are kept of how it is spent.

The couple said it had only ever been used for cash-in-hand payments to two members of staff or for animal feed.

Vets bills are met by a separate organisation, the Friends of Westlea.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "The Charity Commission is aware of the concerns relating to Westlea Animal Rescue. We are currently considering the appropriate way forward with regard to these concerns."

The centre, near Coleford, is now being closed down and steps are being taken to rehome all of the animals.

For the full story, watch Inside Out West on BBC One in the West region on Friday at 1930 BST.


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