Crisis-hit Citizens Advice Scotland may be offloaded to Holyrood

Alex Neil MSP with Margaret Lynch, since sacked as chief executive. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Alex Neil MSP with Margaret Lynch, since sacked as chief executive. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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The UK government is believed to be considering offloading troubled Citizens Advice Scotland on to the Scottish Government amid on-going governance problems at the charity.

Westminster’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) looks set to wash its hands of the crisis-hit umbrella group, amid claims that the board, under the leadership of chairman Dominic Notarangelo, has too tight a grip on decisions.

Former treasurer Stephen Brown, who stepped down from the board in March after just four months in the role, branded Mr Notarangelo a “frustrated chief executive” who interferes in the day to day running of the organisation, which oversees 61 Citizens Advice Bureaux in Scotland.

Funding for Consumer Advice and Advocacy transferred from BIS to the Scottish Government earlier this week as part of the Scotland Act settlement, but it is believed that the UK government is considering a complete transfer.

CAS is undergoing an external governance review after chief executive Margaret Lynch was dismissed in March for gross misconduct six months after she was first ­suspended from her role, pending an investigation into her expenses and use of the company credit card.

“Dominic is very hands-on,” said Mr Brown, who remains as finance director of the North Ayrshire Citizens Advice Service, a post he has held for almost four years.

“It is as if he doesn’t know the difference between a board of trustees and a chief executive. He is a frustrated chief executive.”

Mr Brown told The Scotsman he stepped down after concerns he raised about the administration of CAS’s Development Fund – a pot of money earmarked for the running of CAS itself – were ignored. Nine chief executives have departed CAS during Mr Notarangelo’s tenure as board chairman began in 2009.

In March, the UK government issued a warning that CAS needed to follow a series of actions and said its funding would be restricted to the next six months – unless significant improvement was noted.

A senior source who no longer works for CAS said the UK Government hoped to offload the organisation on to the Scottish Government.

“Of course they want to wash their hands of it,” the source said. “They don’t want anything to do with CAS and would love to see it offloaded to the Scottish Government. The governance problems have forced them into this position.”

Citizens Advice Scotland said that the organisation was “not on the brink of collapse” and said that there were no plans for funding to be transferred.

A spokesman said: “Funding for Consumer Advice and Advocacy transferred from BIS to the Scottish Government yesterday, as part of the Scotland Act settlement. BIS remains the core funder for CAS and there are no plans for this to change.”

Mr Notarangelo did not respond to requests for comment.

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