Saturday 20 June 2009

No Government Compensation for Cats Protection

There will be no compensation for Cats Protection. I am very sad for the hundreds of thousands of cats who would have been helped indeed saved by Cats Protection but for the reckless investment of 11.2 million pounds (GBP) by the charity in rubbish Icelandic banks that have gone bust. It seems that this vast sum of money in terms of cat welfare is now lost as today we hear that the “Treasury rules out any help for charities that lost £120m in failed Icelandic banks” (Times Saturday June 20 2009). Cats Protection had hoped that the government would bail them out. Charities in the UK invested about £120 million in Icelandic banks and have almost certainly lost it (or most of it) when they went bust.

The Treasury said that it would set an unrealistic precedent to compensate the charities. Their stance rejects the recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee. That seems to be it. Although charities with a turnover of £6.5 million can seek help under the Government’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme larger charities are barred. I will presume that this bars Cats Protection. If I am correct that leaves them in the unenviable position of waiting years to receive perhaps pennies in the pound of monies invested when the bank’s assets are sold off.

Peter Hepburn, Cats Protection chief executive, is angry. I would have thought he would be scared to. He says, “ I feel incredibly angry…”. He wants to be bailed out. He shouldn’t be in a position where he needs to be bailed out. Responsibility rests with him ultimately for the loss of £11.2 million and he should go. It is a disgrace. He should have spread the investment far more widely. This was other people’s money. The charity held it on trust for the donors. Perhaps he was advised? Ill advised, if he was. The trouble is that the money men always give advice that benefits them. They are driven by self interest and forget about serving the client. Cats Protection found that out the hard way.

I must say I am shocked at the size of the sum of money that was held (and not spent) by Cats Protection. I feel very angry about that. There was and always is a massive obligation to spend money given by people to cat charities for the purposes for which they gave it, the welfare of cats. Of course, there has to be some money invested as it must be impossible to spend all monies received as it is received.

But how much money do you invest? The amount must be at a minimum. And the overall strategy, I say, should always have this in mind. In short the overall business plan of Cats Protection should be built around the premise that all monies received are spent on cat welfare (less the minimum cost of overheads and expenses of running the charity). I don’t believe that they think that way. I think they have gone soft. What I mean is the money was easy. There is no need to make money in a large charity. It just rolls in and this can generate a less than efficient attitude and I am convinced that this is the case with Cats Protection. I have evidence of it.

Their accounts for 2007 say that they aim to have one year’s operational expenditure. This is to protect against unexpected falls in income. This seems excessive. When in the history of Cats Protection did income completely dry up for one year? I would bet, never. I would be almost certain that income has been fairly regular for many years. And in any case any reserve funds must (yes that important) be invested in absolutely safe investments, namely bank accounts tha provide safe levels of interest.

Cats Protection run what I would describe as a rather old fashioned method of placing cats with people. Potential adopters are invited on their website to visit certain centres and select a cat. In the United States they have where people can search online for individual cats and then go and meet the cat. Many small cat rescue centres are affiliated with Petfinder, using their website to direct searchers to their rescue centre. This is far more efficient. I was surprised that Cats Protection did not use the same system. So I asked them why not?

First I phoned them and the person I spoke to, Zahir White, recommended that I email my query. When that sort of thing happens it looks bad to me. I sense defensiveness and uncertainty. It does not fill me with confidence that this charity is well organised. Anyway, I complied and emailed them. I received no answer. I re-emailed them as follows:

Hello Zahir

I emailed you at your request about 11 days ago. Here is a copy of the email:

Re: Enquiry why Cats Protection don't adopt the model of matching people with rescue cats

I write further to our telephone conversation today 20th March 2009, in which I asked why Cats Protection, the most established cat rescue operation in the UK, do not adopt the model, which might be considered a more efficient method of placing rescued cat with prospective adopter. works with rescue centers to mutual benefit and to the cat's benefit by allowing people to search for cats (including specific cat breeds) by town and region in the USA. Individual cats are presented and the location provided plus contact details. I would ask you, please, to use the Petfinder site whereupon I would look forward to hearing from you as to why you do not adopt such a method.
Thanks in advance
As I am yet to hear from Cats Protection, I should be pleased to receive a response.

That wasn’t great to be honest. Having complied with their request to email them I didn’t receive a response. I had to chase. Looks sloppy to me. I then received a response as follows:

Hi Michael

Many thanks for your email which was passed on to me by my colleague Zahir White. We are currently working on live rehoming pages for our main site which will be a fully searchable database of cats in our care ready for rehoming. The functionality of the site will allow users to search for cats by age, breed, colour etc and will offer a postcode search facility.

The new pages will draw in cats from our branch and Adoption Centre network.

Thank you again for your enquiry and suggestion, and all best wishes with PetFinder into the future.

Kind regards


James Blake

Communications Manager

So great news from James Blake. I wonder if the massive loss of funds will impact this?

I made a earlier post about this some time ago. At that time there was talk about a possible compensation scheme for charities generally as many had invested in these banks that in hindsight were very risky. It never worked out………

I feel for the cats that are being euthanized as a result of this huge loss of funding and the fact that there will be no compensation for Cats Protection. Do the people at Cats Protection feel this loss?

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