St Albans hospice patron quits over lottery no confidence vote

A LEADING supporter of Grove House, the St Albans day hospice, has resigned as a patron after a vote of no confidence over his acting chairmanship of the Hospice Lottery Partnership (HLP).

Although local retired businessman John Stocker has since received a letter of apology from all the other directors of HLP, he has decided not to continue as a patron of Grove House and has cut his ties with the lottery partnership which has raised over �200,000 for Grove House since 2008.

John’s decision is a blow for the hospice to which he has given substantial financial support – including loaning the money which enabled Grove House to become a member of the HLP in the first place. He also hosts an annual cocktail party at Grove House.

But he has concerns about the merger between Grove House and Iain Rennie Hospice at Home which came into effect at the beginning of April because he fears that funding for Grove House will inevitably be swept into the bigger organisation in the future and that the St Albans hospice will lose its identity.

He said that while statements had been made that money raised for each of the charities would be ring-fenced, Charity Commission rules meant that would have to cease by the end of the year and Iain Rennie and Grove House, now known together as Iain Rennie Grove House Hospice Care (IRGH), would become one charity.

The HLP is a fundraising organisation for seven Home Counties hospices including Iain Rennie and Grove House and John has been the Grove House shareholder representative on the board since 2008.

He has been acting chairman since Christmas following the resignations of the previous chairman and chief executive four months ago.

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But after meetings between the other directors without his knowledge, John was given a vote of no confidence with no reason given. As his position both within HLP and Grove House had been undermined, he immediately resigned.

It subsequently transpired that the ballot result had been misrepresented and a letter of apology was sent to him.

John, who will continue supporting Grove House but not as a patron, said this week: “My reputation has been impinged on and although I have had a full letter of apology, it doesn’t change my position which is now untenable.

“I accepted that in good faith and have dropped all legal proceedings against them. I got an MBE for my services to St Albans and the hospice movement and felt my good character had been defamed.”

IRGH chief executive Robert Breakwell described John as a most generous supporter of Grove House who would be greatly missed as a patron of the charity where he was liked, respected and valued.

He went on: “Everyone at Iain Rennie Grove House is grateful to John for his generosity and commitment to Grove House over many years and we are pleased that he has said he will continue to support Grove House.

“We will continue to keep John in touch with the development of services that we provide at Grove House where we are looking after more patients and families than ever before.”

Mr Breakwell added: “We know that John cares deeply about sustaining and building the services we provide for people in St Albans and the surrounding districts and are also aware of John’s influence and support for a wide range of worthwhile community initiatives in the St Albans area.”

The merger between the two hospices was agreed to create a stronger and more cost-effective organisation capable of raising greater funds for patients and their families.

One objective is to further extend services to patients with life-limiting conditions other than cancer, many of whom are not yet able to access the care they need.