Fund admits it made a mistake in awarding cash to anti-hunting group

Calor Gas has admitted it made a mistake in giving £5,000 to the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) – and is in discussions over the future of the grant.

The Calor Rural Community Fund, an annual initiative open to countryside communities and organisations, awarded the cash to LACS for a wildlife sanctuary to act as an “educational hub”.

Yesterday (17 September), the Countryside Alliance asked supporters to email Calor in protest at its decision to give a grant to an organisation it claimed was “riddled by mismanagement” and “responsible for community division”.

When contacted by H&H yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Calor said that although LACS’ application for funding had been made “in good faith”, it had since become apparent that it was not compliant with the scheme’s rules.

“As such, Calor has inadvertently committed an oversight by incorrectly applying the scheme rules on this occasion,” the spokesman said.

“We would like to emphasise that the fund has always been non-political in its nature and Calor regrets any offence this oversight has caused. The rural communities we serve are at the heart of our business and we would not intentionally act in a manner that would jeopardise these relationships.

“Our intent is to safely provide the energy needs for the homes and businesses in rural communities and not take a position on any of the complex issues affecting these areas. We will continue to develop the Calor Rural Community Fund and a thorough review of the due diligence process will be completed ahead of any further activity.”

Asked whether the money would be rescinded, the spokesman said it had been committed “some time ago”, and that Calor is in discussion with LACS over it.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The Countryside Alliance welcomes the decision to admit publicly that it was an ill-informed judgement call by Calor to grant this controversial and divisive group with funding.

“We sincerely hope that as the rules have not been complied with by their own admission, that the funding is either withdrawn or, if too late, returned and awarded to legitimate rural community projects. LACS is riddled by mismanagement and community division and evidently not a group that organisations such as Calor should be funding or associating with.”

A LACS spokesman declined to comment on whether it would return the money, as it had been awarded in error.

Deputy CEO Chris Luffingham said: “We submitted our application in good faith, and we are dismayed to see the level of vitriol levelled at Calor by a small section of the rural community that see the league as a threat and which can only recycle old, turgid and untrue accusations at our charity as a way to try to undermine the campaigning work we do to promote animal welfare.

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“Our education hub, in the heart of Exmoor, will be used to inspire local communities to come together through volunteering, to offer educational workshops, help them learn new skills and to increase their knowledge about the local wildlife, flora and fauna.”

In the past three years, the Calor Rural Community Fund has awarded £145,000 to projects from school playgrounds and village halls to scout facilities and educational projects.

This year’s scheme had more than 300 entries which were voted on by the public; those with the most votes went forward to an “impartial panel” which decided how the funding would be allocated.

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