At a Conservative Party Conference ‘Fringe Meeting’ held in the Hyatt Regency, Birmingham on 9th October the meeting organisers “The Air Ambulance Service” [TAAS] put forward what some viewed as some disturbing proposals.
Andy Williamson (the Chief Executive of TAAS) was advocating that all the separate Air Ambulance Charities in the United Kingdom merge together as “The Air Ambulance Service” and give up their individual county identities.
This line of thinking goes against the majority opinion of the many separate charity groups who rely `upon the fundraising being ‘local’ in nature to engender a feeling among the fundraisers and givers that they are looking after ‘their’ own helicopter rather than some large corporate monolith.
The fundraisers and the givers continually provide the necessary funding and this is because of the direct relationship between the people and their very own local charity.
The point of view was challenged from the floor of the meeting by a number involved with individual charities and Clive Dickin representing the Association of Air Ambulances [AAA] but Mr Williamson reportedly remained adamant that his proposals were the best way forward.
TAAS continues to push forward its own agenda in the air ambulance world. Some have declared this stance to be akin to domination of UK air ambulances in general. One clear example is the taking over of the ailing The Children’s Air Ambulance [TCAA] which, because it has been seen as being a ‘National’ charity, has allowed TAAS to undertake cross border fundraising in what have previously been the local areas of county air ambulance charities.
The AAA representing the majority of the charity groups, but not Andy Williamson’s grouping of two county air ambulance operations and TCAA, has been conspicuous in its inability to deter these raids on funding streams. There are no rules that stop cross-border fundraising but clearly the Gentleman’s Agreement is not working.
The late evening meeting hosted by TAAS was in the 50 seat Soprano Room and centred upon the subject of Public Service Reform: Getting it off the Ground. The speakers were Nigel Evans MP, Deputy Speaker – House of Commons and Andy Williamson, Chief Executive TAAS.
The fact that this was being billed as Public Service Reform also potentially cuts across future negotiations between police aviation [NPAS] and air ambulances so any souring of the atmosphere might have far reaching consequences.
This is a TAAS campaign with many venues. On September 25 David Brindle, Public Services Editor of The Guardian, chaired a panel discussion on the progress of the Government’s public service reforms at the Hilton, Metropole, Gloucester. That occasion was a Fringe Meeting at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference. Panel members included Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK, and Andy Williamson, The Air Ambulance Service.
One has to wonder just where the AAA are in what is apparently a very one sided campaign. Their logo makes no secret of their ambitions either!
Bryn Elliott – Police Aviation News
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