Derbyshire's Wendy Watson insists she did not 'help herself' to £31k in charity funds

Wendy Watson.
Wendy Watson.

The founder of a well-known Derbyshire charity has insisted she did not 'help herself' to £31,000 in funds.

The National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline was set up by Wendy Watson, of Over Haddon, near Bakewell, in 1996 and to date has helped many thousands of women.

Today it emerged the Charity Commission has issued its first official warning to the good cause after it made 'unauthorised payments'.

Mrs Watson - who became Britain's first woman to have both breasts removed at the age of 38 in a desperate bid to avoid the cancer which has stalked her family - told us: "Some journalists are making out I've 'helped myself' to money - but that's not the case.

"The money was authorised by an accountant.

"I've received some terrible advice from an accountant and a solicitor.

"In the last five years, I've been paid for one year.

"For the majority of the time, I've done everything for free.

"I've volunteered to give the charity so much of my time - it's cost me tens of thousands of pounds to keep the helpline going and it's helped so many people, it's helped save lives.

"I've received so many lovely letters from people."

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Accounts reveal that in 2014-15 the charity's total expenses were £909,634 - of which £27,403 was listed as being spent on 'charitable activities' - with £874,539 used for 'fundraising expenses and other costs'.

The next financial year, total expenses were £947,824 - of which £929,975 was spent on 'charitable activities'.

The accounts also show the charity owed Mrs Watson £62,000 after she gave the cash in an unsecured loan - with trustees approving a repayment of £30,000.

The figures from 2015-16 reveal her daughter, Becky Measures, was paid £17,849 in salary and expenses during the year for work as a fundraiser.

The Charity Commission said the good cause's trustees 'committed a breach of trust or duty' after 'making unauthorised payments to a connected person' and 'entering into an informal loan agreement with a connected person'.

According to a report, Mrs Watson quit as a trustee in October 2016 - but the Charity Commission said the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline allowed the former chairwoman to 'make key decisions about the operation of the charity, despite having resigned'.

It added: "Given the nature and seriousness of the issues, the trustees were given a chance to resolve them but failed to fully comply with the action plan to do so.

"The commission concluded it was appropriate and proportionate to issue the charity with an official warning to promote compliance.

"The warning specifies the actions the commission considers the charity needs to take to resolve the outstanding and prevent further breaches."