Press release

Bolton charity boss banned for causing Lifeline Project to sink

7-year disqualification for Bolton CEO who caused charity to collapse by entering into contracts that set unachievable targets.

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Ian Wardle (70), of Bolton, was the CEO and de facto director of the Lifeline Project, a registered charity employing 1,300 employees across 90 sites throughout the country.

Incorporated in 1984, the charity provided drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to over 80,000 people across England and Scotland, including a number of prisoners.

The charity, however, called in insolvency practitioners in March 2017 after it was unable to pay its debts following a financial shortfall of £1.4 million. Just over a year later, in June 2018, the charity was placed in voluntary liquidation by the administrators.

The administrator’s report to the Insolvency Service triggered an investigation and enquiries revealed that, between August 2015 and January 2016, Ian Wardle had entered the charity into three Payments by Results (PbR) contracts with various local authorities.

A PbR contract is common in the health services industry, where payment is only made for services if certain pre-agreed targets are met.

Ian Wardle, however, signed these contracts without undertaking the necessary due diligence and failed to realise that the targets set were unachievable.

This resulted in the non-payment of more than £1.4 million – the shortfall that caused the charity to close.

On 2 May 2019 the Secretary of State accepted a disqualification undertaking from Ian Wardle of Bolton for a period of seven years.

Effective from 23 May 2019, he is banned from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

Robert Clarke, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:

This case highlights the damage an irresponsible director can do even to longstanding charities and businesses that have served their communities well for decades.

The lengthy disqualification is a warning to other directors who handle charitable funds that the Insolvency Service stands ready to take action to prevent the infliction of further damage to the charity sector.

Notes to editors

Ian Wardle (70) is from Bolton and his date of birth is April 1949.

Lifeline Project (Company number 01842240)

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property

Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings.

Persons subject to a disqualification order are bound by a range of other restrictions.

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

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Published 6 June 2019