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Headcorn: Charity Commission assesses RSPCA spending

By David Gazet

The Charity Commission is poised to investigate concerns about the RSPCA after the charity denied spending £1 million looking after 12 cats at a Headcorn home converted into a cattery.

This claim was made in a national newspaper about the Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone branch, which runs the site.

But the organisation did reveal Katie Toms, daughter of the Maidstone branch chairman, lives at the Maidstone Road home with her family, rent free, and gets an £18,000 a year salary.

The RSPCA cattery in Maidstone Road, Headcorn
The RSPCA cattery in Maidstone Road, Headcorn

The organisation says this is a standard arrangement - made because she is the 24/7 live-in carer for the animals.

It strenuously denied the newspaper claim only 12 animals lived there and said a legal letter had been issued to the publication concerned.

The RSPCA said 45 cats are currently looked-after there, plus six rabbits and two guinea pigs. The cattery has 18 pens.

But it did not confirm to our sister paper the Kent Messenger how much the house was bought for in 2011 and running costs.

Ms Toms’ mother is Daphne Harris, chairman of the Maidstone branch and the charity’s national council.

It is not know if any other staff live on the site.

Daphne Harris is chairman of the RSPCA Maidstone branch and national council
Daphne Harris is chairman of the RSPCA Maidstone branch and national council

An RSPCA spokesman added: “Since the cattery was opened the branch has rehomed some 1,300 cats - many of which have been rescued by inspectors having suffered terrible neglect and cruelty.

“The branch bought the house and land about six years ago and built a cattery as there was a desperate shortage of care facilities in the area at the time.

"Job interviews for a cattery manager and four other members of staff were carried out independently and positions were given based on merits of the candidates.”

The house was purchased in 2011 by trustees on behalf of the charity.

A spokesman for Charity Commission said: “The commission is urgently assessing concerns raised about the RSPCA Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone Branch to determine whether there is a regulatory role for us.

"As part of that assessment, we will be contacting the charity.”

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