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£232,000 ambulance boss uses luxury hotels on expenses

Sandwell | News | Published:

Beautiful parkland, a 'spectacular weir' and 'an opulent Georgian manor' - this is where the £232,000 a year boss of West Midlands Ambulance Service has been staying on expenses.

Anthony Marsh spent three nights at the Champneys spa in Henlow, Bedfordshire, while working for East of England Ambulance Service, where he has also been the chief executive since January.

At the weekend it was revealed he was given a £50,000 'uplift' in his salary for talking on East of England and splitting his week between the two areas. The services say he saves taxpayers £130,000 a year by doing the work of two chief executives.

But today it can be revealed that this month he has spent three nights at Champneys for £75 a time and six nights at the four-star Letchworth Hall Hotel and Spa in Hertfordshire for £85 a time.

The money has been re-imbursed to Mr Marsh on top of his salary.

Champneys says its spa in Henlow is 'set in 150 acres of beautiful parkland' and 'the spectacular weir the monks built still stands on the river that flows past'. Its website adds that 'the sound of water has always aided contemplation' and 'our resort spa is built around an opulent Georgian manor, with hand-painted walls and Venetian-style mirrors'.

Mr Marsh was asked to take over East of England after completing a highly-critical report last year that said there was a lack of accountability throughout the organisation. He made a series of recommendations, including cutting back on management to pay for more emergency crews.

West Midlands Ambulance Service has to invoice East of England for his time and services.

The service charges £16,598 per month for him, which East of England says includes 'pension costs and all other benefits/on costs'.

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Sources had also claimed that Mr Marsh had a 'driver' but East of England Ambulance Service said this was not the case.

Spokesman Chris Hartley said: "Anthony does not have a driver. He did have an assistant executive officer whose role was to support Mr Marsh by carrying out particular tasks and projects.

"He did drive Mr Marsh on a number of occasions. The reason for this was so that Mr Marsh could work in the car whilst travelling to meetings.

"When not driving, the officer would use the time to deliver the tasks he had in this support role."

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In a joint statement with East of England Ambulance Service, John Hawker of West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "This a very demanding task that obviously requires a commitment well above normal working hours.

"Although Mr Marsh is working as interim Chief Executive at East of England Ambulance Service, he is an employee of West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

"In January the East of England Ambulance Service was a failing trust.

"Since his appointment, Mr Marsh has reduced management and back office costs by around £6 million. This saved money is being reinvested in frontline staffing and services; for example he has launched a programme to recruit 400 student paramedics, of which more than 120 have started their training. He has also brought in 147 brand new emergency ambulances and 60 4x4 rapid response vehicles.

"East of England Ambulance Service has turned a corner and will continue to improve as the hundreds of new frontline staff become operational over the coming months.

"Mr Marsh lives in the West Midlands area and so to effectively lead the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust he needs to stay in a hotel locally in the eastern region. The Trust always seeks the most competitive rate as possible, for example; Mr Marsh stayed at Champneys on three occasions at a cost of £75 per night – a rate that is comparable with any business hotel. He spent last week out and about meeting dozens of frontline staff during the course of his duties working late into the evening every night."

West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson said: "The saga of Mr Marsh's remuneration gets curiouser and curiouser.

"Why, for example, is the taxpayer paying for him to stay at the luxury health resort Champneys?

"The words 'you cannot be serious' spring to mind.

"The East of England trust have confirmed the creation of a new post of 'assistant chief executive.

"Presumably this is to accommodate for the fact that the chief executive works for them for only three days a week.

"This undermines the argument put forward by the spin doctors at the West Midlands trust that his dual role is saving the taxpayer money."

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