Response from Charity Commission: Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited

  1. Today (22 June 2018) I received a comment for publication from the Charity Commission in response to my investigation into charity Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited (registered charity number: 1064736) (see 21 May 2018 post). YCT is a long-established, national charity that is based in Bournemouth.
  2. I exposed the excessive fundraising costs at the young people’s cancer charity. The official professional fundraiser retains for itself a staggering 83 per cent (yes, 83 per cent) of the money it raises in the name of YCT. Yet another rip-off professional fundraiser, then.
  3. A commission spokesperson said in an email: “It’s important that charities are transparent to ensure the public understand how their donations are spent. Third-party fundraisers are legally required to tell people what proportion of their donation will go to the charity.” He/she continued: “Charity trustees should always have a clear oversight of the companies they work with, ensuring that any decisions made are in the best interests of their charity. We will assess any information we receive regarding concerns over the allocation of charitable funds by Youth Cancer Trust.”
  4. I then queried the charity regulator’s last sentence. The public rightly expects the commission to “assess” information it receives, I said. That’s a given. What matters is what, if anything, the Charity Commission does with the information. So was the commission actually doing anything as a result of my evidence? If so, what?
  5. The same spokesperson replied: “We will be contacting the charity but we’re unable to comment further at this stage.”
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Michelle Collins can’t decide what her skincare company is called

  1. Michelle Collins, the former Coronation Street and EastEnders actress, has launched her own skincare range, Pellum Vero. But she can’t decide what her company is called on her website flogging the beauty products.
  2. That is why I called the company M C Skin Truth,” says the TV star on the “My Story” page of http://www.pellumvero.com (screen shot in Figure 1). Yet theres no company with that name registered at Companies House. There is, though, her company M.C Skin Truth Ltd (registered company number: 09690679). But M.C Skin Truth Ltd wasn’t mentioned anywhere, by name or number, when I first looked at the website at the start of June 2018.

    Figure 1. “My Story” page at 7 June 2018

  3. Back then the firm had yet another name on another page: it was identified as MC Skin Truth in the address on the “Contact Us” page (screen shot in Figure 2). MC” is obviously different from “M C” and “M.C”. And, of course, the name doesn’t include “Ltd”. MC Skin Truth also appeared at the foot of the homepage then (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 2. “Contact Us” page at 7 June 2018

    Figure 3. Homepage at 7 June 2018

  4. For the avoidance of doubt, neither M C Skin Truth nor MC Skin Truth was or is identified on the website as a trading name of M.C Skin Truth Ltd. Rather, each was or is presented as the company name.
  5. There was a further problem at the start of the month: a registered company number wasn’t disclosed anywhere on the website.
  6. On 7 June 2018, I sent a message to Ms Collins‘ firm via the form on the website. There I pointed out the problems with the website. The message was successfully sent because I received an automated confirmation (“Your enquiry has been successfully sent to the store owner!”).
  7. I didn’t receive a reply. Nevertheless the “Contact Us” page was duly altered to refer to M.C Skin Truth Ltd, and the relevant company number shown (screen shot in Figure 4). Similarly, M.C Skin Truth Ltd was now at the bottom of the homepage (screen shot in Figure 5). However, Ms Collins continues to state That is why I called the company M C Skin Truthon the “My Story” page (screen shot in Figure 6).

    Figure 4. “Contact Us” page at 15 June 2018

    Figure 5. Homepage at 15 June 2018

    Figure 6. “My Story” page at 20 June 2018

  8. On 15 June 2018, I successfully submitted a second message via the form on the website. There I again requested a response to my first message. But to date nothing.
  9. Theres something else to consider. Incorporated on 17 July 2015, M.C Skin Truth Ltd has filed two sets of accounts at Companies House to date. Both show the company as dormant. Therefore, it’s not obvious from Companies House records alone that M.C Skin Truth Ltd is the active firm behind the TV star’s trading website.
  10. M C Skin Truth. MC Skin Truth. M.C Skin Truth Ltd. Three different versions of the name of Ms Collins’ skincare company all on her online shop. Which, if any, is the right one?

GambleAware trustee works for secretive political lobbyist – and fails to disclose role on trustee register of interests

  1. A trustee of key charity GambleAware (GA; registered charity number: 1093910) is working for a secretive political lobbyist – and has failed to disclose the role on the trustee register of interests.
  2. Former MP and government minister Chris Pond was appointed as a trustee of GA, the UK’s leading problem-gambling charity, on 9 March 2017, Companies House filings show. Mr Pond “was until recently head of UK public affairs with Kreab Gavin Anderson”, says his biography on the charity website (screen shot in Figure 1). As you can see, no dates are given. His Who’s Who 2018 entry, however, states Mr Pond worked for the political lobbyist 2013-2016. Before becoming a GA trustee, then.

    Figure 1. Trustee Chris Pond biography on GambleAware website at 26 May 2018

  3. In 2017, though, Mr Pond became an “adviser” to another political lobbyist, Centaurus Communications Ltd (registered company number: 08335964), according to its recently re-designed website (screen shot in Figure 2). Nevertheless Mr Pond hasn’t disclosed the role on the GA trustee register of interests (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 2. “Chris Pond joined Centaurus as an adviser in 2017” – Centaurus Communications Ltd website at 30 May 2018

    Figure 3. Chris Pond’s entry on GambleAware trustee register of interests at 26 May 2018

  4. At 17 February 2017 Mr Pond was on the Centaurus website as an “adviser” – that is, prior to joining the charity as a trustee (https://web.archive.org/web/20170217211513/http://centauruscommunications.com/#team). There’s nothing special about 17 February 2017: it happens to be the earliest date last year when the Centaurus website was captured on online archive the Wayback Machine.
  5. It’s bad enough a GA trustee is working for a political lobbyist. What’s more, Centaurus is a secretive company: it doesn’t routinely disclose the clients for whom it provides political lobbying services. Thus there’s no client list on its website.
  6. Further, Centaurus Communications isn’t a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), where members report their political lobbying clients on a public register. The firm isn’t a member of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) either, where again members disclose their political lobbying clients on a public register.
  7. As I say, Centaurus keeps its clients secret. In addition, Jonathan Horsman, the company’s owner and sole director, didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment about the lack of transparency on clients.
  8. Incidentally, the hidden clients – and non-responsiveness – surely call into question Centaurus’ involvement with the alternative lending all-party parliamentary group (APPG). Mr Horsman at the firm is listed as “public enquiry point” (!) for the APPG on parliament’s latest (at 6 June 2018) register of APPGs. For the avoidance of doubt, I only became aware of Centaurus’ role there because of the information on the register of APPGs.
  9. I first wrote about GA on 27 February 2017, revealing several problems with the charity that undermined its independence and credibility. One of these was that the then new independent chair, Kate Lampard, was – and is – paid proportionately more than the prime minister (almost all charity trustees are unpaid, remember). Another was that half of the then trustees, five of the ten, held senior positions in the UK gambling industry! So it’s important to acknowledge the improvements Ms Lampard has instigated at GA. The most significant is the shake-up in the board of trustees: of the now eleven trustees, only one works for a gambling company (Henry Birch, who is chief executive of The Rank Group PLC).
  10. Astonishingly, though, there’s still nothing on the GA website about working with the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), the trade body for UK advertisers. At date of publication searching the charity website for “Incorporated Society of British Advertisers” or “ISBA” produces no results. On 11 March 2018, I exclusively described four problems with the tie-up. Given the many controversies around gambling advertising (see 11 March 2018 post), the continuing opacity and unaccountability at the charity on its relationship with ISBA only damage public trust and confidence in GA.
  11. Back to Mr Pond and his role at Centaurus Communications. That he was already an “adviser” to the political lobbyist when appointed as a GA trustee is surely unacceptable. No trustee of the UK’s leading charity for problem gambling should be working for a political lobbyist – even if it routinely lists its clients, which Centaurus doesn’t. Equally as serious is Mr Pond’s failure to disclose the role on the trustee register of interests.
  12. I put my findings to GA in an email. In its response, a spokesperson, who withheld his/her name, wrote: “He [Mr Pond] has confirmed that Centaurus Communications Ltd recently asked him to do some paid advisory work on financial service issues going forward, which he appreciates he would need to declare, but he has not begun this work, nor has he received any payment in the past from this company.”
  13. The anonymous spokesperson continued: “May I reassure you that the register of interests is updated at least annually, and when any material changes occur – new paid employment does constitute a material change so we have now added reference to this connection in the published register of interests in advance of the work beginning. While not required to do so unless a specific conflict has arisen, Chris also brought this interest to the attention of other trustees verbally at the start of our most recent board meeting.”
  14. He/she finished: “Finally, given your concerns about the non-disclosure of the company’s client list, Chris has checked and been assured that Centaurus has never undertaken any work related to gambling. His own work with them is in financial services.”
  15. As you can see, GA didn’t explain why “adviser” Mr Pond has been on the Centaurus website from before the date of his appointment as a trustee of the charity (9 March 2017). Oh, and withholding the name of its spokesperson only undermines GA’s credibility. So much for transparency and accountability.

Interview in “Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats” on BBC One

  1. Today (6 June 2018) I appeared in a BBC One TV programme, “Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats”, which went out at 09:15. My interview was filmed at the end of March.
  2. It was episode three of a five-part series being shown at the same time this week, Monday to Friday.
  3. Thankfully, the experience was much better than with an earlier BBC TV programme (see 8 January 2018 post). For a start, there was no intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog this time.
  4. Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats” – a title that requires no explanation – is available on the BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b6512p.

Inadequate salary disclosure at UK arm of multinational charity linked to the FT

  1. The Financial Times (FT), of all newspapers, would strongly disapprove of an entity knowingly failing to address problems with its accounts. Yet the UK arm of a multinational charity long-linked to the FT is doing just that. What’s more, the charity was unwilling to answer questions about its links to the newspaper, particularly in relation to the charity’s office, which is at the FT’s headquarters in London.
  2. I first came across charity Room to Read UK Limited (registered charity number: 1125803) last month after several full-page ads in the FT. These were promoting the charity’s fundraising event in central London’s Hyde Park on 12 June, an “exclusive” 10km race to find “London’s fastest exec”. All very London-centric and corporate, then.
  3. The charity, whose global headquarters are in San Francisco, USA, promotes both literacy and girls’ education in “developing” countries. Its slogan is “World Change Starts with Educated Children.” (Its capitals.)
  4. In 2016, income at Room to Read UK Limited was £2.7m, according to the latest accounts, made up to 31 December 2016. There are two problems with the accounts, both relating to salary disclosure, which is inadequate. Further, the auditor seemingly failed to spot the problems.
  5. I refer to the requirements for charity accounts, Charities SORP (FRS 102), which the accounts state they follow, in particular Module 9, “Disclosure of trustee and staff remuneration, related party and other transactions” (http://charitiessorp.org/media/620787/frs102_module-9.pdf). The first problem is that the accounts fail to make the required salary disclosures specified in para 9.30. While the second one is that the accounts also fail to make the required salary disclosures specified in para 9.32. Paras 9.31-9.32 relate to “key management personnel”.
  6. Public contact for the charity, Sarah Myers Cornaby, who is “senior development director, Europe and Africa”, acknowledged the two problems in an email. She added that both would be corrected “for our 2017 accounts”.
  7. Thus there’s no intention to address the problems with the 2016 accounts right now. The charity’s decision not to re-submit its latest accounts in the correct format demonstrates a lack of urgency. But that’s not all.
  8. The public rightly expects charity accounts to be full and accurate. How can the public trust and have confidence in Room to Read UK Limited, when it’s happy to knowingly ignore the requirements for charity accounts?
  9. The charity showed similar disdain when I queried its links to the FT. Ms Myers Cornaby said in an email: “The FT is a long-term supporter of Room to Read.” The registered office address for Room to Read UK Limited is the UK home of the FT – and has been since 18 May 2016, according to Companies House records. Ms Myers Cornaby confirmed in the same email that the charity’s office is now actually at that address, too. But she declined to give further details about the arrangements between the newspaper and the charity in relation to the office, writing: “Our arrangements for 2017 will be reflected as appropriate in our future audited accounts.”
  10. Room to Read UK Limited has been linked to the FT for a long time. FT chief executive John Ridding, for example, is chair of the charity’s advisory board, which “exists to support the promotion and fundraising activity of Room to Read in the UK and, where appropriate, Europe.” The charity accounts for the last five years, available on the Charity Commission website, all show the FT boss in that role. In March this year, meanwhile, Mr Ridding became Room to Read’s board chair – chair of the global board of directors, that is (screen shot in Figure 1). The multinational organisation is evidently keen on boards. And Mr Ridding.

    Figure 1. FT chief executive John Ridding appointed as Room to Read’s board chair on 14 March 2018 – charity website at 31 May 2018

  11. Indeed, Mr Ridding is billed as one of the “30 top London executives” taking part in the charity’s forthcoming 10km race in Hyde Park (screen shot in Figure 2). There’s no, er, running away from the fact that when it comes to advertising in the FT, and so extensively, or locating the office, it can’t hurt Mr Ridding is chief executive.

    Figure 2. FT chief executive John Ridding among the “30 top London executives” taking part in Room to Read’s London’s fastest executive race 2018 – charity website at 4 June 2018

  12. The FT is rightly critical of opaque, unaccountable organisations. What a pity, then, Ms Myers Cornaby was unwilling to answer questions about the links between the newspaper and Room to Read UK Limited, particularly in relation to the charity’s office.

The young people’s cancer charity with a rip-off professional fundraiser

  1. Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited is a national charity that provides “support and free, activity-based holidays” in Bournemouth for young people with cancer in the UK and Irish Republic (registered charity number: 1064736). Here I show that YCT has excessive fundraising costs. The official professional fundraiser retains for itself a staggering 83 per cent (yes, 83 per cent) of the money it raises in the name of the charity.
  2. I first came across YCT on 8 April 2018, when I saw a man collecting on its behalf, with an eye-catching stand, at a supermarket in Manchester. Because it was the Asda store in Longsight, I was immediately wary of the charity and its fundraising (see four-part investigation into questionable charity collections at Asda Longsight, published on 11 March 2015). Examination of the charity accounts for the last five years proves I was right to be wary.
  3. Commercial company YCT Trading Ltd is the official professional fundraiser (registered company number: 05814008). It makes collections across the UK at supermarkets and other sites, according to the charity website (screen shot in Figure 1). How many shoppers, if any, are aware the collectors are actually working for a third-party firm? I wasn’t. In other words, the commercial company collects donations from the public in a misleading way. What’s worse, the accounts show YCT Trading is a rip-off professional fundraiser.

    Figure 1. YCT Trading Ltd: official professional fundraiser for charity Youth Cancer Trust (UK) Limited at 25 April 2018

  4. The latest accounts for YCT are made up to 30 June 2017, and report income of £181.8k – of which £95.9k came from YCT Trading. But as the accounts make clear, the income from the professional fundraiser is shown as the net amount it raised. So we simply have no idea how much the firm keeps for itself. For that we need the gross amount, which isn’t disclosed. Similarly, the accounts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 all show net amount only. The 2016 accounts, however, reveal both gross and net amount – and the difference is shocking.
  5. In 2016, YCT Trading raised £706.7k – but with “costs” £573.8k and “expenses” £14.0k. Thus only £118.9k actually went to the charity – a shameful 17 per cent of the amount raised.
  6. Meanwhile, 2015 was just as bad (the 2016 accounts restate the previous year’s results with both gross and net amount). Then YCT Trading raised £919.6k – but with “costs” £728.0k and “expenses” £22.1k. Thus just £169.5k in fact reached YCT – a discreditable 18 per cent of the amount raised.
  7. The excessive fundraising costs and business model are strongly reminiscent of the many dubious military charity/professional fundraiser combos I’ve exclusively exposed (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Another similarity is the amount of goodwill that surely exists around YCT because of the nature of the cause.
  8. Perhaps YCT is a new charity, as these can have high fundraising costs? Er, no. Registered on 7 October 1997, it’s a mature, long-established one.
  9. YCT doesn’t deserve support, with unreasonable fundraising costs, especially for such a popular cause. It’s not enough, therefore, to check a charity is registered before donating money at the supermarket or elsewhere. Yes, collectors may be unpaid volunteers. Or they may be working for a linked professional fundraiser, one with rip-off costs.
  10. Both YCT and YCT Trading didn’t respond to requests for comment.

RGSB now publishes the minutes for its meetings – at last

  1. On 14 May 2018, I received an email from Sarah Webster of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) secretariat informing me that RGSB had finally resumed publication on its website of the minutes for its meetings. (For the background on RGSB, see 20 March 2018 post.)
  2. This was after I revealed on 20 March this year RGSB‘s failure to publish the minutes for its meetings in a timely fashion. Then the latest minutes on the website were for the meeting on 18 July 2016!