Where is Soldiers Off The Street based and how does it organise fundraising?

  1. Freedom of Information requests show that although officially based in Rhyl, north Wales, the charity Soldiers Off The Street – or persons acting in its name – has recently applied to two local authorities for a street collection permit specifying as the charity address one of two addresses in Blackpool FY4. Both applications were successful and funds duly raised from the public – days apart – in different parts of the UK. This despite the fact that neither of the Blackpool addresses is on the public record for the charity. There is nothing about Blackpool on the Soldiers Off The Street website at date of publication either. Both local authorities thus failed to conduct due diligence on the applications, it seems. Further details in the applications show that there is an urgent need for clarity and transparency around both where Soldiers Off The Street is actually based and how it organises fundraising, particularly the role of subsidiary Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited. The charity is unresponsive: it won’t even tell me via email the location of the alleged fundraising office in the photo on the website.
  2. The charity Soldiers Off The Street, for homeless military veterans, has received a lot of media attention since registration 26 August 2010 (registered charity number: 1137594). This is because former officials of the far-right British National Party (BNP) set it up. Bill Murray, chairman and founder of Soldiers Off The Street, for example, was the BNP’s former secretary for Wales, according to a March 2012 report in the Observer newspaper: www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/mar/25/soldiers-bnp-charity-links. In October 2015, David Davies MP, who served in the then Territorial Army, criticised the charity for its alleged links to the BNP after coming upon a fundraiser for the charity in his Monmouth constituency: http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/13883522.Charity_hits_back_after_Gwent_MP_s__far_right__BNP_claims.
  3. As you can see, at October 2015 Mr Murray told the South Wales Argus newspaper that Soldiers Off The Street has bases in Rhyl, Scotland, Lincolnshire and the Midlands. Nothing about Blackpool, then. There’s something else the chairman said: the fundraiser Mr Davies met in Monmouth had been employed by an “agency” to collect funds for the charity. In other words, the fundraiser was paid.
  4. Soldiers Off The Street isn’t a member of the official umbrella organisation for military charities, the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo). Cobseo director of operations, Cdr Debbie Whittingham, told me in an email that the charity has made it clear to her it will never apply for membership.
  5. On 23-25 November 2015, I encountered groups of people in military camo trousers collecting donations for Soldiers Off The Street in Manchester city centre, on busy Market Street. Two solicitations I repeatedly heard were “collecting for injured soldiers” and “help the soldiers”. Having confirmed with the licensing section of Manchester City Council (MCC) that it had authorised this fundraising, I obtained via a Freedom of Information request the application that the council had approved for the street collection permit. Here is MCC‘s redacted document: http://1drv.ms/1R1iIEM.
  6. On 12-13 November 2015, Soldiers Off The Street conducted a street collection in Dudley town centre, according to a December 2015 report in the Dudley News newspaper: http://www.dudleynews.co.uk/news/14129158.Dudley_shoppers_raise_hundreds_for_charity_that_helps_homeless_veterans/. Again, having confirmed with the licensing section of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) that it had authorised this fundraising, I obtained obtained via a Freedom of Information request the application that the council had approved for the street collection permit. Here is DMBC‘s redacted document: http://1drv.ms/1M1ntGU.
  7. The first thing to notice is the charity address on the documents. Soldiers Off The Street is located in Rhyl, north Wales, according to both the public register at the Charity Commission and the charity website. Yet the documents specify the charity address as one of two addresses in Blackpool FY4. Both applications were successful and funds duly raised from the public – days apart – in the north west (Manchester city centre) and the west midlands (Dudley town centre). This despite the fact that neither of the Blackpool addresses is on the public record for the charity. There is nothing about Blackpool on the Soldiers Off The Street website at date of publication either. Both local authorities thus failed to conduct due diligence on the applications, it seems.
  8. The application to MCC is the most revealing – because its form is the more demanding. The application to MCC shows the charity or persons acting in its name – without explanation using the term “SOTSFR” in the address for Soldiers Off The Street. This is concerning because Blackpool FY4 company SOTSFR recently advertised for paid “face-to-face fundraisers” on the Indeed jobs website (screen shot in Figure 1). Note the “excellent rates of pay”. Yet the application to MCC states that the collectors won’t be remunerated out of the proceeds of the collection. In fact, there is no company called SOTSFR registered at Companies House.
    Figure 1. SOTSFR face-to-face fundraisers job ad at 23 December 2015

    Figure 1. SOTSFR face-to-face fundraisers job ad at 23 December 2015

    Figure 2. Charity website www.sotsfr.org.uk at 27 February 2016

    Figure 2. Charity website http://www.sotsfr.org.uk at 27 February 2016

  9. The relationship between SOTSFR and the charity is even more opaque. As the application to MCC and other evidence shows, the charity or persons acting in its name – often uses the domain name sotsfr.org.uk for email addresses. This despite the fact that the Soldiers Off The Street website is http://www.soldiersoffthestreet.org, according to the public register at the Charity Commission. The same charity website is at www.sotsfr.org.uk too (screen shot in Figure 2). Publicly available documents show that Soldiers Off The Street routinely uses the email address events2@sotsfr.org.uk, in particular. The charity did so when it was a trade stand exhibitor at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair (http://www.scottishfair.com), for examplein 2013 (screen shot in Figure 3) and 2014 (screen shot in Figure 4). Note also how the stated location of the charity varies: Preston (see below) in 2013 and Rhyl in 2014. The mobile phone number is nevertheless the same both years.
    Figure 3. Charity listing for 2013 GWCT Scottish Game Fair at 29 February 2016

    Figure 3. Charity listing for 2013 GWCT Scottish Game Fair at 29 February 2016

    Figure 4. Charity listing for 2014 GWCT Scottish Game Fair at 29 February 2016

    Figure 4. Charity listing for 2014 GWCT Scottish Game Fair at 29 February 2016

  10. The registrant of the domain name sotsfr.org.uk is Force10 IT Solutions Ltd: a UK individual at a Blackpool address, according to the WHOIS information. Although the company Force10 IT Solutions Ltd was dissolved in November 2005, sotsfr.org.uk was registered in April 2012. The registered office address of the company was in Preston and one of its directors was William Knight. Mr Knight is now a director of the firm Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited (registered company number: 08361891), registered address also in Preston. The other director is Patrick Jarrett. In November 2012, Mr Knight and Mr Jarrett were two of three men cleared of fraud raising money for wounded soldiers as their Blackpool-based company Wounded Warrior Project UK Ltd: www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/men-cleared-of-soldier-charity-fraud-1-5104735. (The street name for Mr Knight in the newspaper report is the same for the registrant of the domain name sotsfr.org.uk, according to the WHOIS information.)
  11. Note: the registered office address of Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited has never been in Blackpool; both addresses it has used to date are in Preston, according to Companies House records.
  12. Available online, an apparent job ad dated 20 February 2013 from Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited for field sales/fundraiser explains the company is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the charity Soldiers Off The Street” (screen shot in Figure 5). Note both the Preston address and the email address bill@sotsfr.org.uk, which is presumably Bill (William) Knight.

    Figure 5. Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited field sales/fundraiser job ad at 23 December 2015

    Figure 5. Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited field sales/fundraiser job ad at 23 December 2015

  13. Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited was incorporated 15 January 2013 with the charity as shareholder of the single £1 share. In January 2015, the company was nearly struck off the public register, according to Companies House information. Not a good sign. The charity has filed two sets of annual accounts at the Charity Commission since date of incorporation of the subsidiary for financial years end 28 August 2013 and 28 August 2014. Astonishingly, in both years neither the charity trustees’ annual report nor the attached charity accounts refer in any way to the company Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited. Why not?
  14. There is no mention of Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited on the charity website at date of publication and in either of the applications for a street collection permit. The term “SOTSFR” appears without explanation in the address for Soldiers Off The Street in the application to MCC, though.
  15. Soldiers Off The Street is unresponsive. There is a photo on the charity website of what is referred to as the fundraising office, “the hub of all our fundraising around the UK” (screen shot in Figure 6). Its location isn’t disclosed, though. Soldiers Off The Street won’t say where the alleged fundraising office is: I have twice asked in emails to both the address listed on the public register at the Charity Commission and events2@sotsfr.org.uk. I haven’t received a response from either address at date of publication.

    Figure 6. Charity “fundraising office” at 19 January 2016

    Figure 6. Charity “fundraising office” at 19 January 2016

  16. Soldiers Off The Street has received much scrutiny because of the charity’s alleged links to the BNP. But here I show that there is an urgent need for clarity and transparency around both where Soldiers Off The Street is actually based and how it organises fundraising, particularly the role of subsidiary Soldiers Off The Street Fundraising Limited.
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Where is Soldiers Off The Street based and how does it organise fundraising?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s