The Forgotten Heroes: charity with Ed Miliband and other MPs as patrons spends none of income on charitable activities twice – and only a tiny proportion once

  1. A military charity with Ed Miliband and other MPs as patrons has to date spent only a tiny proportion of its income on charitable activities. Astonishingly, nothing was spent on charitable activities for two years – financial years ending 30 April 2012 and 30 April 2014. While the intervening year wasn’t much better: just 3.1% of the £31 957 income, £1000, went on charitable activities. What’s more, the most recent annual accounts, for financial year ending 30 April 2014, were “qualified” – and for a worrying reason. The chairman, also public contact, has at date of publication failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the shameful record of spending – or not spending – on charitable activities. The fourth annual accounts are at date of publication overdue at the Charity Commission, itself a sign of a badly-run charity. In fact, The Forgotten Heroes failed to file its accounts on time twice in the previous three years. Two of three MP patrons replied to my enquiries – but neither was willing to account for the consistent underspending on charitable activities. Patron Ed Miliband MP, former Labour leader, didn’t reply to my emails. Nor did patrons The Proclaimers, the Scottish band.
  2. Leeds-based charity The Forgotten Heroes (registered charity number: 1140819) was set up in 2011 by Adam Douglas, an injured Iraq War veteran. Its mission is “to provide the very best support and advice to the carers and families of wounded servicemen and women”, says the website: www.theforgottenheroes.org.uk. The charity isn’t a member of the official umbrella organisation for military charities, the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo).
  3. The Forgotten Heroes has impressive and serious patrons, including several MPs from different parties; and, somewhat incongruously, The Proclaimers, the Scottish band.
  4. Yet the charity has to date spent only a tiny proportion of its income on charitable activities. Astonishingly, nothing was spent on charitable activities for two years – financial years ending 30 April 2012 and 30 April 2014. While the intervening year wasn’t much better: just 3.1% of the £31 957 income, £1000, went on charitable activities.
  5. What’s more, the most recent annual accounts, for financial year ending 30 April 2014, were “qualified” – and for a worrying reason. Qualified accounts are accounts questioned by an independent assessor. Here the independent examiner’s qualified statement is serious: “The trustees have prepared accounts which report income of £26 665 and expenditure of £21 900. However, limited records are available to support the transactions within the charity’s bank account upon which these accounts are based. The absence of accounting records follows a change in the composition of the board of trustees with the new board unable to locate the records maintained by the previous treasurer.” Clearly, the reason for the qualification raises serious questions about the charity and its management, financial and otherwise.
  6. The chairman, also public contact, has at date of publication failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the shameful record of spending – or not spending – on charitable activities. On 9 March 2016, David Sessions told me in an evasive email: “I can confirm that since I have taken over as chairman of the charity we have given away money to beneficiaries.” Well, yes, but the amount spent on charitable activities is pitiful, according to the three years of accounts filed at the Charity Commission. And Mr Sessions hasn’t just become chairman either. While the first year’s accounts show Mr Douglas as chairman, those for the second and third years list Mr Sessions in the role.
  7. In the same email, Mr Sessions added that the charity was “moving offices at the moment”, but hed send “a factual and considered response… as soon as possible.At date of publication I’ve received nothing.
  8. Perhaps the charitable spending will improve in the fourth annual accounts. These are at date of publication overdue at the Charity Commission, itself a sign of a badly-run charity. In fact, The Forgotten Heroes failed to file its accounts on time twice in the previous three years.
  9. Two of three MP patrons replied to my enquiries – but neither was willing to account for the consistent underspending on charitable activities. Both directed me to the trustees. The two are local MPs Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrats) and Stuart Andrew (Conservatives). The latter is billed as “Stuart Andrews” [sic] on the charity website (screen shot in Figure 1). If they can’t get the name right…
    Figure 1. Patron “Stuart Andrews” [sic] MP at 29 March 2016

    Figure 1. Patron “Stuart Andrews” [sic] MP at 29 March 2016

  10. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband MP, though, didn’t reply to my emails. The then party leader became a patron in November 2013, according to a report in the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper. The Proclaimers, too, were unresponsive.
  11. The Forgotten Heroes confirms my earlier observation that an MP patron is no guarantee a charity spends a reasonable proportion of its income on charitable activities. My first experience was with failed military charity Afghan Heroes, whose patrons included former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox MP (see my 6 January 2014 post). I encountered it again with Our Local Heroes Foundation, another military charity with excessive fundraising costs. There Ben Wallace MP, ex-military himself, was a patron – until apparently last summer when I noticed he’d disappeared from the charity website, without explanation, whereupon he also became unresponsive (see my 17 December 2015 post).
  12. The public reasonably expect that patrons, MPs especially, have conducted due diligence on a charity they endorse and are involved with. Yet the consistent underspending on charitable activities calls into question the judgement of the patrons of The Forgotten Heroes. The ridiculously low level of charitable expenditure is indefensible. And here again we observe patrons of a charity avoiding accountability – that’s if they even reply to emails.
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