- A small, local charity in St Helens that was awarded £0.5M from the government’s Armed forces covenant (LIBOR) fund in June 2013 failed to file accounts for the year before it asked to be removed from the Charity Commission public register, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows. Removed on 29 July 2015, Veterans Council’s last accounts were for financial year ending (FYE) 31 March 2014 – and these were incomplete. The table of contents lists pages not actually in the document submitted to the commission. Among pages seemingly missing is the “income and expenditure account”, so there’s no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund. No accounts for FYE 31 March 2015, then, and incomplete ones only for the previous year. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council spend the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund?
- “Scandal of war vets’ vanished charity funds” was the main headline on the front page of The Sunday Times on 18 September 2016. There and in a report inside, journalist Andrew Gilligan raised serious questions about several military charities that had together received millions of pounds in June 2013 from the government’s £35M LIBOR fund (see my previous post). Veterans Council, one he examined, was awarded £0.5M: http://www.gov.uk/government/news/38-million-to-support-troops-families-and-veterans-mental-health-projects. The St Helens charity had spent the entire grant “within about 18 months”, said The Sunday Times, without producing the promised “one-stop shop” for veterans, the purpose of the funding. Nevertheless Gilligan failed to mention the Veterans Council‘s accounts and its removal from the Charity Commission public register.
- Des White, the former chair of the charity, is quoted in The Sunday Times. I‘ve already recently written about White after he became a trustee of another military charity, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029), on 16 February 2015 (see my 11 August 2016 post). White was chair of OLHF, too. He ceased being a trustee of the charity, which is based in Bamber Bridge, Preston, within days of my 11 August 2016 revelations (see my 19 September 2016 post). The OLHF website disappeared at the same time (again, see my 19 September 2016 post) – and at date of publication hasn’t reappeared.
- On 22 September 2016, White responded to the criticism in The Sunday Times, strongly defending the record of Veterans Council, which was registered as a charity on 10 February 2011, in local newspaper the St Helens Reporter: www.sthelensreporter.co.uk/news/borough-charity-hits-back-at-waste-claims-1-8141130.
- As I said, I‘ve already recently written about White. But Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1140336) was removed from the Charity Commission public register on 29 July 2015. It’s therefore impossible to access the charity’s trustees’ annual reports (TARs) and accounts via the public register. I’d seen evidence that the St Helens charity is linked to a new charity, also called Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215). At 18 December 2014, for example, Veterans Council used both registered charity numbers on its homepage: web.archive.org/web/20141218124339/http://veteranscouncil.org/. Based in Lytham St Annes, Veterans Council (1159215) was registered as a charity on 14 November 2014 and at date of publication hasn’t filed any accounts.
- Trustee Edward Nash is the public contact for Veterans Council (1159215), according to the Charity Commission public register. Nearly two years old, at date of publication Veterans Council (1159215) doesn’t have a website; while days ago – at 2 October 2016 – there was only a very rudimentary holding page with no indication of its activities, if any: web.archive.org/web/20161002045832/http://veteranscouncil.org.uk/. That holding page has now vanished. Interestingly, Nash is also linked to OLHF: at date of publication his personal Twitter page (@nashnet) specifies OLHF as his associated website, not Veterans Council (1159215) (screen shot in Figure 1). Gilligan quoted Nash, identifying him as the new chair of Veterans Council. Yet Gilligan failed to refer explicitly to the two entities, White’s Veterans Council in St Helens (1140336) and Nash’s Veterans Council in Lytham St Annes (1159215).
- Nash criticised Veterans Council‘s record under White: “It was quite unprofessional, and it wasn’t viable. They didn’t seem to do much. The main expenditure was the wages bill, which was about £100k a year.” The new chair also slammed the charity for blowing “about £30k” on furniture for its office. Clearly, he was happy to talk to The Sunday Times. Yet earlier in the summer Nash had ignored my two emails (18 August 2016 and 1 September 2016) requesting all of Veterans Council‘s (1140336) TARs and accounts. I didn’t receive a response to either message.
- On 8 September 2016, I therefore submitted a FOI request to the Charity Commission to obtain all of Veterans Council‘s (1140336) TARs and accounts. I got a response on 6 October 2016: the commission provided three TARs and accounts – for FYE (all 31 March) 2012, 2013 and 2014. The first thing to note, then, is that Veterans Council (1140336) failed to file accounts for the year before it asked to be removed from the Charity Commission public register, as removal was on 29 July 2015. In other words, there are no accounts for FYE 31 March 2015. The second thing is that the accounts for FYE 31 March 2014 are incomplete: 1drv.ms/b/s!Alhjj9hr_-o0gSTZjHlDJ-7prhIt. As you can see, the table of contents lists pages not actually in the document submitted to the commission. Among pages seemingly missing is the “income and expenditure account”, so there‘s no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund.
- The Charity Commission confirmed that the accounts for FYE 31 March 2014 are as submitted by the charity. No accounts for FYE 31 March 2015, then, and incomplete ones only for the previous year. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council spend the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund?