Care after Combat: Trustee Andrew Griffiths MP and Conservative campaigning undermine its credibility

  1. Here I reveal two reasons for concern about military charity Care after Combat as it seeks more money from the government for its work with veterans, following the £1m it received in 2015 (registered charity number: 1159342).
  2. First, there is conflicting evidence whether disgraced former government minister Andrew Griffiths MP was or is a trustee. What’s more, the charity’s response – from the chief executiveto a polite request for clarification was obstructive, dismissive and rude. Second, Care after Combat uses its official Twitter account for party-political campaigning, as the recent Conservative party conference shows.
  3. Registered as a charity on 25 November 2014, Care after Combat was founded by comedian Jim Davidson, who is chief executive. His is a paid role plus “expenses”, as Andrew Gilligan revealed in The Sunday Times newspaper on 25 September 2016. His report also mentioned that Mr Griffiths, then a government whip, was a trustee at the time. But was he?
  4. The charity’s 2016 trustees’ annual report shows Mr Griffiths became a trustee on 10 March 2016. Further, Care after Combat announced on its website on 23 March 2016 his appointment as a trustee (screen shot in Figure 1). So that’s clear then. Not quite.

    Figure 1. Andrew Griffiths MP appointed as a trustee: Care after Combat website on 23 March 2016

  5. The Companies House records for Care after Combat don’t show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director (registered company number: 09152620).
  6. Also, Mr Griffiths didn’t disclose he was a trustee of Care after Combat in parliament’s list of ministers’ interests at December 2016. There the then government whip lists roles with six charities, none of which are Mr Davidson‘s.
  7. Meanwhile, the charity’s 2017 trustees’ annual report, its latest, omits to mention trustee Mr Griffiths. There’s no record of him at all.
  8. Again, the list of ministers’ interests at December 2017 shows Mr Griffiths‘ posts with now five charities, none of which are Care after Combat.
  9. Mr Davidson is public contact, too, for the charity. I emailed him two questions about alleged trustee Mr Griffiths. First, why don’t the Companies House records for Care after Combat show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director? Second, why does the 2017 trustees’ annual report omit to mention trustee Mr Griffiths?
  10. Mr Davidson replied instantly: “With the greatest of respect……… [sic] You are clearly without all the facts. I would suggest you aim your questions to Companies House or the Charities [sic] Commission.” I didn’t respond.
  11. A few minutes later I received another message from him: “I’ve just looked you up…. [sic] have you nothing better to do? Sad [sic]It could have been President Trump of the US.
  12. The lack of reference to alleged trustee Mr Griffiths in Care after Combat‘s 2017 trustees’ annual report raises serious questions about the management of the charity and its record-keeping. If he had resigned as a trustee, it should be recorded in the annual report. Similarly, the absence of filings at Companies House about Mr Griffiths as a director needs explanation.
  13. Mr Griffiths isn’t currently listed as a trustee of Care after Combat on the Charity Commission public register of charities.
  14. In July, Mr Griffiths resigned as minister for small business – after the Sunday Mirror newspaper revealed that he had sent hundreds of sexually explicit messages to two female constituents, both over 20 years younger than him. Mr Griffiths, who is married with a young child, continues as MP for Burton, sitting as an independent in light of ongoing investigations.
  15. Mr Griffiths didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Figure 2. Care after Combat re-tweets glowing assessments of 2018 Conservative party conference by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis on 3 October 2018

  16. Care after Combat has been closely linked to the Conservatives from the beginning. Mr Davidson is a long-term public supporter of the party. Thus the formal involvement of Tory MP Mr Griffiths as a trustee isn’t surprising. Particularly concerning, though, is the charity’s use of its official Twitter account for Conservative campaigning. I refer to its tweets around this year’s Tory party conference, for example, which took place in Birmingham from 30 September until 3 October. Here I show examples from two days, but there are many others. First, at the end of the conference, Care after Combat re-tweeted glowing assessments of the event by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis (screen shot in Figure 2). Second, on 1 October, the charity tweeted and re-tweeted Tory MP Conor Burns: “Conor Burns. Great supporter. Good friend. Top bloke. Nuff said” (screen shot in Figure 3). The same day it re-tweeted a quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove’s conference speech, a quote strongly attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Figure 3).

    Figure 3. Care after Combat tweets and re-tweets Tory MP Conor Burns on 1 October 2018; and re-tweets quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove, which strongly attacks Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

  17. Charities are prohibited from party-political campaigning. Thus Care after Combat‘s tweets in support of the Conservatives are unacceptable. Charities must be politically neutral.
  18. Care after Combat has recently appointed a political lobbyist, Hume Brophy, according to the firm’s disclosures on the current register of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), that from 1 June 2018 until 31 August 2018. The charity wasn’t a Hume Brophy client on the previous register. Here there’s a yet another link to the Conservatives and the government! Former government minister James Wharton is executive chair of corporate and public affairs at the political lobbyist.
  19. Care after Combat is lobbying government for more money, it appears. On funding, its 2017 trustees’ annual report says: “The next twelve months will indicate the commitment of Her Majesties [sic] Government to Care After Combat’s cause and the Phoenix project that it helped to establish.” Back in 2015, the government somewhat controversially awarded the charity £1m from the LIBOR fund, which was established by then Conservative chancellor George Osborne to support veterans. On 25 September 2016, The Sunday Times revealed that Tory ex-Brexit secretary David Davis had the previous year written a letter to Mr Osborne in support of the charity receiving a grant from the LIBOR fund. Clearly, Mr Davidson‘s links to senior Conservatives helped secure the £1m from government for what was then a new charity without a meaningful track record.
  20. The lack of clarity and transparency around when Mr Griffiths was or is a trustee, if indeed he ever was, is unacceptable. The apparent deficiencies in the charity’s reporting of his role only adds to the concern, as does its contemptuous response to legitimate questions. Meanwhile, Care after Combat‘s communications on Twitter demonstrate it isn’t politically neutral. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that founder Mr Davidson as chief executive – salaried plus “expenses”, of course – is overly dominant and conflicted. Being a right-wing comedian and long-term Conservative campaigner is one thing. Being the chief executive of a charity is another – or at least should be. The two roles are simply incompatible, even without the fact that Care after Combat has been dependent on government largesse (Conservative chancellor) and is lobbying for more.
  21. ADDENDUM: For the avoidance of doubt, this analysis isn’t politically motivated. The problems arise because even as a charity chief executive, Mr Davidson, who styles himself “the people’s comedian”, has been and continues to be a public supporter of a political party. A party that as the government holds the purse strings.
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Botham’s charity exposé in The Sunday Times

  1. On 6 May 2018, Andrew Gilligan, senior correspondent, reported in The Sunday Times newspaper my Botham’s charity exposé (see 19 April 2018 post).
  2. Gilligan‘s report (“Botham’s charity pays out no grants”), page 5 lead, is here: STS_20180506_null_null_01_5.

The Daisy Network exposé in The Sunday Times

  1. On 30 July 2017, Andrew Gilligan, senior correspondent, used my The Daisy Network exposé (see 17 July 2017 post) as the basis of a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.
  2. Gilligan‘s report (“Menopause charities linked to US-based HRT company”) is available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/menopause-charities-linked-to-usbased-hrt-company-m6lkk3nbj. Here too is a scanned copy of the page for those like me outside the paywall: The Sunday Times 30 July 2017.

ITV’s Dr Chris Steele also plugged products without disclosure of interest

  1. Dr Hilary Jones isn’t the only resident doctor who’s promoted on ITV’s programmes specific health-related products and services, without disclosing his commercial relationships with the relevant companies (see previous post and references therein). Dr Chris Steele has done it, too.
  2. Dr Steele, a GP like Dr Jones, has been the resident doctor on ITV’s This Morning for nearly 30 years.
  3. Andrew Gilligan broke the story in The Sunday Times newspaper on 16 April 2017 (“Second ITV doctor plugged products”). I’m named and quoted in his report, which appeared on p.10 (scanned copy in Figure 1). It’s also available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/second-itv-doctor-plugged-products-q2s503z35.

    Figure 1. The Sunday Times (16 April 2017, p.10)

Dr Hilary Jones exposé in The Sunday Times

  1. On 9 April 2017, Andrew Gilligan used my Dr Hilary Jones exposé (see 3 April 2017 post) as the basis of a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.
  2. Gilligan‘s report (“Dr Dishy’s dose of hidden plugs”) is available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dr-dishys-dose-of-hidden-plugs-9tkbjzg65. Here too is a scanned copy of the page for those like me outside the paywall: The Sunday Times 9 April 2017.

Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Support The Heroes – and appoints interim manager

  1. On 27 January 2017, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/interim-manager-appointed-support-the-heroes.
  2. I first wrote about STH on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposing in my first post almost all the issues the commission says it wants the inquiry to investigate. That year, too, I revealed more about the unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around the military charity and its business model (see my 11 August 2015 and 25 November 2015 posts, in particular). In its press release the commission says, rightly, that it has “serious concerns about an agreement that the charity has entered with a commercial fundraising company.” That unnamed company is Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed.
  3. TML worked with another military charity based in the north west, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029). The Charity Commission announced on 8 November 2016 that it has, finally, opened a statutory inquiry into OLHF, too (see my 23 December 2016 post and references therein).
  4. But it’s worse than that, as regular readers will know. Prior to working with TML, OLHF used the services of another discredited professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). And before PPL was the official professional fundraiser for OLHF, the company had this role for failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
  5. Oh, PPL and TML are owned by the same person: Tony Chadwick of Blackpool.
  6. Three linked military charities – AH, OLHF and STH. Each is now the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission. On 2 October 2016, Andrew Gilligan in The Sunday Times reported my work on Mr Chadwick’s companies and the three linked charities (“Veterans miss out on charity millions as fundraiser keeps up to 80% of cash”). There he named me as the source and included quotes (see my 3 October 2016 post, which includes a link to Mr Gilligan’s newspaper article and the context). On 13 November 2016, Remembrance Sunday, the Mail on Sunday on its front page reported that the Charity Commission has ordered the opaque STH to stop all fundraising (“Shame of Poppy Day profiteers”): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3930982/Shame-poppy-day-profiteers-Charity-banned-crackdown-raised-3million-gave-just-250-000-heroes.html. As you can see, I’m named and quoted in the front-page story.
  7. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. The group first contacted me about the charity in December 2015 (email). The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839/.

Veterans Council: no accounts show how it spent the £0.5M from the LIBOR fund

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).

    Figure 1. Ed (Edward) Nash's Twitter page at 10 August 2016

    Figure 1. Ed (Edward) Nash’s Twitter page at 10 August 2016

  7. 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.
  8. 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 theres no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund.
  9. 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?