The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal

  1. Here I show what I consider to be intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog by those responsible for a BBC TV programme broadcast in November 2016. The three-stage BBC complaints process was inadequate in so many ways – both process and outcome. The trusted public-service broadcaster displayed arrogance throughout as it fobbed me off with evasive and obfuscatory responses. The lessons are many – but two stand out. First, the BBC sees nothing wrong in what I allege to be its unethical conduct. Its position would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Second, the BBC can’t be trusted to deal with complaints about its journalism. Self-regulation by the BBC is no regulation.
  2. What do I mean by plagiarism? This definition from the University of Oxford website for its students is as good as any: “Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional.”
  3. The Great Military Charity Scandal” was on BBC One Scotland on 8 November 2016 at 19:00 and available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards. It was made by BBC Scotland Investigates. I haven’t written about the TV programme until now because I was following the BBC complaints process – and then that of communications watchdog Ofcom.
  4. On 28 January 2017, I wrote about the announcement by charity regulator the Charity Commission that it had opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager. The relevant commission press release, the link for which is in that post, refers to the TV programme in its “notes to editors.”
  5. Liam McDougall was the producer of “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” He first contacted me about his programme on 8 January 2016, referring in an email to the “great work” I’ve been doing on charity fraud and abuse, particularly military charities. This is on my blog, dralexmay.wordpress.com. My charity investigations have been reported in national newspapers: The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror and BuzzFeed (news website). Ive also twice appeared as a live studio guest on BBC Radio 5 live programme, 5 live Investigates, to discuss my findings. In 2016, influential Frank Field MP tabled two written parliamentary questions to the Work and Pensions Secretary after one of my charity exposés.
  6. My 28 January 2017 post gives the background on the commission’s actions on STH, describing the role of Tony Chadwick of Blackpool, his rip-off fundraising companies and three linked military charities, all high-profile: Afghan Heroes (AH), Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), and STH. Each, separately, continues to be the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the charity regulator. FOR EACH CHARITY IN TURN, I BROKE BOTH THE LINK TO MR CHADWICK AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AS WELL AS FAILURES OF REGULATION.
  7. I first wrote about STH and its link to Mr Chadwick on 21 April 2015. It was my scoop. Thus the programme-makers were guided by my revelations then and thereafter.
  8. My proof of the link was critical to the programme: both Mr Chadwick and STH had actively tried to hide their working together (see blog, passim ad nauseam).
  9. As I wrote on 28 January 2017, my first post about STH, on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposed almost all the issues the commission said in January 2017 it wants its statutory inquiry to investigate.
  10. My 28 January 2017 post acknowledges the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ (WMHCHQ), a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. There I also state when the group first contacted me about the charity, thus proving I exclusively exposed STH.
  11. WMHCHQ wouldn’t have allowed or continue to allow me to present my dealings with the group as described in the 28 January 2017 post unless accurate. WMHCHQ don’t hold back, online or offline. Nor do its followers.
  12. In addition, the WMHCHQ timeline itself confirms the timeline of events for STH.
  13. Prior to the TV programme, there were three related publicly available sources for the connection between Mr Chadwick and STH. The three are in chronological order: my blog; WMHCHQ; and The Sunday Times (2 October 2016). Both WMHCHQ and the newspaper, separately, credited me as source. Yet “The Great Military Charity Scandal” failed to acknowledge me in any way. Thus the programme-makers intentionally plagiarised facts from my blog.
  14. So what about STH was new in the TV programme? Well, BBC Scotland Investigates secretly filmed STH representatives misleading the public as to how much of the £2.50 price of a prize draw ticket actually goes to the charity. The representatives were in fact working for Mr Chadwick‘s company, Targeted Management Limited (registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed. Long-time readers of the blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by the programme’s filmed evidence. For years I’ve repeatedly written about my own and others’ experiences with Mr Chadwick‘s rip-off fundraising companies and their work for AH, OLHF and STH. My first 5 live Investigates programme in November 2014, for example, reported different people’s experiences of unsatisfactory and misleading encounters in shopping centres around the UK with OLHF representatives controlled by Mr Chadwick (see 10 November 2014 post). The OLHF representatives were flogging prize draw tickets – as were the AH representatives before them (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Mr McDougall obtained both my 5 live Investigates programmes and listened to them. I know because he told me.
  15. As well as plagiarising facts from my blog, the TV programme intentionally plagiarised images. Images only available on my blog were shown without credit or attribution. These images include, but aren’t limited to, the identifiable AH prize draw ticket, a key piece of evidence. The identifiable images were central to the programme. And the images had to be accurate and trusted for the BBC to show them on TV. Put simply, the source had to be credible. I’m the “UK’s expert,” as Mr McDougall said to me several times. It’s simply indefensible to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  16. Another indication of the importance of my images of particularly the AH prize draw ticket in “The Great Military Charity Scandal” is the fact one of them (my images of the AH prize draw ticket) appears prominently in the official 31-second trailer, too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04f16bk.
  17. As I say, here my focus is the intentional plagiarism of facts and images. Nevertheless there are many other matters I complained to the BBC about in relation to its TV programme. From January 2016, for example, I spent tens of hours talking on the phone and corresponding with the producer. He told me at the outset hed interview me on the programme – and repeatedly reminded me of the fact. Further, I lent him highly sensitive, original documents: I gave them to him in person in Manchester city centre in July 2016. (Mr McDougall was accompanied by the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, that day.) He promised hed return them in person. I didn’t stipulate delivery that way: nevertheless he said he would, and as soon as possible. At 5 December 2016the date of my first formal complaint to the BBC – I still hadn’t received my original documents. I finally received them – without apology or explanation for the delay – at the end of January 2017!
  18. On 8 November 2016, I complained to Mr McDougall in an email: Do you think I’d have spent so much time talking and corresponding with you if I’d known that you weren’t in fact going to interview me, let alone credit me in any way?” He didn’t reply.
  19. I formally complained to the BBC on 5 December 2016 in an email to the Director-General, Lord Hall, because he’s Editor-in-Chief. Imagine my surprise when I received the BBC’s response to my first formal complaint: it was written by Mr McDougall! It’s self-evidently unsatisfactory for Mr McDougall to consider my complaint on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief. Further, I regarded his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  20. So I escalated my complaint to the BBC explicitly calling for independent consideration of my complaint for the process to be credible. I also stated disclosure of emails was essential after allegations made by Mr McDougall in his response for the BBC. So who now handled my second formal complaint for the Editor-in-Chief? The programme’s executive producer, Daniel Maxwell!
  21. Mr Maxwell failed to request any emails from me. There was no evidence in his response he’d scrutinised my blog, either. And, again, I found his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  22. Thus I had no option but to escalate once more my complaint to the BBC – to its nominally independent Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). There my complaint was handled throughout by BBC complaints director, Colin Tregear.
  23. Mr Tregear instigated disclosure of emails – at last.
  24. I shall now examine how each of the three BBC responses dealt with the alleged intentional plagiarism of facts and images.
  25. First, here’s what Mr McDougall said: “All of your posts are published on a public forum, and are freely accessible via an open-source search of the internet.” He added: “… It is entirely untrue for you to suggest that you somehow hold the exclusive rights to information about Tony Chadwick, Afghan Heroes, Support the Heroes or Our Local Heroes Foundation. As I say, there is much publicly available information about these organisations and indeed your posts themselves place the information in the public arena.” Astonishingly, the producer also wrote: “And surely, given that the facts have been published by you means that by definition the information is public and freely available?” And another vague statement: “Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  26. True, my blog is accessible to all – but use by a third party of the information published there, including images, requires credit and attribution. Otherwise it’s intentional plagiarism. Prior to the TV programme, the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH was exclusively broken by me – and then picked up in turn by WMHCHQ and The Sunday Times (see above). Both, separately, acknowledged me as source. The BBC did not.
  27. Now onto the BBC’s second response, from Mr Maxwell. He said: “On the allegation of plagiarism, it is untrue to say that our producer ‘intentionally plagiarised’ your blog. As you know, for many months the BBC was in discussion with you about the nature and content of some of the BBC investigation. The fact that we featured individuals like Tony Chadwick and the charity Support the Heroes would have been no surprise to you. In fact, our producer had discussed some of the detail we would feature in the programme with you and you were entirely happy for us to do this. That said, every piece of information contained in the programme was gathered, checked and verified beyond something simply being repeated from your blog. Everything was corroborated independently of any single source. In addition, information regarding concerns about Mr Chadwick, Afghan Heroes and Support the Heroes used in the programme was already public. Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  28. Note Mr Maxwell‘s vague final sentence there. Sound familiar? He copied it from Mr McDougall! (see above) As you can see, the executive producer, too, ignored the provenance of the published evidence for the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH. He also said nothing about use of images from my blog without due acknowledgement. On the alleged plagiarism, then, Mr Maxwell was as evasive and obfuscatory as Mr McDougall before him.
  29. Finally, what did Mr Tregear of the ECU say? On the intentional plagiarism of facts, he wrote: “… I understand you may have been the first person to uncover information about Tony Chadwick, his businesses, his links with military charities such as Afghan Heroes and Support The Heroes and failures of regulation. However, to the best of my knowledge, you were not the only source for the information which was included in the programme and much of the information was already in the public domain.” The BBC complaints director concluded: “… I appreciate why you say you should have been credited in the programme and I can understand why you are annoyed that didn’t happen. However, I cannot agree there was intentional plagiarism of your work bearing in mind much of what you had written had been repeated elsewhere in the media and in official reports.”
  30. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, Mr Tregear stated: “… The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines include guidance on the use of pictures from social media and third party websites [9]. It recognises that material which has been put in the public domain via publication on a website or social media may be re-used but programme-makers should consider the original intention in publication and the impact of any re-use. The guidance says ‘A picture available without meaningful restrictions on a website may be considered to be in the public domain and the media may consider that it has the right to exploit it – but that does not always make it the right thing to do.‘ In this case, I think the manner in which the images were re-used matched the original use, namely illustrating the activities of military charities, and there were no particular privacy issues arising from their use. I therefore cannot see how the use led to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
  31. Thus the BBC complaints director dismissed my allegations of intentional plagiarism. He finished: “…This will be the BBC’s final finding on your complaint unless there are reasons to modify or amend it in light of any comments you may wish to make.” So I duly sent comments as I was not satisfied with his rationale for dismissing my allegations of intentional plagiarism.
  32. The chronology, I pointed out, is critical: how and when did facts become first uncovered and reported? It’s self-evidently unacceptable to not credit me for breaking the relevant stories, particularly the link between Mr Chadwick and STH. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, I said his response would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Privacy isn’t relevant here. It’s simply indefensible, I repeated, to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  33. In his reply, Mr Tregear said he saw no reason to amend his decision. In particular, he stated: “I agree it would have been courteous to acknowledge your role [in breaking the link between Mr Chadwick and STH] but as I said in my letter of 18 July there is nothing in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which says sources of information have to be given public credit; the requirement is to ensure material is checked and verified.”
  34. Because I was so dissatisfied with the BBC’s final decision, I still wrote back. There I also brought to Mr Tregear‘s attention the fact he’d referred in his last letter to Save The Heroes” (sic), not STH. There was no response, no correction.
  35. Having exhausted the BBC’s complaints process, I submitted a complaint about the alleged intentional plagiarism to communications regulator Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC, too. Unfortunately, it said in a letter my complaint failed to “engage any rules in the Code [Ofcom Broadcasting Code] and is therefore out of our remit”.
  36. My experience with the BBC should be a warning to any individual or organisation that undertakes and publishes original investigations. According to its complaints director, the BBC could use facts you’re the first to uncover and report – but without crediting you in any way. It could without due acknowledgement use images you exclusively publish, too.
  37. Then there’s something else: BBC Scotland Investigates, remember, made the TV programme. Plagiarism is self-evidently unacceptable and unethical. It’s even worse when the journalism styles itself as investigative.
  38. Never mind “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” This is surely The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal.
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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/.

Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Our Local Heroes Foundation – at last

  1. On 8 November 2016, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-charity-investigation-our-local-heroes-foundation.
  2. At last. But why has the commission taken so long to open a statutory inquiry into the military charity?
  3. I first wrote about OLHF on 4 March 2014. That year this blog exclusively exposed the charity for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working with a rip-off professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). Previously, I’d shown that the same discredited professional fundraiser had worked with 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.
  4. Despite my revelations during 2014, it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on OLHF, identifying “serious regulatory concerns” (see my 4 April 2016 post).
  5. On 11 August 2016, I revealed new evidence of multiple abuses at OLHF – serious charity abuse AFTER sustained intervention by the Charity Commission. My 11 August 2016 investigation showed that concerns about OLHF extend beyond fundraising.
  6. Within days OLHF had pulled its website (see my 19 September 2016 post) – and at date of publication it hasn’t reappeared. At the same time the then new chair of the charity, Des White, was no longer listed as a trustee on the Charity Commission public register of charities (again, see my 19 September 2016 post).
  7. Talking of Des White: on 9 November 2016, the Wigan Evening Post newspaper named and quoted me when reporting my investigation of Mr White and his involvement with another notorious military charity, again as chair, the Veterans Council: http://www.wigantoday.net/news/charity-chief-says-claims-are-untrue-1-8226307. (For the investigation, see my 17 October 2016 post.)

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?

Charity website has disappeared – as has the new chair

  1. On 11 August 2016, I revealed new evidence of multiple abuses at military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) – serious charity abuse AFTER sustained intervention by the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. Within days OLHF had pulled its website (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. OLHF homepage at 26 August 2016

    Figure 1. OLHF homepage at 26 August 2016

  2. Similarly, within days the new chair of the charity, Des White, was no longer listed as a trustee on the Charity Commission public register of charities. I happened to notice his disappearance there on 7 September 2016.
  3. On 10 September 2016, meanwhile, OLHF updated its holding page, adding a phone number and registered charity number (screen shot in Figure 2). Then two days later a vague sentence was appended: “Our Local Heroes Foundation is under new management.” (screen shot in Figure 3). At date of publication that statement remains.
    Figure 2. OLHF homepage at 10 September 2016

    Figure 2. OLHF homepage at 10 September 2016

    Figure 3. OLHF homepage at 12 September 2016

    Figure 3. OLHF homepage at 12 September 2016

  4. It’s time for answers from OLHF. For a start, where has Mr White gone and why? And one for the Charity Commission: “New management” or not, why is OLHF allowed to continue as a registered charity?

Charity donations used to fund work at company jointly owned by charity chief executive and charity trustee

  1. Money raised by charity Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company. In 2014, I exclusively exposed OLHF for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working when fundraising. Nevertheless it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on the charity, identifying “serious regulatory concerns”. Here I now show, too, that there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. Finally, links between the new chair of the charity and Mr Pearson demonstrate that questions remain about the governance of OLHF.
  2. Hitherto Ive examined the fundraising activities only of OLHF, a military charity based in Bamber Bridge, Preston (registered charity number: 1142029). It isn’t a member of the official umbrella organisation for military charities, the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo). In 2014, I exclusively exposed the charity for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working with a rip-off professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). Previously, I’d shown that the same discredited professional fundraiser had worked with 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’d opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
  3. On 9 November 2014, I appeared for the first time as a live studio guest on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme. There we exposed PPL and its work for the two military charities. OLHF had told BBC Radio 5 live then that it would stop working with PPL – only to still be working together at the end of that year (see my 26 December 2014 post). In February 2015, I reported that the charity was finally working with another company, newly formed Targeted Management Limited (TML). Yet TML is owned by the same person behind PPL, Tony Chadwick. Unlike PPL, TML claims it isn’t a professional fundraiser; rather it’s a “management” company. Nevertheless TML appears to perform or have performed on behalf of OLHF some or all of the same activities as predecessor PPL (see my 11 August 2015 post).
  4. In January 2015, PPL entered administration, which ended in December that year when the company was wound up by the High Court. Liquidators were duly appointed in February 2016. PPL remains in liquidation.
  5. It wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, published a highly critical case report on OLHF, identifying “serious regulatory concerns” (see my 4 April 2016 post). These include “a very low level” of charitable expenditure and “high” fundraising costs – only 20% of the money raised in its name actually goes to the charity, a fact I revealed back in 2014. (What took you so long, Charity Commission?) OLHF only avoided a statutory inquiry, the commission’s most serious form of engagement with a charity, because the trustees apparently showed an “open and responsible approach” in their dealings with the commission.
  6. The commission’s case report raises many questions. Why exactly was the commission so lenient on OLHF? I’m not the only one: Stephen Cook, former editor of Third Sector, wrote a column in the charity sector magazine asking the same question: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-commission-lenient-once/governance/article/1390419. Why, too, did the commission fail to mention rip-off PPL and its role for the charity? The case report examined fundraising concerns involving TML only, without considering the relationship between that company and predecessor PPL, owned, of course, by the same person. A glaring omission.
  7. But now I show that concerns about OLHF extend beyond fundraising. There’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. The charity founder is also its chief executive and president.
  8. The OLHF trustees’ annual report (TAR) with the most recent accounts, for financial year ending (FYE) 28 February 2015, documents payment of grants to beneficiaries for boiler installation. Similarly, grants for boiler installation appear on the “What we have done” page on the OLHF website (screen shot in Figure 1). As you can see, there are no dates on the page for the charitable activities. On 4 July 2016, I therefore asked Des White, chair of the charity, in an email for two dates. First, when did OLHF help “Sarah from Blackburn”? Second, when did it help “Peter from Blackpool”? No response a week later so I sent a reminder. At date of publication I’ve received nothing from the charity.

    Figure 1. “What we have done” page on Our Local Heroes Foundation website at 23 June 2016

    Figure 1. “What we have done” page on Our Local Heroes Foundation website at 23 June 2016

  9. In a glowing testimonial, “Peter from Blackpool” praises by name the company that fitted the boiler, Premier Property Maintenance. Indeed, he recommends them. So who are Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited (registered company number: 08933567)? Well, all three directors share the same surname – Pearson. First, there’s Steve Pearson, who founded OLHF. More about him and his exact role at the charity in a moment. Second, meet Antony Pearson, who was a trustee of the charity until 20 October 2015. Finally, we have Robert Pearson. Incorporated on 11 March 2014, at date of publication the company’s first accounts are eight months overdue at Companies House.
  10. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited isn’t actually on the Gas Safe Register, but another of Steve Pearson‘s companies is – B-Safe Property Services Limited (registered company number: 07501243). He’s the sole director. The Gas Safe registered engineer at B-Safe is familiar: Robert Pearson (screen shot in Figure 2). At date of publication B-Safe‘s accounts are more than 2.5 years overdue at Companies House. The company is again threatened with being struck off for failing to file its accounts on time.

    Figure 2. B-Safe on Gas Safe Register at 28 June 2016

    Figure 2. B-Safe on Gas Safe Register at 28 June 2016

  11. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited and B-Safe Property Services Limited are just two of Steve Pearson’s companies. He owns a complex web of companies, several of which have “Our Local Heroes” in their names: Our Local Heroes Monitoring Services Limited; Our Local Heroes Limited; and OLHF Events Limited (now renamed Challenger Events Management Limited). Warriors of Steel Limited is another in his empire: the charity held two fundraising events called Warriors of Steel, according to the TAR with the first OLHF accounts, for FYE 28 February 2012.
  12. As I said, Steve Pearson is the charity founder. He’s been president since registration of OLHF as a charity on 20 May 2011, according to his LinkedIn page (screen shot in Figure 3). Mr Pearson is also chief executive: see http://www.garstangcourier.co.uk/centre-for-ex-servicemen-in-fowlers-hill-wood-causes-controversy-1-7087310. He runs the charity: see http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/collector-stole-cash-donated-to-war-heroes-1-7343277. There it says: “Run by businessman Steve Pearson, the charity finds employment for injured military veterans by setting up companies for them. If successful, the revenue from the ventures is invested to create further companies and more jobs.” But, as we’ve seen, there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by Mr Pearson. Here I’ve shown that money raised by the charity was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company.

    Figure 3. Steve Pearson LinkedIn page at 28 June 2016

    Figure 3. Steve Pearson LinkedIn page at 28 June 2016

  13. The charity had four trustees in its first year, three called Pearson. None of the now three trustees, though, have that surname. The chair of a charity usually line-manages the chief executive on behalf of the trustees (see the Charity Commission guide, “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do” (CC3)). Yet new chair Des White set up a company with Steve Pearson AFTER becoming a trustee on 16 February 2015. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited (registered company number: 09598436) was incorporated on 19 May 2015, with Mr White and Mr Pearson as the two directors and two shareholders. Mr White resigned as a director on 1 April 2016, but remains as a shareholder, according to the company’s annual return made up to 19 May 2016. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited is active with Mr Pearson as sole director. Mr White, meanwhile, is sole director of a new company with a similar name, Community Covenant Homes Ltd (registered company number: 09381764). He incorporated that company on 9 January 2015 – that is, BEFORE becoming a trustee of OLHF. He’s sole director, too, of another similar-sounding new company, Community Covenant Development Limited (registered company number: 09930786). Date of incorporation was 29 December 2015, so AFTER Mr White became a trustee. The registered office address of both Community Covenant Homes Ltd and Community Covenant Development Limited is the modestly titled Pearson House, also the address of the charity, according to its website and the Charity Commission public register. The links between Mr White and Mr Pearson are a potential concern: are the trustees only really in charge of the charity? The trustees must take joint responsibility for management of OLHF and be able to challenge Mr Pearson, who could be perceived to be a single dominant individual at the charity. It was him, tellingly, not the then trustees, who spoke for OLHF to BBC Radio 5 live in our November 2014 programme, for example.
  14. The arrangements for boiler installation revealed here and the previously documented fundraising concerns both prompt the same reasonable question: is the charity being used for inappropriate private gain?
  15. STOP PRESS: Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited IS now on the Gas Safe Register for business registration number 520996 (screen shot in Figure 4). The trading name for that number on the register was changed from B-Safe (Figure 2) on 10 August 2016.

    Figure 4. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited on Gas Safe Register at 11 August 2016

    Figure 4. Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited on Gas Safe Register at 11 August 2016

“Serious regulatory concerns” at Our Local Heroes Foundation, says Charity Commission

  1. On 30 March 2016, the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), a military veterans charity (registered charity number: 1142029). The “serious regulatory concerns” at the charity include “a very low level” of charitable expenditure and “high” fundraising costs – only 20% of the money raised in its name actually goes to the charity. Here is the Charity Commission case report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-local-heroes-foundation-case-report.
  2. As you can see, OLHF only avoided a statutory inquiry, the commission’s most serious form of engagement with a charity, because the trustees showed an “open and responsible approach” in their dealings with the commission.
  3. On 30 March 2016, The Telegraph reported the Charity Commission case report, with responses from both OLHF and the company that organises its fundraising, Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/30/war-veterans-charity-spent-just-two-percent-of-income-on-grants/.
  4. In 2014, I exclusively exposed OLHF for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working, as regular readers of this blog will know.
  5. TML of Blackpool is an opaque company: https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/targeted-management-limited-censorship-and-secrecy/. Further, at date of publication there is still no mention of TML on the OLHF website. Its role(s) at the charity should not be hidden. Shameful.
  6. Meanwhile, at date of publication TML’s first accounts are weeks overdue at Companies House. Not a good sign.