Five concerns about the first accounts of Veterans Council

  1. The wait is over. Charity Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215) recently filed its long-overdue first accounts at the Charity Commission, those made up to 31 March 2016. Only a year late! For that first year, the charity register shows income of £75 942 and expenditure of £72 975 (screen shot in Figure 1). Before describing five concerns about the accounts, I’ll explain why I was awaiting submission of the relevant documents at the commission.

    Figure 1. Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215): Charity Commission at 24 February 2018

  2. Based in Lytham St Annes, Veterans Council (1159215) is linked to another north-west military charity also called Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1140336). Veterans Council (1140336) was removed from the Charity Commission public register on 29 July 2015.
  3. Veterans Council (1140336) is of interest for many reasons (see 17 October 2016 post). Here’s two. First, the small, local charity was awarded £0.5m from the government’s Armed forces covenant (LIBOR) fund in June 2013. Second, I exclusively revealed that no accounts show how the charity actually spent the £0.5m grant.
  4. I showed that the last accounts Veterans Council (1140336) filed at the commission, those for financial year ending (FYE) 31 March 2014, 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. And, of course, Veterans Council (1140336) didn’t file accounts the next year, for FYE 31 March 2015, either. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council (1140336) spend the £0.5m from the LIBOR fund?
  5. Veterans Council (1140336) was based in St Helens. My 17 October 2016 investigation was reported in The Wigan Evening Post newspaper on 9 November 2016 (https://www.wigantoday.net/news/charity-chief-says-claims-are-untrue-1-8226307). There Des White, chair of Veterans Council (1140336), dismissed my points about the failure of his charity to report formally what it had actually done with the £0.5m grant. Mr White added that the new Veterans Council (i.e. 1159215) would in due time produce accounts, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  6. So let’s examine the first accounts of Veterans Council (1159215). As I say, they were a year late, which is a bad sign. And remember: the charity register shows income of £75 942 and expenditure of £72 975, for the first year (up to 31 March 2016). Here are five concerns about the accounts.
  7. First, the accounts don’t show the income and expenditure reported on the charity register (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215): accounts for 31 March 2016, p1, at 24 February 2018

  8. Second, it appears section A of the accounts, “Receipts and payments”, hasn’t been completed correctly: see the breakdown in section A1, “Receipts”, for example (Figure 2). There the data seem to be expenditure.
  9. Third, there’s no evidence of an independent examination of the accounts. This is a critical omission. In other words, Veterans Council (1159215) hasn’t provided evidence of the required external scrutiny of its accounts – here an independent examination. (Charity law requires charities with an income above £25k to have some form of external scrutiny of their accounts.)
  10. Fourth, the linked trustees’ annual report for the period fails to explain the itemised apparent expenditure in the accounts. So who received the “salaries” of £54 125 and why? Similarly, the “rents” of £21 480: who received these and why? Etc.
  11. Fifth, the trustees’ annual report is inadequate. It contains almost no detail on the alleged activities of the charity.
  12. In conclusion, both Veterans Council (1140336) and Veterans Council (1159215) filed inadequate accounts at the Charity Commission. It’s obviously disappointing the charity regulator seemingly failed in both cases to identify the problems – and didn’t act on them. What’s worse, these aren’t independent charities: my findings about Veterans Council (1140336) should have made the commission vigilant about the linked Veterans Council (1159215). At the time both I and The Wigan Evening Post contacted the charity regulator about my 17 October 2016 investigation.
  13. I requested a comment from the Charity Commission on the five concerns about the first accounts of Veterans Council (1159215). On 20 February 2018, a spokesperson said in an email: “I can confirm that we are looking into these concerns and will be contacting the charity about them.” I also requested via email a comment from Edward Nash, chair of and contact for Veterans Council (1159215). In his response on 23 February 2018, Mr Nash refused to address my concerns.
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Police Arboretum Memorial Trust exposé in The Times

  1. On 18 July 2017, Billy Kenber, investigations reporter, used my Police Arboretum Memorial Trust exposé (see 13 June 2017 post) as the basis of a report in The Times newspaper.
  2. Kenber’s report (“UK Police Memorial Trust spends £640,000 on private consultants”) is available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/uk-police-memorial-trust-spends-640-000-on-private-consultants-shn3cjzcf. Here too is a scanned copy of the page for those like me outside the paywall: The Times 18 July 2017.

The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust: an opaque, unresponsive charity with excessive – and increasing – management costs

  1. I first came across The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust (PAMT; registered charity number: 1159831) when I read an article by chair of trustees, Sir Hugh Orde, in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on 17 May 2017. The charity is raising funds to create a new UK Police Memorial (UKPM) at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A laudable aim, but there are problems: PAMT is an opaque, unresponsive charity with excessive – and increasing – management costs.
  2. Sir Hugh wants to raise “at least £4m” to design, build and maintain the new UKPM: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/16/join-campaign-honour-memories-police-officers-have-died-line/. Last month’s Telegraph article marked launch of a new phase of fundraising, so it’s unfortunate that the public contact for the charity has been obstructive and unresponsive from the outset. I initially emailed Joan Cagney on 18 May 2017 because I wanted to read the latest trustees’ annual report (TAR) and accounts. On 11 May 2017, the Charity Commission received the charity accounts made up to 31 December 2016, according to its online public register of charities. Yet at 18 May 2017 the accounts weren’t – and at date of publication still aren’t – actually available via the register. On 23 May 2017, Ms Cagney said in her reply (email): “I am happy to send our annual accounts, however can you tell me why you need them please?” Strange, I thought, why not just send them anyway? Nevertheless I told her in an email the next day I was interested in PAMT after Sir Hugh’s article. Yet two weeks since first requesting the latest accounts, that is at 1 June 2017, I still hadn’t received them.
  3. Meanwhile, I noticed that the charity recently filed the accounts at Companies House – on 19 May 2017 (registered company number: 08961292). Thus I obtained them there, despite the ongoing unavailability on the online public register of charities. At date of publication I still haven’t received the accounts from Ms Cagney despite a third email, on 1 June 2017. There I also said it was revealing, too, that she hadn’t told me about the recent submission at Companies House, either. No response.
  4. It appears that PAMT wants to avoid scrutiny. Examining both sets of accounts to date, I can understand why.
  5. The management of the charity is opaque. Both TARs contain the sentence: “The trustees are supported in day-to-day operational matters and project management by a small management team.” This is too vague, and says nothing about the role of Ms Cagney’s company, Morgen Thomas Ltd (registered company number: 07603228). The company is hidden.
  6. Non-disclosure of the company has a misleading consequence: PAMT has no employees, according to the Charity Commission public register of charities (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust on the Charity Commission public register of charities at 27 May 2017: no employees

  7. At date of publication Morgen Thomas Ltd isn’t mentioned on the PAMT website, either. I refer to both “The Trust” and contact pages.
  8. It’s a different story on the Morgen Thomas Ltd website, though, where the company trumpets its role at client PAMT (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. “Client” The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust on the Morgen Thomas Ltd website at 19 May 2017

  9. Both accounts report expenditure on “management,” which again is too vague. What exactly does this mean?
  10. Fundraising itself isn’t a charitable activity – but nor is “management.” Yet both are erroneously reported under “charitable activities.” Why?
  11. The charity fails to disclose the pay details of the “small management team.” Yet charities must report the pay details of their staff.
  12. PAMT has excessive – and increasing – management costs. Why? That is, in 2015, 38.8% (£241.8k) of the £623.8k income was spent on “management.” While in 2016, the percentage had increased – 43.6% (£249.4k) of the £572.3k income went on “management.”
  13. I put the above points to Ms Cagney in my third email, on 1 June 2017. At date of publication PAMT hasn’t responded to my request for comment.
  14. Sir Hugh is former president of the Association of 
Chief Police Officers (ACPO), predecessor organisation to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). Chief constable Sara Thornton, who in April 2015 became the first chair of NPCC and continues in that role, is also a trustee of PAMT. Two criticisms of ACPO were its lack of transparency, and unaccountability: as a private company it was immune to Freedom of Information requests, for example (registered company number: 03344583). As a charity PAMT is similarly exempt from Freedom of Information requests. It’s also non-transparent, as I’ve shown. What’s worse, the charity has excessive – and increasing – management costs.
  15. There’s another reason why PAMT needs to be more open, transparent and accountable: it’s a recipient of government largesse. “George Osborne, while chancellor, generously committed £1m from the LIBOR funds,” writes Sir Hugh in the Telegraph. That’s handy. Let’s hope PAMT will have more to show for the LIBOR funds than some of the military charities that Mr Osborne gifted large sums to this way. Military charities like Veterans Council, for example (see 17 October 2016 and 23 December 2016 posts).

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?