News

This is where we’ll post third sector news and important updates that are useful for your organisation.

Essex Vision

Essex County Council is dedicated to improving Essex and the lives of our residents. Their ambition is to deliver the best quality of life in Britain. They aim to achieve this by providing high-quality, targeted services that deliver real value for money. Read more…

Author: Emma Wardall
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Categories: News

Conflict-of-interest scandal at publicly funded UK arts centre Firstsite

Originally posted by The Art Newspaper: www.theartnewspaper.com


Chairman and trustee resigned amid investigation into more than £90,000 spent on consultancy firm they directed.

Firstsite, the ill-fated arts centre in Colchester, Essex, that has received or been promised around £10m in Arts Council funding, is in crisis after revelations that its chairman and a trustee faced accusations of a conflict of interest over expenditure of more than £90,000 on consultancy services. In June, a confidential independent report on the affair led the Charity Commission to describe the payments as “a serious incident”.

Noorzaman Rashid, Firstsite’s chairman, and fellow trustee Robert Surman resigned on 16 March this year. This followed the news that the arts centre had paid £91,040 between September 2015 and November 2016 for human-resources consultancy advice from the company Friary West, based in Maldon, Essex; both Rashid and Surman were directors of the firm.

Rashid had been appointed the chairman of Firstsite in July 2015 and became a director of Friary West in January 2016, while the arts centre was still making payments to the company. Surman, who was appointed a trustee of Firstsite in September 2015, also became a director of Friary West in January 2016. Two of the firm’s four directors were therefore on Firstsite’s board.

In March, Firstsite appointed the accountancy firm Mazars “to investigate the links”. Its report, submitted in June, shows that both men “declared their interest to the board of trustees and its register of interests”. Both also “stated that they received no financial reward for the work they undertook for the company”.

The report recommends that Firstsite should “review its existing procurement policy and define the specific criteria for selecting suppliers”. It also says that the arts centre should “provide staff and trustees with training so that they understand the procurement policy adopted by Firstsite and can apply it correctly”.

After receiving the report, a spokesman for the arts centre said: “Firstsite’s board has accepted the findings and recommendations of the investigation by Mazars and is actively reviewing the operation of its procurement policy in light of this to ensure that it is effective, supported by robust procurement procedures and with appropriate collective decision-making for high-value contracts.”

The Charity Commission also responded in a statement, which said: “The [Firstsite] trustees have reported a serious incident to the commission and we are aware of concerns about Firstsite’s use of its charitable funds. There are circumstances in which trustees’ professional connections may bring benefits to a charity’s work; however, it is vital that any conflicts of interest are managed effectively in order to maintain public trust and confidence in the charity. We will be assessing information provided by the charity and will be engaging with the trustees to ensure that they are acting in line with their legal duties and our guidance.”

Major funder had concerns

In recent years, Firstsite’s major source of funding has been Arts Council England. In 2014, it was awarded £815,000 a year for the period 2015/16 to 2018/19, but by February 2015, the Arts Council had become concerned about the centre’s viability and the three-year arrangement was replaced with a one-year grant. In June 2017, after the Arts Council was reassured about Firstsite’s revised plans, a further two years’ funding was reinstated; this runs from April this year. The long-term funding therefore came into force just a month after the revelations about the payments to Friary West.

In June, a spokeswoman for the Arts Council told us: “We welcome the measures that Firstsite has taken to examine its governance procedures. Both its management and its board are working hard to implement the recommendations of the independent [Mazars] review.”

We have not received a response to a request for comment from Rashid and Surman.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

The number of charity shops soars in West Midlands – sparking fears for small independent businesses

Originally posted by Birmingham Live: www.birminghammail.co.uk


The number of charity shops is soaring in the West Midlands – sparking fears small independent businesses are disappearing from the high street.

An exclusive analysis of figures from NOMIS shows that in 2017 there were 375 charity shops in the metropolitan area, 39 per cent more compared to the 270 registered in 2010.

Solihull saw the biggest increase locally – charity shops went up by 75 per cent in seven years from 20 to 35.

Birmingham followed with an increase of 61 per cent from 90 to 145 while the number of charity shops in Walsall has increased by 50 per cent from 20 to 30.

Across the UK, charity shops have soared by a third, or 32 per cent, from 8,550 to 11,260.

According to chartered accountants Kreston Reeves, which ran a charity shops survey in 2016, “charity shops generally perform best during a recession”.

As their report says, “the Brexit vote is a bright spot on the horizon for charity shops as many commentators believe it may return the country to recession.”

Charity shops pay only 20 per cent of the standard business rates which makes it easier for them to take over premises that might otherwise stay empty.

Commenting on the national trend, a Charity Retail Association spokesperson said: “The success in raising charity shop numbers is down to many factors.

“It is an environmentally-friendly way to shop and the public is always keen for a bargain.

“Our research shows that the amount of charity shops in one particular area is not linked to deprivation.

“The UK public is always generous when it comes to raising money for charity and we see no sign of that declining.”

 

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Child cancer charity founder Colin Nesbitt denies fraud

Originally posted by the BBC: www.bbc.co.uk


The founder of a children’s cancer charity is to go on trial accused of fraud involving more than £340,000.

Colin Nesbitt, 57, started the Little Heroes Cancer Trust in 2008, which raised money to buy toys for children with cancer and support families.

He appeared at Bradford Crown Court where he denied five fraud charges and five allegations that he supplied false information about the charity’s spending to the Charity Commission.

He will go on trial on 15 April.

It is alleged that Mr Nesbitt, of Kent Road, Bingley, abused his position as director of the charity by transferring money into bank accounts and giving loans to two men.

He was released on unconditional bail.

 

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Digital skills training coming to a location near you

Originally sent in an email from Media Trust: mediatrust.org


In a rapidly evolving digital world, there is an increased need for charities to enhance their digital communications knowledge and implement a digital strategy to help them reach new supporters and deliver successful campaigns online. However, when resources and budgets are stretched, this can prove difficult for most.

That’s why, last month, we announced the launch of our new UK-wide digital skills training programme, delivered through local masterclasses, mentoring and online learning.


Register for a digital masterclass near you

You can now book onto the first wave of our regional masterclasses, starting in September. Charities and community organisations can sign up to attend free digital skills masterclasses in locations around the UK, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Bristol and London*.

* Please note, the next London masterclass will repeat the topics covered at our launch event on 21 June 2018.

Sign up to attend one of our free digital skills masterclasses

Author: Steering Member
Posted:
Categories: News

Southend United to carry name of Prostate Cancer UK on front of shirts

Originally posted by ITV news: www.itv.com


Southend United have announced a partnership with Prostate Cancer UK that will see the charity’s logo emblazoned on the club’s home and away kits.

Shrimpers boss Chris Powell is an ambassador for the charity and ran the London Marathonback in April to raise money for them.

The logo will be on the front of the kits for the duration of the 2018/19 League One season.

Prostate Cancer UK is one of the Football League’s chosen charities, and Shrimpers boss Powell is hopeful that the shirt sponsorship deal will help to raise awareness.

“I think it’s a wonderful move by us,” Powell told ITV News Anglia.

“We know there’s many men that watch football and may be unaware of what prostate cancer is about, so it will certainly raise awareness in this part of Essex, that’s for sure.”

Prostate Cancer UK Chief Executive Angela Culhane has commended the partnership and believes it will make a real difference.

“This partnership extends our footprint in football and proves again the power the beautiful game can have in shaping real change,” she said.

“It will help us make sure the messages about prostate cancer continue to ring loud for the football community, with all at Southend United playing their part in making prostate cancer a disease the next generation of men need not fear.”

Author: Steering Member
Posted:
Categories: News

Finance officer who siphoned off more than £750,000 from a Notting Hill Carnival charity to send to her family in Trinidad is jailed for six years

Originally posted by Mail Online: www.dailymail.co.uk


A finance officer who stole more than £750,000 from a Notting Hill Carnival charity has been jailed for six years.

Nadia Ali, 34, paid a total of £784,262 into her own bank accounts over two years while working for the Carnival Village Trust in west London.

She disguised the transfers as legitimate payments to suppliers and government organisations, before sending the money to her family in Trinidad.

Ali also covered up the fraud by stealing invoices and statements sent to the charity to cover up the fraud.

She gave no explanation when arrested in March 2017.

Ali admitted fraud by abuse of position and removing criminal property on the second day of her trial at Isleworth Crown Court.

She denied theft of financial documents from the Tabernacle in Notting Hill but was convicted by the jury after trial.

Ali, of Hammersmith, was sentenced to six years imprisonment.

Andrew Caird, from the CPS, said: ‘Nadia Chase Ali acted dishonestly and in her own interests when she siphoned off nearly £800,000 from the charity with close links to the Notting Hill Carnival.

‘Our prosecution was able to show that she had sent large amounts of money to her homeland of Trinidad and that she sought to cover her tracks by stealing financial documents that showed her illegal activity.

‘Her offending took place over a period of almost three years and showed not only how calculated Chase Ali’s actions were, but also demonstrated her complete disregard towards making a gain from taxpayers’ money as well as the effect her dishonesty could have had on such an important community event.’

  • Nadia Ali stole £784,262 while working for Carnival Village Trust in west London
  • The 34-year-old worked for Notting Hill Carnival charity for two years in finance
  • Ali was jailed for six years after admitting fraud and being found guilty of theft

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Mencap wins ‘unaffordable’ overnight back pay appeal

Originally posted by The BBC: www.bbc.co.uk


Care workers who had to stay overnight as part of their job will not be entitled to back pay at the minimum wage after a Court of Appeal ruling.

The charity Mencap, who won the appeal, argued that a previous tribunal decision which compelled care providers to fund six years’ back pay for overnight carers was unaffordable.

And it said smaller employers could be forced out of business by the decision.

But a union said workers should be paid what they were legally entitled to.

Care workers who provide care for people with serious learning disabilities overnight used to be paid a flat fee of around £30, reflecting the fact that they might be sleeping during some of their shifts.

But after employment tribunal rulings involving a Mencap support worker in the East Riding of Yorkshire, HM Revenue and Customs said they should be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour overnight, amounting to about £60.

Employers were told to fund £400 million of back pay but care providers, including Mencap, argued that this was unaffordable.

The Court of Appeal ruled today that care providers had no liability for back pay.

‘Mistake’

But the union Unison is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said the ruling was a “mistake” and that the blame should be “laid at the government’s door”.

“Ministers are so consumed by Brexit that they’re ignoring huge problems around them.

“Sleep-in shifts involve significant caring responsibilities, often for very vulnerable people.”

But Lord Justice Underhill, sitting with two other senior judges in the Court of Appeal, said: “For the reasons which I have given I believe that sleepers-in… are to be characterised for the purpose of the regulations as available for work… rather than actually working… and so fall within the terms of the sleep-in exception.

“The result is that the only time that counts for national minimum wage purposes is time when the worker is required to be awake for the purposes of working.”

‘False expectations’

However, most employers have now started paying the minimum wage to care workers who sleep overnight while working.

Mencap said it intended to continue to do so despite the court’s decision.

Derek Lewis, chair of the Royal Mencap Society, said: “The prospect of having to make large unfunded back payments had threatened to bankrupt many providers, jeopardising the care of vulnerable people and the employment of their carers.

“Many hardworking care workers were given false expectations of an entitlement to back pay and they must be feeling very disappointed.

“We did not want to bring this case.”

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

£3 million awarded in grants!

We are delighted to announce that, in the past 12 months, ECF has awarded grants totalling £3 million to support the work of local charities, voluntary organisations and individuals in Essex.

Caroline Taylor, chief executive, said: “To have channelled this amount of funding into local communities over the last year is a significant achievement.  The grants have made a difference in so many ways, including helping people in need, supporting those who are vulnerable and increasing skills and educational opportunities. They have also helped to reduce social isolation, enhanced community spaces and improved facilities for the benefit of local people.

“As one of the largest grant funders of the voluntary sector in Essex, we are committed to working with people who want to channel their charitable giving into the county and to making our application process for funding as straightforward as possible.”

“We are always interested to discuss potential applications and how ECF can help people and companies with their charitable giving. Please call me or Jo Macaulay on 01245 355947 or look at our website for more information.”

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Charity Digital Code

Originally sent in an email from Media Trust: mediatrust.org


This week sees the launch of the first Charity Digital Code of Practice. 

The code, now open for consultation aims to help charities, big and small, by providing them with a framework, best practice guidelines and principles of digital to work towards.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News