Actors’ charity reports voting concerns to police as trustees elected

29 Jan 2024 News

Actors Benevolent Fund logo

The Actors’ Benevolent Fund (ABF) has concluded its election of a new board of trustees but reported “serious concerns” to the police and charity regulator over almost half of the votes cast.

Actors Simon Callow and Lesley Joseph along with TV judge Rob Rinder have all been elected as trustees, the charity announced today, along with president Eshwar Alladi and eight others also recommended by its nominations committee.

The charity said it discounted 166 online votes made in the election after finding they all came from just two IP addresses while 173 members “voted validly”.

All 156 votes cast from the first IP address were discounted after an investigation by the charity’s legal advisors found that all the relevant members it spoke to said they did not give authority to someone to vote on their behalf.

“This means that all 156 votes from the first IP address and 10 votes from the second IP address had to be disregarded,” a spokesperson for the charity said in a statement.

“If we had not discovered this, the 156 invalid votes alone would have meant that all the candidates who were not on the list recommended by the ABF’s independent nominations committee would have been elected.

“With the invalid votes discounted and the valid votes counted, the ABF’s members have voted in, by a substantial majority, the 12 candidates recommended by the nominations committee.

“These candidates will form our new board and our priority now is to focus on the core purpose of the charity, which is to support the acting and stage management community in need.”

The other newly-elected trustees are Abi Eniola, Hannah Whittingham, Alex Macqueen, Marilyn Cutts, Andrew Jarvis, Sarah Alford-Smith, Jassa Ahluwalia and Patrick O’Kane.

A group of former trustees, members and donors to the charity welcomed the election results but disputed the independence of the investigation.

Former trustees: ‘A new era’

A spokesperson for former trustees, members and donors of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund said: “Today the Actors’ Benevolent Fund has at last moved into a new era.

“We are delighted that a diverse and fresh council has at last been elected.  We are confident that all of the new trustees will now prioritise the charity’s purpose and focus solely on the beneficiaries; those in the profession who are unable to work due to illness, injury or old age.  

“We trust that the newly elected ABF council will seek to unify the membership and heal past divisions. We are sure that with the support of the hugely experienced and independent co-opted trustees the council will ensure that the charity is in safe hands.

“It is absolutely right and correct that any irregularities in voting should be properly investigated and be presented to the Charity Commission and any other competent authority.

“We do not view the investigation as independent, as it was conducted by a firm retained by the sitting trustees [in situ until today], no independent steering committee was formed, no independent IT advice or investigation deployed to determine the results as presented to the ABF members – essentially all that was considered was the validity of the proxy votes.  

“Nor can we pass comment on the terms of reference or the process undertaken or on the results, as they have not been fully shared with our group.

“However, whatever decisions are made by the new council and the Charity Commission, we are of the view that this council is well placed to unify the charity and prioritise the charity’s purpose and focus now solely on the beneficiaries.”

Regulator: ‘A long and damaging dispute’

The Charity Commission confirmed that the ABF had reported its concerns of suspected electoral fraud to it.

A spokesperson for the regulator said: “The ABF has been subject to a long and damaging dispute, which has not served the interests of the charity or its beneficiaries.

“The Commission had required that the charity hold free and fair trustee elections by the end of January, and we hope that, following the outcome announced today, the charity can now move forward in unity in delivering on its important charitable purpose.”

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the free Civil Society daily news bulletin here.


More on