CEO of charity being investigated over political social media posts quits 

09 Jul 2020 News

The chief executive of Humanity Torbay has announced that she has left the charity, shortly after the Charity Commission said it had begun an inquiry.  

Humanity Torbay, a homelessness charity based in Devon, was registered in 2017. In 2018 a social media post from Ellie Waugh, then chief executive, accusing the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) of trying to stop her from campaigning went viral. 

Waugh had said in a video that was viewed over 6,000 times and covered by the BBC and others that she had been told she could not get funding from the NLCF, if she continued to criticise Universal Credit. NLCF denied that it was trying to prevent campaigning activity, but its funding can only be used for project work. 

This week the Charity Commission said that in June it opened a statutory inquiry into Humanity Torbay after receiving several complaints about political activity on the charity’s social media accounts. 

The regulator said it has previously given trustees formal regulatory advice about keeping personal political views out of posts on the charity’s Facebook and Twitter pages, but continued to receive complaints. 

Its statement about opening the inquiry said: “The regulator is concerned that the trustees of Humanity Torbay do not have sufficient oversight or control of the charity’s social media content which should only be used to promote the charity’s objects and services.” 

Financial concerns

The Commission will also look at how the charity has been managing its finances after the independent examiner’s report for its first set of accounts flagged issues with record keeping. 

Smarter Accounting said: “The receipts and payments accounts prepared by the charity show cash received in the year however no records have been kept to match the record of the donations received to the deposits made and cash balances were retained and not deposited at the charity's bank.

“The only evidence seen relate to correspondence advising of the grant awards. With exception of wages, rent and utilities the majority of the expenditure was made in cash from retained unbanked cash or via cash withdrawals. However, insufficient evidence have been provided to determine who has authorised these payments and also the reasoning behind them.” 

Humanity Torbay’s accounts for the year to March 2019 show that it had an income of £143,000, made up of public donations and grants. 

Its largest item of spending was on wages and national insurance, which was £67,000 – more than half its total spending of £122,000. 

Chief executive quits 

Last week Waugh set up a Facebook page, The Waugh Zone, to continue to campaign about Universal Credit and poverty in the UK. 

In a video posted on the page this week to address issues with the charity, she said: “I admit that I put political posts on and I admit I told the truth.”

She added: “I am quite free to admit, I love Jeremy Corbyn, I absolutely adore the man. I want to make it clear that I used to be a Conservative until I heard the man speak a couple of years ago and he changed my social conscience I hope for the better.” 

Waugh plans to continue speaking out. 

“At the end of the day how could my trustees have shut me up?” She said. “They tried, bless them they gave me a written and verbal warning.”

She added: “In this country we are not allowed to tell the truth even if we are a charity. Surely, the charities are the one people who should tell the truth about politics and the things that go on?” 

Waugh said that as of last week she is no longer involved with the charity, and had only been involved in a limited and volunteer capacity since March.

“Now I am no longer at the charity. From the beginning of March I was a volunteer,” she said. 

She added: “Many people know I wanted to go before Christmas, but unfortunately they couldn’t replace me. So at the end of the day, if that’s what you want to call it, political campaigning, then fine it’s your interpretation on the truth. And the truth is these people need our help.” 

In other videos she said that she and the trustees have received hatemail because they have spoken out, and detailed examples of poverty caused by Universal Credit that she has witnessed.

Humanity Torbay currently has three trustees. It has not responded to an invitation to comment. 

Civil Society Media’s 13th annual Trustee Exchange conference will be run virtually over two mornings on the 29th and 30th July. Pressure on trustee boards has never been higher and we are keen to respond to that need for greater help and guidance in a safe and timely manner – hence the move to an online conference. Find out more here.

 

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