Two parliamentary candidates for the Conservative party have come under scrutiny from the Charity Commission, just as the party is trying to highlight its links with civil society.
The ‘Big Society’ plans launched for the Conservative’s election manifesto were written with a view “to help mend Britain's Broken Society” by enabling “social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups to play a leading role in delivering public services and tackling deep-rooted social problems”. But two candidates regarded as models for the vision have come into unwanted contact with the Charity Commission in separate incidents this year.
Shaun Bailey, parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith is in hot water after £16,000 of spending through his charity, MyGeneration, was unaccounted for in its accounts.
Bailey, who was brought up by his mother in North London, is a frequent commentator on youth, crime, drug and welfare and appeared in the Evening Standard as one of London’s 1,000 most influential people. He co-founded MyGeneration to address “the social problems that affect young people and their families, including anti-social behaviour, drug use, crime, teen pregnancy, educational underachievement and unemployment” and remains its chief executive.
After the discrepancies in MyGeneration’s accounts were brought to the attention of the Charity Commission, it said: "We are assessing this issue in line with normal procedure in order to determine what role, if any, there may be for us."
The Commission advised that this does not mean that the charity is under investigation but that it is “currently assessing the specific issue raised”.
Nothing but a 'smear' campaign
Speaking to Civil Society Bailey said that the discrepancies are nothing but a "smear" against him by the Labour party and put the issue down to bad administration:
"MyGeneration is a small charity that has experienced rapid growth," said Bailey. "At that time we had a full-time staff of only two people responsible for all of the charity's projects and administration. Like many small charities and voluntary organisations, it took us some time to develop the administrative processes.
"It is only my political opponents who have tried to bring the charitable work done by MyGeneration into disrepute. This is the second time Labour have tried to smear me by attacking the charity with no regard for the work it does with the hundreds of youth and families it supports in West London."
Concerns raised about Joanne Cash's 'charitable' programme
Bailey, however, is not the only Conservative candidate to fall foul of the Charity Commission. Earlier this year libel lawyer and Conservative parliamentary candidate for Westminster North Joanne Cash was also contacted by the Commission after sending a public letter to voters last October referring to her social project Step Up as a “charitable project”. Step Up is a mentoring service set up to offer practical advice to students in the Westminster North area, but is not a registered charity.
"Concerns were raised with the Charity Commission earlier this year regarding the status of the mentoring work of the parliamentary candidate, Joanne Cash's Step Up programme,” said a spokesperson for the Commission.
“The Commission has provided Ms Cash with advice and guidance on the use of the term charitable in her materials and she has informed us that she will no longer use the term to describe the work of the Step Up programme. We have now closed our case on this matter,” they added.
Cash was unavailable to comment at time of publication.