Regulators look into Manchester fundraising event after claims no money made it to charity

22 May 2019 News

Regulators are looking into claims that the organisers of a star-studded fundraising ball failed to make any donations to charity. 

A-Magazine, a Manchester-based publication, organised of the Umbrella Ball 2018 but according to a report on the BBC has failed to give funds to the charities it said it was raising money to help. 

The night in July last year was marketed as a fundraising and charity event in aid of Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Charity and another children's charity and was attended by local celebrities. 

Both charities have now complained to Action Fraud, the police’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, which is working with the Charity Commission.

Action Fraud told the BBC it was working with police and the Commission "to determine which could be best placed to lead on a possible investigation".

The Fundraising Regulator also received a complaint and told Civil Society News: "We are seeking evidence from the charities making the complaint to us and will publish our findings in due course.

“Our investigation will consider whether the Code of Fundraising Practice has been breached or not.

"If it has, we will make recommendations for change and improvement.”

Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Charity not involved

Sarah Naismith, director of the of Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Charity, told the BBC it had no involvement with the planning of the ball.

The charity tried on "several occasions" to contact the organisers and received a "final response" saying the event "had not made a profit".

Naismith said: "The charity asked for evidence of this and it has not been received."

A-Magazine editor Oliver Lilley and business partner Alex Khan told the charity five months after the event that it had failed to cover its costs.

According to the BBC, Khan said he offered the charities £3,500.

This was refused and the accounts for the fundraiser were requested instead.

Manchester’s famous faces only increased costs

The organisers called guests to join in with “Manchester’s famous faces and successful businesses” at a cost of £750 per table of ten at the Umbrella Ball 2018.

But they told the BBC that inviting celebrities to the event "served only to increase costs and contributed minimally to the fundraising".

Cash donations from envelopes on the 20 tables at the event have gone unaccounted for, as have proceeds from an online auction with a £7,000 yachting holiday as the main prize.

The technology firm running the auction was told to pay £8,827 into Lilley’s company account, under the name Oliver Torpey, says the BBC.

Intention to provide accounts and donations

Lilley and Khan’s statement, sent through a lawyer, said £1,250 in cash donations were collected but did not explain where the money went.

They said the £3,500 offered was more than was actually raised by the Umbrella Ball and suggested the offer was rejected because of a breakdown in relations with the charities.

The statement pointed to Lilley’s ill-health and an administration error and said: "Our clients acted with the best of intentions but have been unfairly criticised.

"They sincerely regret that the ball was not more successful. It is our intention to provide accounts to the charities together with their donations."

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