Having a charity founder post political statements to the organisation’s Facebook page amounts to misconduct and mismanagement, the Charity Commission has concluded.
Humanity Torbay has now closed and its founder, Ellie Waugh, has agreed not to be a trustee or senior manager at a charity for four years.
The Commission opened a statutory inquiry in June 2020 and published its findings last Friday. It had been engaging with the charity since August 2019 after people raised complaints with the regulator.
It said there were multiple instances of misconduct and mismanagement, including failing to have appropriate financial controls and the inability to stop the founder from posting political content on the charity’s Facebook page.
Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Charity Commission, said: “The Commission's intervention in this case sends a strong message that charities should not be misused as a vehicle to express an individual's political views.
“Charities’ independence from party politics is not just required by the law, it is also essential in upholding public trust and confidence in charities.”
The Commission plans to consult on social media guidance for charities later this year.
‘I told the truth’
Humanity Torbay provided support for homeless people and campaigned on poverty issues.
In 2018 Waugh accused the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) of telling her she could not campaign against Universal Credit, if given a grant from the funder. Her video went viral and the funder, now called the National Lottery Community Fund, promised to review the events, but its funding can only be used for project work.
In a 700-word Facebook post, on her new page the Waugh Zone, last week Waugh said she had no regrets and criticised other charities.
She said: “I had no idea that you were not allowed to speak out [when you run a charity] that you were supposed to take the money for your pay and that you were supposed to just get on with it and not say anything.”
In 2019 she had campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
“I am proud to say I did a personal campaigning video for Jeremy and his team for his campaign in 2019 and I made no bones and I make no apologies for campaigning for him and for the Labour Party and I would do it again,” she said.
Waugh went on to accuse others of “jealousy and upset”, saying that she had “told the truth”.
Regarding the voluntary undertaking not to be a trustee or senior manager, she said: “I would say that that was an absolute joke and a travesty because I told the truth about universal credit I told the truth about poverty and I was told I was supposed to keep my mouth shut and I refused and I would do it all again what is so disgusting is in this country you are not allowed to say anything well I’m free now and I can say exactly what I want.”
She now claims to run 50 Facebook pages where she “can tell the truth”.
“But what I cannot forgive is the charities who refuse to speak out because they are frightened they are going to lose their funding and they go along with the government they are just puppets and they are doing all the people they help a disservice by not telling the real truth there are people who should be held accountable along with the Tory government!!”