Sunday, 24 March 2019

Comic Relief criticised for 'hoarding' £117million - as charity pleads for cash to help hungry and homeless in the UK

In its emotive fundraising films, Comic Relief paints a bleak picture of impoverished Britons in desperate need of cash to combat hunger, deprivation and homelessness.
But today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the charity is sitting on a cash pile of almost £117 million – nearly twice the total donated on Red Nose Day.
Last night, critics blasted Comic Relief bosses for hoarding the sizeable sum.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘It is clear that the famously generous British public will not be happy if their donations are merely swelling the reserves of an already well-funded charity.
‘It is difficult to see who the reserves are actually aiding, apart from the organisation itself. I’m sure that was not where people intended their generous donations to go.’
Comic Relief’s most recently published accounts also show it spent £11.9 million on salaries in 2017, with 30 staff earning more than £60,000 and five pocketing more than £100,000.
The news comes a week after The Mail on Sunday revealed that the BBC faced fierce criticism for allowing stars such as Ed Sheeran to paint a downbeat picture of Britain and effectively deliver ‘an advert for Jeremy Corbyn’.
In one film, charity co-founder Lenny Henry warned that ‘real hunger… is hitting a huge number of people in this country’.
However, Comic Relief itself is in fine financial fettle. According to its most recent figures, its £116.9 million reserves in 2016-17 were up from £93.5 million the previous year.
The lion’s share of that is a balance of £66 million in donations yet to be paid out in grants, plus a £50 million war chest intended to keep the charity running for six months in the event of an emergency, including a collapse in the value of its investments.
The MoS has also learned that Ministers have expressed concern about Comic Relief’s spending.
The Department for International Development (Dfid), which has given taxpayers’ cash to fund some of the charity’s projects, has sought assurances that Comic Relief money was being spent on good causes rather than going towards running costs or lost to fraud.
The charity is currently investigating three separate fraud allegations involving a total of £867,000.
In 2017, Comic Relief chief Liz Warner reassured Priti Patel, who was International Development Secretary at the time, about how they planned to ‘review and tighten our systems’ to address the issues. 
Comic Relief last night declined to give details of exactly what her comments related to. But a source close to Dfid said: ‘There was concern about where all Dfid’s donations to Comic Relief were going, particularly as the charity had quite high staffing and administrative costs.’
Dfid said action was taken after Comic Relief discovered ‘fraud in a partner’s programme’, adding: ‘Funds were recouped and no taxpayers’ money was lost.’
This year’s Comic Relief fundraiser, which included a Four Weddings And A Funeral reunion starring Hugh Grant and Lily James, raised more than £63 million, but that was £8 million less than the previous appeal in 2017.
Last night a spokeswoman said: ‘Comic Relief is committed to making sure every pound the charity gets directly from the public goes towards helping transform the lives of people dealing with poverty and injustice.’
She said no public donations went to the emergency war chest and that Comic Relief takes a ‘zero-tolerance approach to corruption’.

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