Big Society Network charity applies to Companies House to be wound up

The Society Network Foundation, which has been at the centre of claims that it used political pressure to secure funding, made an application to close the charity on 15 August

Big Society Network
Big Society Network

The Society Network Foundation, the charity that owns the Big Society Network, has applied to Companies House to be wound up.

Trustees of the charity last month issued a statement rejecting claims that it had used political pressure to secure more than £2m of funding from the Cabinet Office and the Big Lottery Fund, and saying that although it was solvent it was "not planning any new projects".

The foundation’s entry on the Companies House website shows that it made an application on 15 August for the charity to be wound up.

If the application is successful, the charity will not be required to file its accounts with the regulator because it will "no longer chase for further compliance", guidance on the Companies House website says.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission, which earlier this year opened an ongoing operational compliance case into the charity to look at concerns including related-party transactions and accountancy issues, said it had received notification that trustees intended to close the charity down.

"I can confirm that the trustees of the Society Network Foundation have informed the commission that they intend to wind the charity up," a commission spokeswoman said. "This is a decision for the trustees to take and there is a process that they must properly follow in accordance with our guidelines."

The spokeswoman said that charities with an annual income of less than £5m a year that had been removed from the register did not have to file final accounts with the commission, but they should still produce them and the regulator could ask for them if it wished. She said she could not comment on whether the commission would ask for the final accounts in this case.

The National Audit Office last month published a report saying that the Cabinet Office and the Big Lottery Fund had breached their own guidelines in the management of more than £2m of grants awarded to the SNF and the BSN.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow charities minister, called for an urgent investigation into the grants awarded to the Society Network Foundation and associated organisations and has tabled a series of parliamentary questions about the level of ministerial involvement in those grants.

The BSN was awarded almost £1m in April 2013 by the BLF for the Britain’s Personal Best project, which was planned to run a weekend of activities in October 2013 to build on the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games.

But the funder withdrew the grant and did not pay the final quarter of it because the initiative was "significantly behind in its projected outcomes".

The BSN was also awarded a grant of almost £300,000 from the Cabinet Office for the children’s fitness project Get In, but almost £100,000 of this money was not paid to the organisation because of poor performance.

The Big Society Network was launched by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in March 2010. "Independent from government, the Big Society Network will be a national campaign for social change," he said at the time. "It's going to be, whether or not there's a Conservative government. But of course a Conservative government will give it all the support we can."

No one from the Society Network Foundation was available for comment.

Andy Ricketts

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