Scandal-hit Presidents Club to close down, trustees announce

The charity says it will distribute any remaining funds to children's charities

Trustees of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust have announced that it will close after claims that hostesses were subject to sexual harassment at its annual men-only fundraising dinner. 

The charity has been heavily criticised after reporters from the Financial Times newspaper worked undercover as hostesses at the charity's annual fundraising gala last Thursday. 

The FT said that hostesses had been selected for being "tall, thin and pretty". It alleged hostesses had been groped, had hands put up their skirts and been invited into bedrooms by male attendees. One hostess said a man had exposed his penis to her.

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity subsequently said it would return any donations raised through the event, while the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator said they were looking into the matter.

A statement from the charity today said: "The trustees have decided that the Presidents Club will not host any further fundraising events. Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children’s charities and it will then be closed."

The Presidents Club was registered as a charity in 1993 and hosted an annual fundraising gala for more than 30 years. During that period, it has passed proceeds to more than 200 charities, largely connected to children and health, according to its website.

The charity's accounts show that it had an income of £2m in the financial year to 31 October 2016 and spent £2.2m. The FT said that more than £2m was raised at last week's gala dinner.

Three trustees are listed on the commission’s website: the property moguls Bruce Ritchie and Harvey Soning, and the academy chain sponsor David Meller.

Meller stepped down this afternoon from his roles as a trustee of the youth and social mobility charity the Mayor's Fund for London and as a non-executive director of the Department for Education.

Meller, who chairs the academy chain the Meller Educational Trust, had held the DfE role since June 2013 and was also chair of both the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and the Apprenticeship Delivery Board.

A statement from Matthew Patten, chief executive of the Mayor's Fund for London, said Mellor had stood down. "The Mayor's Fund for London is not and has never been a beneficiary of, nor has it had any involvement with, the Presidents Club or its events," he said. 

Anne Milton, the skills minister, announced during an emergency question session in the House of Commons today that Meller would be stepping down from his DfE role.

She said it was extraordinary that such allegations were still emerging in the 21st century and that the government expected board members of the DfE to adhere to the code of conduct for board members of public bodies, which calls on them to behave with integrity.

She said she wanted to be clear that the gala had nothing to do with the DfE. 

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