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Island Health trustees quizzed over £350,000 payments in Charity Commission probe

PUBLISHED: 12:21 06 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:33 09 July 2018

Building in East Ferry Road originally handed on trust to Island Health by London Docklands Development Corporation. Picture source: Google

Building in East Ferry Road originally handed on trust to Island Health by London Docklands Development Corporation. Picture source: Google

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Key witnesses in the Island Health funding controversy have been interviewed since the Charity Commission began its investigation seven months ago into the way the organisation operates, it has emerged.

Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick addressing  Isle of Dogs public protest meeting in October 2017 over Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike BrookePoplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick addressing Isle of Dogs public protest meeting in October 2017 over Island Health Trust. Picture: Mike Brooke

The inquiry started last November into funds and £3.1 million assets held by Island Health Trust follows a government minister pushing for action.

Trustees were warned in a Commons debate back in March to cooperate with the investigation into why £350,000 was paid into the chair of Island Health charity’s bank account.

Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick wrote to the Charity Commission last week believeing that none of the trustees had yet been approached.

““I am aware of current pressures on the commission,” he says in his letter to Charity Commission chief Helen Stephenson.

Mayor John Biggs with his letter to Island Health chair calling for her to resign, sent January 2018. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs with his letter to Island Health chair calling for her to resign, sent January 2018. Picture: Mike Brooke

“This is seven months after the inquiry opened and three months after assurances from the government.”

Culture State Secretary Tracey Crouch told Parliament in March that the investigation would pass the evidence to the police if uncovers criminal offences. All trustees had “a legal duty to ensure that the charity lawfully fulfils its purposes”, MPs were told.

The health trust had accumulated £1.3m in public funds and NHS fees had been paid into the chair Suzanne Goodband’s bank account, the Commons heard.

Mr Fitzpatrick had told MPs: “There are serious questions about the £349,000 paid to a consulting company solely owned by Suzanne Goodband which is 68 per cent of the charity’s income over two years. Trustees approving payment for periods before they were appointed seems to border on fraud and possibly criminal.”

Public protest meeting in October 2017 over Island Health Trust, organised by former Tower Hamlets councillor Dave Chesterton. Picture: Mike BrookePublic protest meeting in October 2017 over Island Health Trust, organised by former Tower Hamlets councillor Dave Chesterton. Picture: Mike Brooke

The trust took almost £350,000 of NHS funding over two years — while GPs were being priced out of the building with rent rises.

Charity Commission inquiries have confirmed that a consultancy company solely owned by a trustee “received significant benefits from the charity” and questioned if it was in the best interests of the charity.

But the Charity Commission told the East London Advertiser in a statement this week: “Our inquiry into Island Health Trust involves a number of complex issues which we are working to address as quickly as possible and have engaged with the trustees and other interested parties.”

“We recognise that the inquiry has taken time and remain sensitive to the public interest in this case.

The commission says it intend publishing a report of its findings when the inquiry concludes.

Island Health was handed its two-storey premises in East Ferry Road in trust by the Docklands Development Corporation 30 years ago. It has since been referred to Tower Hamlets Council’s legal department to “restore local accountability”.

The controversy first blew up with a petition to Tower Hamlets Council in January 2017 and followed by public meetings on the Isle of Dogs. Both the MP and Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs have publicly called for Suzanne Goldband to resign over NHS cash paid to her privately-owned company for “consultancy” fees.

But there has still been no move to interview the trustees, the MP revealed this week.

His letter to the Charity Commission, seen by the East London Advertiser, states: “The Minister did confirm on March 19 that the inquiry would be completed as soon as possible. I was assured the Commission would speak to Stephen Molyneaux, one of the crucial figures involved.

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