Breaking: Major Liverpool charity under investigation by the Charity Commission
Government investigators will explore ‘unmanaged conflicts of interest’ at the influential Big Help Project, which is run by a former Labour councillor
Dear readers — a huge welcome to the 15-odd new members who signed in the past few days, many of whom joined after we published Matt O’Donoghue’s incredible piece at the weekend exploring the Fox Street Village fire. That piece was the product of Matt’s half-decade campaign to draw attention to the extremely hazardous state of the buildings on Fox Street, which finally caught fire just over a week ago.
One reader called it a “a sober but brilliant piece of writing” while another commented that our revelation — that the police had to break into every apartment in one block of the building to ensure it was safe — was “really chilling”. On X (formerly Twitter) one reader called it “outstanding investigative journalism” and another said the piece was the “culmination years of FAILINGS by local ‘Representatives’”. “This alone should have frozen the new build market,” said yet another commenter.
Today’s Monday briefing features another very important story, one we've been looking into for months. It concerns a massive Liverpool-based charity called The Big Help Project, which has won multiple awards for its work tackling poverty across the country. Over the weekend we learnt that Big Help — which is run by former Labour councillor Peter Mitchell — is under investigation by the Charity Commission. It’s a huge development, read on for more details on that.
Editor’s note: To be able to publish pieces by highly skilled and respected journalists like Matt — who has experience working on major projects with the likes of BBC Panorama, the Sunday Times and ITV Granada Reports — shows how far The Post has come from our days as a one-man band with a shoestring budget. We couldn’t be more grateful for the continued support of our subscribers. However, roughly 18,000 readers are receiving our journalism (like today’s big story exploring an investigation into a major Liverpool charity) for free. If that’s you and you value what we do, consider signing up and supporting us in our mission to restore quality, thoughtful local journalism.
Big story: Major Liverpool charity under investigation
Top line: Local anti-poverty charity the Big Help Project is being investigated by the Charity Commission over major concerns about conflicts of interest and money management. It’s a very significant development given the organisation’s size and influence. The Post has been looking into the Big Help for four months now, and we would like to speak to anyone who might have some information.
The details: The investigation was launched on December 7th after the Commission, which regulates charities in the UK, noticed a “significant increase” in the charity’s income.
Investigators have taken on a wide remit, looking at administration, governance and management of the charity.
Concerns have focused on decision-making by trustees and whether they received “unauthorised” benefits.
The statutory investigation will also look at potential “unmanaged conflicts of interest” according to a Charity Commission spokesperson, and could widen further as the investigation proceeds.
Background: The Big Help Project works with some of the most vulnerable adults in Merseyside and beyond, providing food banks as well as accommodation for people in crisis or at risk of homelessness. Run by former Liverpool councillor Peter Mitchell, the organisation has grown substantially since it launched in 2011 and is now part of a much wider group of over 20 organisations in both the charity and private sector, many including the branding “Big Help”.
The organisation hosted the launch of Liverpool Labour’s election manifesto last year. Then in October, it acquired control of Southport Football Club, renaming the club’s Haig Avenue the Big Help Stadium.
Both Mitchell and the Big Help Project have won awards in recent years, including for Outstanding Contribution to the Charitable Sector at the Your Move Awards at a lavish ceremony in the Crowne Plaza in December.
The charity has received considerable sums of public money for their work with vulnerable people.
Wider context: It’s not the first anti-poverty charity to be investigated by the Charity Commission. Last year, the Commission launched an investigation into Noble Tree Foundation — a similar charity to the Big Help Project that works with homeless and vulnerable people. That investigation covered similar ground, looking at conflicts of interest and “unauthorised trustee benefits”.
What next: While the investigation remains ongoing, records show the Big Help Project’s accounts for 2023 are currently late, and their 2022 accounts have been removed from the Charity Commission website. Abi has been delving deep into the Big Help for months now — please get in touch with her at email@example.com if you’re able to provide any information.
🎸 EMF take over Hangar 34 on Friday in a throwback to 90s dance rock. If you can’t sing along to Unbelievable you didn’t take part in the 90s. Although, perhaps their chart-topping cover of I’m A Believer with comedians Vic and Bob was more your thing. Buy a ticket here.
❤️ Some Valentines stand-up at the Unity Theatre this Friday might just help shake off that “unlucky in love” feeling before the holiday season hits. Romanian comic Victor Patrascan takes the lead on this one, sharing his own failures in the romantic field to make you feel a little better about yours.
🎨 Head to The Preloved Project at Lyme and Wood on Thursday for a chance to revamp your style sustainably. The St Helens cafe and workshop will show you how to repair and rejuvenate your wardrobe, teaching a variety of sewing techniques to try at home. Put down a refundable deposit for the event here.
🍷 The Adelphi is hosting a celebration of the life of Charles Dickens this Wednesday, with a three-course lunch accompanied by live entertainment from what they’re calling “the man himself”. We can’t say we’re 100% buying that — but the event seems a good opportunity to indulge in some Dickensian punch…(the temptation to suggest their rooms are similarly Dickensian has, clearly, beaten us).
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