Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse

The organisation was given at least £2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants despite having no record of charitable activity

David Cameron’s flagship Big Society Network is being investigated by the Charity Commission over allegations that it misused government funding and made inappropriate payments to its directors – including a Tory donor.

The organisation, which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2010, was given at least £2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants despite having no record of charitable activity.

The Independent has learnt that it has now been wound up, having used much of the money on projects that came nowhere near delivering on their promised objectives.

Two senior figures on government grant awarding bodies have also made allegations that they were pressured into handing over money to the Big Society Network despite severe reservations about the viability of the projects they were being asked to support.

Liam Black, a former trustee of Nesta, which was then a public body sponsored by the Department for Business, said Nesta had been “forced” to give grants that totalled £480,000 to the Big Society Network in 2010 without a competitive pitch. He described it as a “scandalous waste of money”.

Another senior figure involved in the decision to award £299,800 from the Cabinet Office to the organisation said the funding request had initially been turned down.

“When we did the analysis we turned them down because the bid did not stack up,” they said. “But we were told to go back and change the criteria to make it work.”

read furthe rdetails here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-camerons-big-society-in-tatters-as-charity-watchdog-launches-investigation-into-claims-of-government-funding-misuse-9629848.html

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New chapter in ‘bedroom tax’ saga – now councils run out of emergency funds to help worst cases

The ‘bedroom tax’ has resulted in thousands of people being “driven into destitution” as councils run out of the emergency funds set aside to rescue those worst affected.

Demonstrators will gather in Cardiff, Leeds and London today to call for the abolition of the widely criticised policy, a year after it was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith.

Ministers have always maintained that those forced into hardship by the tax can apply to their council for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to help cover their rent.

But The Independent can disclose that many councils had already exceeded their budget for DHPs in February, weeks before the end of the financial year on 31 March, even though the Government had increased the money available to local authorities. The Government disputes the figures.

read  the rest of this article  by Emily Dugan in the Independent here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-new-chapter-in-bedroom-tax-saga–now-councils-run-out-of-emergency-funds-to-help-worst-cases-9239766.html