PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
We begin our story at number 13 on Blaenau Ffestiniog High Street, where we find the charity shop, Grandma’s Attic Community Project. Next door at number 14, we see their drop-in centre. While down the road in Porthmadog we find another charity shop and a tea-room.
Grandma’s Attic accepts antiques and bric-a-brac, and it also solicits donations of money. Which it’s said is then used to provide skills, qualifications and employment for those ‘excluded’ by society. All worthy stuff.
But let’s tarry awhile on the website, because there’s always information available.
Starting with the ‘About’ page, where we read: “Launched in February 2018, Grandma’s Attic Community Project is a registered charity (number 1188377).”
Which is not true. It may even be deliberately misleading.
What was registered in February, 2018 was the company Grandma’s Attic Community Project Limited. Which was struck off voluntarily – by its director – in December, 2018.
The charity, Grandma’s Attic Community Project, was not registered with the Charity Commission until 6 March, 2020. What’s more, it’s a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) rather than a traditional charity. I’ll explain the difference in the next section.
There’s another company, Grandma’s Attic Community Project Trading Limited, which was Incorporated 6 September, 2018 as Grandma’s Attic Community Project Blaenau Ffestiniog Limited. The name changed in March this year.
A move that was clearly linked with the registration of the charity.
Also connected with the registration of the charity is the award of £10,000 from the (Lottery) Community Fund for a community transport scheme.
As I know from personal experience, bodies dishing out moolah like to see that you’ve made some effort yourself to raise money, and that’s what Grandma’s Attic did. But even with publicity in the local press the appeal was struggling until it received an anonymous donation of £2,091.
What an odd amount!
Without that donation the figure raised was just £180, and £50 of that came from an earlier anonymous donation. There seems to have been very little local support for this ‘local’ initiative.
Something else worth mentioning is that Grandma’s Attic Community Project Trading Ltd is not a Community Interest Company (CIC). Though it might be trying to give that impression by using ‘Community’ in its name.
Sticking with the website . . .
Awarding qualifications few people have heard of, and may even be worthless, is still big business, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies offering such ‘qualifications’. It’s a racket.
On Grandma’s Attic we find two organisations. ASDAN and SafeCert.
As these outfits go, ASDAN seems kosher. On its website it describes itself as an “awarding organisation”. One of the thousands.
The other logo belongs to ‘SafeCert’, the full name of which is SafeCert Awards Ltd, and it’s based in Omagh, County Tyrone. From where it’s run by Scotsman Paul Horsburgh.
On the home page of the website we read: “We are an Awarding Body through CCEA Accreditation for Northern Ireland, SQA Accreditation that provide a registration and certification service for centres and trainers in Scotland. We await approval through OfQual for England“. (My emphases.)
No mention of Wales, where accreditation would be required from the Credit and Qualifications Framework (CQFW). Which might explain why – unlike ASDAN – SafeCert does not appear on the latest CQFW database of September 2020.
This throws up a disturbing possibility.
If Grandma’s Attic is giving children and young people courses in first aid and other subjects designed by SafeCert Awards Ltd, and issuing certificates from the same source, then these may not be recognised in Wales.
WHAT IS A CHARITABLE INCORPORATED BODY?
Over the years I must have looked at hundreds of charities. The usual arrangement is that the charity complements a company of the same name. With accounts submitted to both Companies House and the Charity Commission.
The company – usually a private limited company – is often the ‘trading arm’ of the charity. And the directors of the company will be the trustees of the charity.
A local example would be the Talyllyn Railway. The company is Talyllyn Holdings Ltd and the charity has the same name. The Charity Commission tells us that Talyllyn Holdings is a ‘charitable company’, and it gives the company number to cross reference with Companies House.
This is the usual way. So why has Grandma’s Attic gone for the recently introduced (2013) Charitable Incorporated Body?
You might find the answer here in, ‘What are the benefits of being a CIO instead of a CIC?’ Or here in, ‘Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO): Is it a Suitable Structure for Your Charity?’
Fundamentally, the Grandma’s Attic charity was set up because a CIO has advantages over a CIC. Not least because charities are more likely to get grants. We’ve already seen how charity status has worked with the £10,000 funding for the community bus.
That grant may have even been conditional on Grandma’s Attic becoming a charity.
As it’s explained in the first of the links provided:
“The charity would be eligible to apply to a lot more trusts and foundations that only give grants to registered charities. From a VAT perspective, certain activities delivered via a charity qualify for concessions, and charities don’t pay stamp duty land tax when purchasing properties or leases.”
On the assumption that the properties in Blaenau and Porthmadog are rented or leased, I take this to mean that cheaper leases can now be entered into. While property purchased in the name of Grandma’s Attic will not need to pay Land Transaction Tax.
We also read:
“You’re also more likely to get 100% rate relief – but at the very least you’ll get 80%.”
If I’ve read that correctly, then the tea-room recently opened in Porthmadog could qualify for rate relief on the grounds that it is part of the charity. Which would give it an advantage over long-established eateries in the town. And go some way to explaining why I’ve received complaints from Porthmadog.
But all charities get these advantages. What gives a CIO the edge over a traditional charity is that it’s easier and quicker to set up, and can be done with no money. And of course it doesn’t need to submit anything to Companies House.
Finally, as we read in the second link:
” . . . if things go wrong, the members and trustees are generally not personally liable for any debts or other liabilities that the CIO incurs that are greater than the charity’s assets.”
That could prove useful.
Now it’s time to meet the cast. Turning to the entry on the Charity Commission website we can dismiss two of the trustees because they’re young locals employed part time by Grandma’s Attic.
For our purposes we need to concentrate on two whose names we’ve already encountered in an image shown above. I mean Samantha Mountford-Tilley and Gary Halford, who I assume are a couple.
But before that, I need to mention a further trustee, one who is neither local nor one of the ‘family’, a larger-than-life figure.
I’m talking here of Lee ‘Wide Load’ Jobber. As you can see, Lee’s a big lad, and he beats the drum for Leicester City Football Club. Though quite how he fits into the Grandma’s Attic set-up is not clear.
He certainly hasn’t moved to Gwynedd.
Is his presence as a trustee viewed as some kind of celebrity endorsement?
To help me make sense of the backgrounds of those involved with Grandma’s Attic, I compiled a table of the companies they’ve been involved with over the past decade. It paints a rather worrying picture.
You’ll find the table below. Links are provided for the more recent companies in the pdf version but the older ones are not accessible through the normal Companies House portal.
After collecting these facts there are a number of concerns.
First, we see a pattern that crops up a lot on this blog – start a company, use the name, fold the company. It’s a tactic used by money launderers and by others, such as the gang at Bryn Llys / ‘Snowdon Summit View’.
The Bryn Llys gang are professional fraudsters. They start companies, open credit accounts with suppliers, place big orders, then flog off the goods delivered; finally, they strike off the company themselves or let creditors do it when they refuse to pay for the goods supplied, or for anything else. (HMRC is a creditor.)
I’m not suggesting that this is what’s happening at Grandma’s Attic. But so many short-lived companies is rarely an encouraging sign.
Though what I find really odd is that, despite having been struck off, some of these companies linked with Granny’s Attic still seem to exist in some ethereal form.
Let’s look at images I’ve plucked from the internet (and there are plenty more) which suggest that the names of companies dead to Companies House are still being used. And that these ‘ghosts’ operate out of Grandma’s Attic.
These are Guildhall Antique Fairs, Guildhall Fairs, and Antiques to Shabby Chic.
Click on any image to enlarge the images in the slideshow. Click on the X in the top right to return to the blog.
Guildhall Fairs and Guildhall Antique Fairs are still running shows since the move from Leicester to Blaenau. So is paperwork being issued in the names of companies that no longer exist?
Or is it cash only?
Another mystery is why Gary Halford is named in a number of the advertisements I found online yet he has never been a director of any of the ‘Guildhall’ companies.
Why did Gary Halford and Samantha Mountford-Tilley leave a relatively prosperous city in England to move to a deprived former slate-quarrying town in Gwynedd?
That move is even more curious, and inconvenient, when we realise that they are still organising fairs and antique sales in eastern England. Obviously, these activities have been curtailed by Covid-19, but there are presumably online sales.
Halford and Mountford-Tilley seem to have been in Blaenau for two years or so before the idea of ‘good works’ occurred to them.
But how much has this charitable activity raised? We know they didn’t raise much themselves towards the community bus.
The table of companies above shows a surplus of £603 on a turnover of £15,785 for Grandma’s Attic Community Project Trading Ltd. With £9,344 going on ‘Administrative expenses’, and another £5,697 on ‘Cost of sales’.
As for ‘Administrative expenses’, shouldn’t Halford and Mountford-Tilley be giving their time free of charge? It was their idea to set up Grandma’s Attic as a ‘Community’ company.
Another worry is that commercial enterprises are operating out of the same premises as a charity collecting donations from the public. There are two issues here.
First, there’s the obvious financial benefit of not having to pay council tax on business premises because those premises are registered as a charity shop. There may be other benefits.
The other worry is that private companies sharing premises with a charity collecting the same things could easily result in mix-ups. A valuable item donated to the charity could end up being sold by one of the ‘ghost’ companies at an antiques fair in England.
Despite the modest figures we have seen declared money must be coming in from somewhere. Gary Halford and Samantha Mountford Tilley have already bought one property in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Admittedly, they only paid £86,000, but they didn’t need a loan or a mortgage to make the purchase.
Sources tell me they now plan to buy a much larger property, one that has appeared on this blog. The Market Hall featured in a round-up in July 2019. Click here and scroll down to the section ‘Blaenau Ffestiniog’.
If the rumours are true, then what will this building be used for?
Everything may be hunky-dory at Grandma’s Attic and it may do exactly what it says on the tin.
But questions certainly need to be asked about the courses and qualifications on offer from Grandma’s Attic.
Grandma’s Attic must not be allowed to threaten the financial viability of tax-paying local establishments through exploiting its charitable status.
The charity Grandma’s Attic and the private business of antiques fairs and other ventures must be kept entirely separate, and run from different premises.
Until there is clarification on these issues, and local people are reassured, it might be best if official bodies, funding agencies, and others, proceed with caution.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 07.12.2020: Yesterday Grandma’s Attic issued a press release. Read it here.
In it, you’ll read, “From the inception of Grandma’s Attic our charity shop was our source of income to ensure that we were able to make enough money to provide our community-based services.”
Are they saying that a ‘charity shop’ is also a private business and a source of personal income, with no one checking that the two are kept separate? If there is some other interpretation, then I look forward to hearing it.
Also, I read no attempt to address the issue of first aid certificates being awarded in the name of SafeCert, which is not recognised in Wales. Nor was there an attempt to explain why Leicester City super-fan Lee Jobber is a trustee.