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Charity with links to property industry to be investigated over ‘serious concerns’

The Charities Commission says it has been alerted to concerns about The Ashley Foundation and its founder and former CEO Lee Dribben.

Nigel Lewis

charity

A homelessness charity with strong links to the property industry is to be investigated by the Charity Commission over serious financial concerns.

The charity is The Ashley Foundation, which operates 89 move-on apartments and four large hostels to support the homeless in the North East including in Blackpool, Blackburn and Sunderland and was founded in 1997 by local property investor Lee Dribben.

Until February this year he was a director of the charity, and its CEO.

The Charities Commission says it has been alerted to concerns about purchases of luxury goods on Dribben’s personal credit card, which were reimbursed by the charity.

The purchases do not appear to be linked to the day to day activities of the charity, and so investigators will probe whether the transactions were reasonable and in the charity’s best interests.

“The Commission is also aware that charity properties were sold to a third party and then re-sold on the same day for a significantly higher value,” a statement says.

“The properties are now being managed by the charity under a management agreement with a third party, the terms of which raise potential concerns.”

Statutory inquiry

A serious nature of the commission’s investigation mean it is to open a statutory inquiry into the running of the charity which will look at wider issues including the financial management and controls of the charity.

The Ashley Foundation has nine active directors which includes Dribben’s son Ashley, who works as an estate agent in Manchester.

Its latest accounts lodged with Companies House show the charity has assets worth £4 million, and in 2018 made a consolidated profit of £3.35 million.

Most of its income comes from housing benefit paid to it by residents who use its accommodation, but also local authority contracts and grants.

April 23, 2020

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