Wac Arts: Charity Commission says ‘no further action’ but encourages Belsize Park charity to ‘rebuild trust and support’ with its community ahead of meeting with critics
PUBLISHED: 17:59 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:03 18 August 2020
The Charity Commission will not be “taking further regulatory action” against Wac Arts, it has confirmed to the Ham&High.
The Belsize Park performing arts college referred itself to the commission after a group called Wac Arts Concerns accused it of financially mismanaging the decades-old charity.
Wac Arts’ board of trustees has agreed to meet with the group – made up of disgruntled alumni, staff, students and their families - in September.
The meeting was one of the demands made by Wac Arts Concerns in an open letter alleging that the board had failed to tackle “microaggressions” arising from a lack of race and class diversity among trustees board.
A commission spokesperson said Wac Arts had “co-operated with our enquiries and we were satisfied that they had handled the matters appropriately and in line with their legal duties”.
The open letter signed by more than 80 people, also criticised the charity’s furlough policy during the Covid-19 pandemic, the reduction in programmes on offer and staff turnover in the charity’s finance department.
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Wac Arts has always staunchly defended its governance and said the allegations made were without foundation.
It is understood that all the charity’s patrons, including Mr Sapani, the actor Simon Callow and musician Ms Dynamite, threatened to resign unless a meeting took place, but Wac Arts says the decision to meet with Wac Arts Concerns was made before this intervention.
A charity commission spokesperson said it “carefully assessed” concerns raised and that the majority did not fall within its remit, but that it had “engaged with the trustees on some matters of potential regulatory concern”.
They added: “We welcome the charity’s commitment to addressing the wider concerns raised; we expect this to be matched with action and hope it will be able to rebuild the trust and support of those it is set up to help.”
The Wac Arts board said in a statement that it had initially offered a meeting with a “representative group” of trustees to the Wac Arts Concerns group in August 2019, but did not hear back until this year. It said the delay until September is to allow for the August holiday period.
At the end of July the board published a “statement of intent” outlining its commitment to diversity. The board said this exemplified its “ongoing commitment to improvement and the next step will be to meet with staff and other stakeholders”.
The Wac Arts Concerns group has been sceptical of assurances and said it had hoped a meeting could be secured sooner, and that it would continue to air its worries in hope of ensuring a transparent outcome.
The group said: “There is a great deal of love, respect and support within the Wac Arts community and it is with these sentiments that the Wac Arts Concerns Group continues to move forward. We merely seek answers and progress, requesting a safe and open forum within which to do so.”
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