Complaints lodged

Littlejohn homeless charities probed by regulator

Josh Littlejohn
Josh Littlejohn raised millions for charity (pic: Terry Murden)

Charities connected to Josh Littlejohn, the social entrepreneur who raised millions for the homeless, are being investigated by the regulator following complaints.

Mr Littlejohn shot to public prominence through a number of high profile events, including Sleep in the Park in Edinburgh and the World’s Big Sleep Out.

He was feted by celebrities such as George Clooney and Leonardo Di Caprio and invited the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to serve meals at one of his Social Bite cafes in Edinburgh.

However, it has been revealed that four of the trustees of the charities behind the campaigns resigned on the same day last year and a fifth soon afterwards and that complaints have been lodged with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

Rosalind Cuschieri, the chairwoman, a former food firm chief executive; Kent Mackenzie, an executive with the accountancy and consultancy company Deloitte; Morag McNeill, deputy chair of court at Heriot-Watt University; and Ellie Murphy, a PR executive, resigned as Social Bite trustees on May 17, 2021.

Meghan Markle in Edinburgh
Meghan Markle in Edinburgh visiting Social Bite (pic: Terry Murden)

Marjory Rodger MBE, a business consultant, resigned on August 23. The accounts say: “A number of trustees stepped down after approving the prior year group accounts at the AGM on May 17. Those who departed did so in the knowledge that the charity was in a strong financial position.”

A Social Bite source later told The Times one resigned for family reasons but remained the chair of the subsidiary board until March 2022, one resigned after completing two four-year terms under the charity’s constitution, and three resigned after putting in significant hours helping the homeless during the pandemic.

Jane Bruce, Social Bite’s former chief executive officer for Scotland, invoked whistleblower protection and has lodged formal complaints about the social enterprise and its sister charity.

Sir Andrew Cubie, chairman of Social Bite, issued a statement in which he said: “We can confirm that we are in communication with OSCR relating to concerns they have received.

“In line with OSCR’s policy we are unable to provide any further information at this time. Under my chairmanship, Social Bite adheres to the highest levels of governance. In spite of the global pandemic, the charity has gone from strength to strength.

“For the last ten years Josh Littlejohn has worked tirelessly to end homelessness, helping thousands of vulnerable individuals off the streets.

“His entrepreneurial spirit and drive has established Social Bite as one of the UK’s leading homeless charities recognised globally for doing things differently and delivering results.

Josh Littlejohn and Malala Yousafzai
Josh Littlejohn with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai

“For everyone who has ever met Josh they will know how passionate he is about ending homelessness and helping individuals fulfil their potential. He’s incredibly well respected and well liked by the Social Bite team, partners and the homeless community.”

An OSCR spokesman said: “We have received concerns about these charities, which are being examined . . ..according to our published policies.”

The charity confirmed that Mr Littlejohn resigned as a trustee of Social Bite in 2020, and as a director of Social Bite Restaurants and Social Bite Limited in February 2022, and is now an executive director.

Social Bite employs more than 100 people and distributes about 140,000 items of food to homeless and vulnerable people every year.

Mr LittleJohn, the son of Simon Littlejohn, the millionaire Scottish restaurateur, steered an initiative to build a village for the homeless. He was made an MBE in 2016 for services to social enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Alice Thompson, who founded Social Bite with Mr Littlejohn in Edinburgh in 2012, has left.

The latest accounts from The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust, which is no longer active, confirm its total annual income was £5,932,641, while its total expenditure, for the same period, amounted to £6,922,647.

Social Bite invested £838,805 in The World’s Biggest Sleep Out. Following the completion of the event Social Bite received a return of £985,477. This was based on an agreement signed in May 2021 between the two parties. This represents a £146,672 profit for Social Bite on the investment.

UPDATE 30 April: Mr Littlejohn issued a statement saying: “Over the last decade, the organisation has been on an incredible journey, where over 1,000 people have been helped off the streets into their own home with support as a direct result of Social Bite’s work.

“I’m incredibly proud of everything we have achieved as a team and I am very lucky to have such a brilliant team of people around me.

“As Social Bite has grown and evolved, so have I, and like any entrepreneur in a young, fast-growing organisation, will continue to do so. As the charity has matured, it is only right that it becomes less reliant on its founder.

“For the last few years I’ve been working with our board to put in place a new structure which allows me to focus on my passion for developing new and innovative projects to help homeless people.

“It is a privilege to do what I do and, with the support of our chair, trustees and the dedication of our team, we remain focused on our goal of ending homelessness at a time when help is needed more than ever.”

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