Charity issues

Where did the money go? Police and Crime Commissioner withholds funds from Joe Russo’s Enthusiasm charity.

Last November I reported on the questionable status of Joe Russo’s Enthusiasm Trust and the antipathy towards the organisation despite recently receiving a Queen’s Award for Volunteering.

Joe Russo’s Enthusiasm Trust bouyed by ex-Leader Banwait – unravels, despite controversial Queen’s Award

Since then, more people have chosen to share their unsavoury experiences about Enthusiasm and Joe Russo.

In December 2018 their most recent set of accounts ( 31 March 2018) were published. It showed that the trend for this organisation was downwards

  • further reduction in income ( ~ 50% of the 2016 levels)
  • its Net Current Assets (liquidity) had dropped off a cliff-edge down to just £78k ( from £436k  just 2 years ago)
  • Staff numbers ( non-management) were down 50% from 2 years ago; these then dropped down to a handful of people by December 2018.

Unsurprisingly the only figure that’s not going downwards is the management salaries, which includes Russo and his wife, amongst a few others. This has increased by 35% in the last 2 years to an impressive £187k pa.

A casual observer would question how such significant salaries can be afforded when the Charity filed £375k of losses over the last 2 years. It can’t. It is only kept afloat by the:

  • £100k pa “donation” from Derby Homes. Maria Murphy is both the Managing Director of Derby Homes and Director of Enthusiasm.  There are no detailed reporting requirements, that bear challenge, to demonstrate that Derby Homes is getting Value for Money
  • £70k pa from Allenton Big Local for a variety of “projects” delivered from a Big Lottery funded initiative – both Joe Russo and his wife are voting members of the Resident committee. Questions have been raised over whether these projects have been delivered as planned.
  • There are other smaller funding streams from a range of organisations, none of which can keep a detailed watching brief on what is actually happening with their funds, including the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

OPCC Knife Crime Grant £25k 

Last year Enthusiasm was awarded a £25k grant for a Knife Crime project for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. There are many Knife Crime projects in Derby however the Police’s operational objective for this grant was for work in Sinfin, only. Just one organisation applied for the Grant and, on that basis, and previous history, Enthusiasm was awarded the full amount.

The Grant agreement specified 4 detailed, quantifiable objectives. These had to be the subject of a detailed report after 6 months (October 2018) in order to ensure payment of the 2nd half of the Grant money. This should have been standard practice and easily achievable by Enthusiasm.

As part of my research for the 1st article on Enthusiasm I asked the OPCC a couple of key questions:

  • Is the Grant to cover Sinfin district, or Sinfin Ward. The popular view was that it included the electoral Ward; this was convenient for Enthusiasm as the Ward includes Osmaston which is the location of their existing Youth group and historical base. The OPCC confirmed that is was just the Sinfin district.
  • How can you be sure that the same young people are not being “duplicated” between grants. They stated that they relied on there being a central database of names that was shared between other authorities in the City. I highlighted that this was not the case.

This discussion took place in October 2018 which coincided with the receipt of the 6 monthly report and before the 2nd payment had been made. The OPCC followed up my questions with Enthusiasm. Nearly 4 months after the contractual submission date, Enthusiasm has still not filed a report that meets the OPCC’s requirements – to quote, it is not “fully complete”. As a result the 2nd payment has yet to be made.


I am in no doubt that, had I not highlighted my concerns to the OPCC, the 2nd payment would have been made. Whilst the amount is not significant, the principle is. When the organisation who controls the flow of money asks pertinent questions and requires objective proof that outcomes, or even activity,  have actually been delivered then Enthusiasm is found wanting.

Given this,  then the focus is now on:

  • Derby City Council / Derby Homes to act on behalf of the City tax payer and to independently review how the £100k grant has been spent and ask some searching questions before the next payment is made.
  • Allenton Big Local – the residents at the Annual General Meeting on 12th February 2019 should also be demanding a full report on how Enthusiasm has spent a substantial amount of money that has been allocated to serve the whole of the Allenton community.

Transparency with Enthusiasm is not routine – it has to be extracted.

Categories: Charity issues

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