#saveourtown www.saveourtownluton.co.uk  are campaigning against Capital & Regional https://capreg.comowners of the Mall https://www.themall.co.uk/luton. On their website #saveourtown states; ……… “#saveourtown is an independent campaign backed by Lutonians and people who care about Luton, to support plans to regenerate the town with a new gateway project at Junction 10 and a new football stadium at Power Court. The single main objector to the plans is Capital & Regional, a London and Johannesburg based property company which is trying to block the project to protect its monopoly on retail in Luton. We want to ensure that the record 11,000+ voices who sent emails and letters to Luton Borough Council, and all the Luton communities who support the plans, are heard and listened to – not drowned out by the Capital & Regional PR machine.”

This is a typically one-side Momentum driven Corbynite agenda if ever there was one and a kind of Socialist Conservatism for the 21stCentury if there was such a thing. It ignores the benefits the Mall brings to the Town, for example, jobs, and the location of the NHS’s Luton Sexual Health Service https://www.lutonsexualhealth.org.uk/ is on the first floor of the Mall.

Despite the fact #saveourtown say they are independent campaign they do not say from what they are independent. Could the people behind #saveourtown be members of Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, the United Kingdom Independence Party, etc.? There are pictures of people on the #saveourtown website. But there is no textual evidence in the site’s content of who all of them are. So, donors and public considering donating have no knowledge about the people who are running #saveourtown, if they only visit the website to use its content to decide whether to donate to the #saveourtown cause.

Are other supporters and donors to #saveourtown Luton shopkeepers who are promoting and protecting their interests just like Capital & Regional?

Could #saveourtown be inadvertently taking donations from the right-wing activist Thomas Yaxley Lennon, who may want Luton Town FC’s ground to stay embedded within the Black and Minority Ethnic community in Bury Park? It has been reportedhttps://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/football-league-club-fans-ordered-13086681Gary Sweet wants Luton Town FC fans to stop singing in support of Tommy Robinson.

Without proper information to hold members of #saveourtown to account and access to public meetings, donors and public simply have no way of knowing what is going on at casual meetings in the back gardens of the people that control #saveourtown.

Currently, #saveourtown are using a donation/trust based crowdfunding platform https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/saveourtownlutonto raise money to top up the funding of their cause.

The Financial Services Conduct Authority (FCA) according to its Financial Services Register https://register.fca.org.uk/ShPo_FirmDetailsPage?id=001b0000042fuyBAAQ regulates Giving.com Limited the operator of the justgiving.com platform in these specific ways:

  • Issuing and/or acquiring of payment instruments
  • Executing payment transactions (no credit line)
  • Services enabling cash withdrawals from a payment account as well as all the operations required for operating a payment account.
  • Services enabling cash to be placed on a payment account as well as all the operations required for operating a payment account.

However, the FCA does not regulate the financial conduct of the recipients of crowdfunding, for example, #saveourtown. But perhaps the recipients of donations should be regulated more closely?

If #saveourtown were a company, there would be many regulatory requirements placed on it. For example, it would have to name its directors and provide their contact details, file audited financial statements and hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM). If #saveourtown were a charity it would have to fulfil the regulatory requirements of the Charities Commission. For example, #saveourtown would have to name its Trustees, file audited accounts and hold an AGM.

The #saveourtown website states; ………“That’s why, as a committee, we’ve made the decision to double the fundraising target.” “We are spending those funds very wisely and every penny contributed will be fully accounted for.” and“As a community and volunteer campaign any residual funds remaining when the battle is won will be donated to Luton-based charities.”

The members of this committee are anonymous as the people written about and pictured on the #saveourtown website are not identified as committee members. #saveourtown has not published its accounts. #saveourtown does not hold an AGM and it does not give its donors the opportunity to decide what charities they would like to donate any unspent funds to, on the winding up of #saveourtown.

So why are these issues important?

Once upon a time a man walks into a pub where a woman is vamping ‘Red Sails in the sunset’ on an upright piano. The pub is crowded out with people singing along with the music. The man moves amongst the crowd asking people if they can spare a shilling for the piano player. He collects £5 and walks out of the pub never to be seen again. Without regulation this is what modern-day donation/trust-based crowdfunding could look like.

A contemporary example of a crowdfunding scam concerns a couple who spent £105 000 of crowdfunding donations meant for a war veteran, https://t.co/OTDKw99D2y.

Regulation brings responsibility, due diligence, conformance, transparency, carefully considered decision- taking and overt political neutrality. All qualities that according to its website, #saveourtown do not appear to possess.

The #saveourtown website with its fussy embedded links within ‘read more’ buttons, that to the inexperienced browser are tedious distractions, does not give the website controller’s contact details, and the date, time and location of meetings donors and the public can attend. These embedded links could potentially reveal useful information that could be used by donors to hold to account the people behind #saveourtown. For example, I was told by Lauren Archell on Thursday 24thAugust via twitter that questions I had asked could not be answered as a #saveourtown committee meeting was about to start. However, this meeting was not advertised on their website.

Current donation/trust-based crowdfunding regulation is weak as it allows unscrupulous scammers to use web-based platforms to separate the public from its hard-earned cash. Other regulatory regimes could be applied to the operations of crowdfunding recipients. But if recipients choose not to become companies or charities then donors and public have no rights to information about their operations and therefore no means of holding recipients to account. Charites are often criticised for not spending all of their public donations on their intended beneficiaries. But charities have to bear the costs associated with fulfilling the regulatory requirements placed on them unlike ad hoc groups who benefit from crowdfunding yet have no regulatory requirements to adhere to.  Clearly, crowdfunding regulation requires strengthening. If you agree then please contact your Member of Parliament to make your views known. Please refer this report to your friends and family to raise their awareness about the potential for fraud when using crowdfunding platforms.