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The JC's allegations; my response, by Jeremy Newmark

Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, responds to our reporter's questions

    Jeremy Newmark
    Jeremy Newmark

    1. Do you accept that you billed the JLC for 'inappropriate' expenses that included holidays in Israel and VIP airport transport for yourself, you wife and children?

    No. I don’t accept that at all. On one occasion when family joined me [before or after] a work trip the hotel did not issue a separate invoice as requested and the matter was resolved some time afterwards.

    The matter was further complicated as I had used single (personal) Hilton loyalty account to reduce the overall costs of both parts of the stay. All other costs related to my family on that trip were invoiced and paid completely separately via a UK Travel Agent.

    JLC used an airport service for taxi transfers and speedy access through terminals when work and flight schedules made it necessary in order to catch flights or get to meetings.

    This was normally used to save additional night’s accommodation costs. This service was occasionally used for personal trips and paid for separately accordingly.

    In fact, more often than not, personal holidays in Israel were regularly interrupted by JLC work or by myself taking time out of my holiday to hold JLC related meetings in order to save the need for standalone trips. All work travel and associated costs were signed off using a specific form by designated trustees, in advance, including travel and ground costs.

    2. Did you make unaccounted for cash withdrawals on JLC credit and debit cards?

    No. The JLC did not even have a credit card. I can’t recall the specific matter that you refer to in 2011 but in order for any petty cash to have been written off alternative evidence of expenditure would have been supplied.

    2(i): I was responsible for organising delegations to AIPAC and AJC conferences for a number of years.

    Often cash payments were required particularly in relation to kosher catering etc. In some cases it took a long time to obtain receipts and paperwork from suppliers (we only had a part time member of staff working on bookkeeping for a few hours per month).but I believe they were eventually forthcoming.

    2(ii): This is not accurate. It is correct that I did not process my own expenses claims and receipts. These were dealt with by JLC administrative staff. Occasionally taxi receipts were issued blank and the correct sum would need to be retrospectively calculated.

    2(iii): I have never seen this “no adherence claim”. It is odd, in the context that my expenses were compiled as explained above, sent to a designated trustee and paid upon approval.

    The allegation that reads “Thousands of pounds worth of expenditure…” appears designed to be sensationalist. In the context of the overall budget of the organisation and the small core staff complement during that period, that level of expenditure by the CEO would be unsurprising - and I believe records will show that it was at all times within budget levels agreed by trustees.

    Subsistence allowances were also budgeted. My targets and workload necessitated vast amounts of travel within the UK and planned, approved travel from time to time to Israel, Europe and the USA. My diary was managed by a member of administrative staff to make the most effective, and cost-effective use of time.

    It was often the norm for me to work from 7am until 11pm both in the UK and overseas.

    The only taxi fare I recall being specifically questioned was when I came into work just after having been hospitalised and was suffering from fluctuating eyesight as a collateral effect of my condition. I was called in to come to an important meeting and had to do so travelling via my optical specialist based in E London.

    I was unable to drive and no viable public transport option existed.

    3. Did you lease a new BMW car worth £46,000 as a replacement for the Mini Cooper previously used as a JLC pool car onto which you fixed a personal number plate - and attempt to also insure your then wife [Hilary] on the vehicle?

    I was supplied with a lease car as part of my remuneration package. I was able to select the car from those listed by the leasing company within the agreed budget. The Mini was returned at the end of its lease and it was, due to an offer, possible to lease a larger and more economically friendly car within the allocated budget.

    The change in designation from a pool car was based on accountants advice as was the original pool car designation. It was determined that the usage of the car by other JLC staff was too infrequent to use that designation.

    I received a personal number plate as a gift and transferred/affixed it to what was my company car at my own cost. The figure of £46,000 is a sensationalist red herring.

    That was the taxable value of the car which bears no relation to the monthly leasing cost to the organisation.

    4. Did you use Hilary's company on two JLC projects, paying her firm £36,000 for the Redbridge project?

    Yes. The JLC contracted Hilary’s company on two projects. I had no involvement whatsoever in this procurement process. I was informed by a JLC member that his sub-committee/Division intended to use Hilary for work around the Redbridge fundraising project.

    I immediately recused myself from the matter - made this clear in writing and instituted a process whereby I had no role in supervising the work, approving invoices, payments or consultancy rates.

    5. Did you mislead communal charities - including London Jewish Forum and Chabad - over project costs in order to secure larger donations?

    This is incorrect. The allegation appears to stem from a lack of understanding about the ‘full cost recovery model’ which is an established best practice in voluntary sector budgeting and accounting (promoted by ACEVO, NCVO, KPMG and many others.

    I was under direct instruction from JLC Trustees that major projects such as Chanukah in the Square, various Israel rallies etc which JLC coordinated for the wider community *had* to be run on a zero cost to the centre basis.

    This was repeatedly re-stated by the Trustees and minuted. This means that budgets for partnership events were required to not just merely recoup actual costs but include an allocation for staff time and other central resources/services provided by the JLC. Specific event budgets were prepared to reflect this.

    6. Did you attempt to block communication between the JLC and auditors to cover up possible financial irregularities?​​​​​​​

    This is incorrect. There was a generic bar on JLC staff supplying the emails of any JLC members to anybody.

    The process was that messages would be passed on. This was requested by the Council of Members. The accountants/auditors often sent materials for the Trustee Board which were circulated.

    The reality was that due to his own diary constraints NL was often unable to attend scheduled meetings with accountants/auditors and I often requested more support with this part of the organisation's work from lay leaders. I was after greater, not lesser involvement. I wouldn’t have knowingly sent any false information but will address any specific examples rather than generic unsupported claims.

    Some of the party conference related expenses would have been charged up against the political fund which was a separate entity with its own accounting and reporting procedures so wouldn't neccessarily show in JLC records.

    These allegations appear designed to be part of a politically motivated smear. JLC is a complex and multifaceted organisation that I led professionally from a startup to a key part of the communal infrastructure to broad acclaim. In the early years we were building and forming structures and processes in common with many start ups.

    It is easy to take things out of context and try to create a picture that is removed from reality. I note that well after I left the JLC following serious health issues I was retained as a consultant and advisor on paid basis working on a major project. I continue to be consulted by both the JLC itself and JLC members on a range of issues. 

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