Parent leaders refuse to quit charity

Officials at England's largest parents' group who were called on to step down by the Charity Commission, yesterday dug in their heels and refused to quit, despite calls from former trustees for them to resign and pay back all expenses.

As the controversy surrounding the National Confederation of Parents Teacher Associations was hastily added to the agenda of a top-level Home Office meeting with the Chief Charity Commissioner, the three officers insisted they would stay put.

The Independent revealed yesterday that the Commission, which has just completed an inquiry into the charity, had written to its press officer, treasurer and membership secretary asking them to resign and seek urgent legal advice over paying back tens of thousands of pounds in salaries.

The Commission says the three - Margaret Morrissey, Andrew Smetham and Belinda Yaxley - were trustees at the time they took up their posts and have, therefore, contravened charity law by benefiting financially from their trusteeships. The officials admit they were trustees when appointed, but say they had stood down by the time they started their paid part-time jobs.

Two former trustees, who were sacked by the charity last year after calling for reform, last night demanded that the current ruling group be held responsible for any salaries and expenses paid in defiance of the Charity Commission advice.

Sean Rogers and Sandi Marshall, who were thrown off the NCPTA's ruling body by a process dubbed a "kangaroo court" by the Charity Commission, said the three should "do the decent thing and go now".

Ms Marshall said: "I find it extraordinary that other trustees have not demanded these people's resignation. They were told in March by Charity Commission investigators that the position of these staff was untenable. I feel the Commission should now tell the trustees that by continuing to expend the charity money in this way, the trustees are making themselves liable for a bill."

The resignations row brings to boiling point years of unrest in the NCPTA, which represents parents in over 11,000 schools.

In return, the NCPTA - the largest and wealthiest parent's body in the country - acts as a national voice for parents, commenting on education policy and lobbying ministers.

NCPTA chairman Judith Wood yesterday insisted the charity remained on an even keel. It had been given until 30 June by the Charity Commission to complete its own investigation into the affair.

The Commission's report is expected to be published next week. Charity Commission sources yesterday underlined their belief that the officials were still trustees when they took up their posts.