Dame Sian Phillips and James Bolam 'ousted' after bullying claims

TV legends Dame Sian Phillips and James Bolam are ‘ousted’ as actors’ charity is hit by bullying claims

  • A trio of seasoned actors have been accused of bullying a charity secretary
  • Penelope Keith, Sian Phillips and James Bolam were members of a charity
  • The Actors’ Benevolent Fund ended the trusteeships of the three in February

Veteran TV stars Penelope Keith, Sian Phillips and James Bolam have been plunged into a bitter row over allegations of bullying and harassment at a crisis-hit actors’ charity.

The Actors’ Benevolent Fund, of which Prince Charles is Royal patron, is now being investigated by the Charity Commission.

Trustees including Dame Sian, of I, Claudius fame, and Likely Lads actor Mr Bolam were reportedly ousted from the charity over claims they were ‘bullying’ general secretary Jonathan Ellicott.

At a board meeting in February, Dame Sian, 88, and Mr Bolam, 86, along with the charity’s head, The Good Life star Dame Penelope, 82, were told their trusteeships had been terminated in what observers described as a ‘coup’.

The actors then issued a ‘formal complaint and grievance’ about Mr Ellicott, warning that ‘governance is a significant concern’ and ‘the council is dysfunctional’.

Penelope Keith (pictured), 82, is one of several actors who have been accused of being intimidating a secretary at The Actors’ Benevolent Fund

James Bolam, 86, had his trusteeship terminated this year in what was described as a ‘coup’, as he and two actresses were ousted from an actors charity

The fund, established in 1882, has assets of £30 million and spends more than £1 million a year helping actors or stage managers experiencing hardship. A year-long dispute has spread rancour through the organisation, with Mr Ellicott accusing trustees of bullying him by making requests for detailed financial information.

Dame Penelope, who has been president since 1990, and her fellow trustees argued it was their legal duty to quiz Mr Ellicott. His position was described as untenable but a motion to have him removed was unsupported.

The row even prompted a lawyer trustee to resign in protest, claiming Mr Ellicott’s conduct ‘leads me to conclude that he is not an appropriate person to have the day-to-day responsibility for the administration of the fund’.

But Mr Ellicott has received backing from younger council members, one of whom complained to Dame Penelope that a trustee had disrespected the general secretary by quizzing him over signing cheques and using a company credit card.

Dame Sian Phillips, 88, the president of The Actors’ Benevolent Fund, is accused of being ‘upsetting, intimidating’

Mr Ellicott is reported to have lodged his own grievance complaint, accusing Dame Penelope of being ‘upsetting, intimidating, and undermining towards me’ after she suggested bringing in an independent mediator.

Mr Ellicott’s claims were said to have been dismissed by an outside consultant and a specialist lawyer. He is reported to have then said he would be willing to quit for a £100,000 settlement.

Records at the end of the financial year show Mr Ellicott left his role, but the terms of his departure were not specified.

Dame Sian said she was ‘looking forward to the conclusion of the Charity Commission investigation’, adding that Private Eye, the satirical magazine which first reported the feud, had ‘summed it up very well’.

A Charity Commission spokesman said the case was ongoing, adding: ‘We are assessing concerns reported to us about the charity’s governance.’

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