UNDER-FIRE trustees from the former Chaigley Manor Trust have pledged to hold a public launch in the New Year as its activities continue to be questioned.
Hyndburn Borough Council has invited representatives of the charity set up to help Hyndburn children, which has now been renamed the To Inspire Trust, to a public meeting to explain their future plans.
The Chaigley Manor Trust was plunged into controversy earlier this year when it emerged it had filed its accounts late for five years running, spending £36,000 less than the interest accrued on the £625,000 fund, built up from the sale of Ribble Valley manor house Chaigley.
The 2008 accounts have now been submitted to the Charity Commission, revealing £12,260 was paid out from £24,509 interest. The grants enabled 991 primary school children to enjoy a fun day, including trips to theme parks and McDonald’s.
An additional £2,210, was paid out on accountants and auditors’ fees, postage, telephone bills and room hire.
According to the Charity Commission the trust now has just four trustees, Grant Eals, Julie White, Nicky Cook and former Accrington North county councillor Jean Battle.
Last March, members of Hyndburn Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee were infuriated when trustees insisted on only answering pre-submitted questions, with chairman Councillor Brian Walmsley calling for the Trust to be disbanded.
The following month the Trust board fended off heavy criticism by announcing plans to lease and manage the Stephen Park Training and Activity Complex in the Ribble Valley, to offer disadvantaged Hyndburn youngsters the chance to enjoy a countryside holiday.
The activity breaks, which will include mountain biking and archery, are set to get underway early next year following unexpected delays with processing the sub lease.
The trustees have insisted all along that they are accountable to the Charity Commission, and not to the local authority.
Hyndburn Council’s finance spokesman Councillor Marlene Haworth, who wrote to trust chairman Julie White this week, told the Observer that there remained a ‘grey area of mystery and secretiveness’.
She said: "After we heard from the Charity Commission that they had changed the name from Chaigley Trust to Inspire we were a bit concerned as to what had happened to the money involved in Chaigley Manor.
"We were given to understand that the interest on the £600,000 was to be used in projects and grants. We cannot find out whether that same rule applies to Inspire."
She added: "I am sure that there are far more important things the money could be spent on than taking the children to McDonald’s."
In a response to the Observer this week the trustees insisted: "We have taken advice from the Charity Commission on how the charity funds projects in the future.
"There is not and never has been a requirement to spend an allocated amount of income. However there will be an increase in expenditure in line with the new centre."
In her reply to Councillor Haworth, Ms White suggested a public launch in the early spring after they sign the lease for the activity complex, hopefully by mid-December.
She also explained that the renaming of the charity was necessary as the Trust has no present connection with Chaigley Manor.
She added: "We feel the new name sends out a more positive message."