A CHARITY boss has come under fire after he refused to answer councillors’ questions.

Stephen Cook of the Chaigley Manor Trust had agreed to attend a Hyndburn Council watchdog committee meeting to give a presentation about the charity and how it has changed over the decades.

But he would only answer questions which had been submitted before the meeting.

Chaigley Manor, once known as the jewel in Hyndburn’s crown, offered holidays for disadvantaged and convalescent children in the Ribble Valley countryside before it was sold for £605,000 in 2001.

This money was put into the care of a trust with the interest to be spent on worthy children’s causes.

But the charity, which has submitted accounts to the Charity Commission late for the past five years, has underspent by £36,000 during that time and people are demanding to know what is happening to the money.

Mr Cook said some money had been spent on primary school outings and sponsorship of teenagers working in disadvantaged areas of the world.

But he added that the trustees had been prudent and as a result the charity was now in a strong position.

He reiterated that the charity was not answerable to Hyndburn Council but to the Charity Commission and said the trustees did not claim expenses "unlike Hyndburn councillors".

The eight questions put to him were about how often the board meets, the reason for the late submission of accounts and how people apply for funding.

Mr Cook gave brief written responses in each case.

Councillor Doug Hayes said: "From the answers we have been given he had no intention of enhancing the response.

"It appals me that he can state that they are only accountable to the Charity Commission.

"Are they not accountable to the people of Hyndburn whose money they are spending?

"There was nothing in the presentation that was up to date. It would have been nice to see what you have been doing recently. To me it was an amazing demonstration of nothingness."

Councillor Marlene Haworth said she was outraged at the curt answers given.

She said: "I have found today’s meeting quite appalling. We want to know where the money is going now. There seems to be a lack of transparency on what they do now. Some of the questions have been answered but in a very defensive manner.

"They have a duty to the people of Hyndburn."

* In 1998 Observer readers raised £40,000 to re-open Chaigley Manor after crumbling stonework had left the 200-year-old building unsafe and forced its closure for the first time in its 70-year history as a holiday home. Its future seemed to be assured but it lasted only another three years. It is now a private home.