A WATCHDOG committee chairman has called for the Chaigley Trust to be disbanded.
Following a "flippant and dismissive’’ presentation by trustee Stephen Cook, Councillor Brian Walmsley has sent a letter to the chairman of the Trust demanding action.
The presentation about the Chaigley Trust was given to Hyndburn Council’s Communities and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week.
Chaigley Manor, 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 the Trust with the interest to be spent on worthy children’s causes.
But the charity has been late submitting accounts to the Charity Commission for the past five years, during which time it has underspent by £36,000. Now people are demanding to know what’s happened to the money.
However, at the meeting Mr Cook refused to answer any questions other than those submitted in advance and was very guarded when speaking.
In his letter to the chairman of the Trust, Julie White, Councillor Walmsley wrote: "This committee prides itself on the open and transparent way it conducts its business and is always willing to engage in constructive dialogue and debates on all matters under consideration.
"Disappointingly, I must inform you that this is the only occasion that anybody who, having accepted an invitation to attend overview and scrutiny, has steadfastly refused to respond to any questions raised by councillors at the meeting.
"Other members feel you should give serious consideration to disbanding the current board of trustees, and for a new board to be formed, comprising entirely of Hyndburn residents."
He says the committee felt Mr Cook was extremely flippant and dismissive with the Trust’s responses in his powerpoint presentation to advance questions previously raised by the committee.
He feels it would be a pointless exercise to submit further questions to the Trust for a response following the meeting.
Mr Cook said the Trust’s website should be live from today (Friday) with contact details and information about the Trust.
He said: "This is bizarre. It’s a bit of a shock.
"It seems an ongoing thing that councillors criticise our work.
"I would welcome Peter Britcliffe, the leader of the council, to attend the next meeting of the Chaigley Trust, in Hyndburn, to raise and address any issues he feels he has in relation to the Trust."
OBSERVER COMMENT: CHAIGLEY Manor was once known as a piece of Hyndburn in the beautiful Ribble Valley.
For years thousands of workers had one or two pence a week deducted from their wages to pay for holidays there for underprivileged and convalescent children.
In 1998 Observer readers raised £40,000 to repair crumbling stonework so the holidays could continue.
So the money put into a Trust fund when Chaigley closed just three years later ultimately belongs to the people of Hyndburn who are bemused by what is currently going on.
Technically and legally it is right to say the Trust is responsible to the Charity Commission and not Hyndburn Council. But morally it is ultimately responsible to the people of Hyndburn whom the council represents.
Who are the trustees? Where do they live? Are some based outside Hyndburn or even abroad?
These questions all need answering. And unless the answers are satisfactory it’s hard not to agree with councillors that the current board should step down to be replaced by people who respect and will protect Chaigley’s great legacy.