Trust points finger at parish ‘witch-hunt’

THE coming demise of a north Northumberland village’s development trust is the result of a ‘witch-hunt’ by parish councillors, according to the trust’s chairman.

Ros Simpson has spoken out following a feud between Belford Development Trust and the parish council that has being going on for a number of months, centred on the whereabouts of carnival funds.

She described members of the parish council as being on a ‘witch-hunt’ and said the folding of the trust will be “as a result of the campaign orchestrated and led by the owner and editor of On Your Doorstep (magazine) and his cronies on the parish council.”

On the agenda for Belford Development Trust’s AGM tonight there is a resolution recommending the dissolution of the trust in accordance with its constitution and the rules of the Charity Commission, as it does not have the required seven trustees.

Mrs Simpson said that it had 10 or 12 people who were interested in becoming trustees but they have decided against it, having ‘seen what we have to go through’.

She said: “We have answered their questions over and over again. These individuals are hellbent on the destruction of the development trust and the individuals involved. We are not responsible for this.

“We cannot carry on in our current state.”

Mike Brookes, the editor of On Your Doorstep magazine and a parish councillor, said: “It is laughable that the chairman of Belford Development Trust cares to lay the blame for the lack of potential new trustees firmly on my doorstep.

“I sought to ask questions about an organisation that simply failed to live up to its title in recent years. The more people that I spoke to about the trust the more it became clear that they were engaged in no development whatsoever and at the same time had completely lost the trust of the village as a whole.

“As an individual and as a parish council member I have repeatedly asked for answers to pertinent questions and received nothing but, at best, prevarication. Promises regarding the return of ‘missing funds’ have been made and broken and statements regarding new trustees have been made with absolutely no basis in fact.

“Surely as a villager I have every right to ask ‘where has all the money gone?’”

He added: “Speaking as journalist of some 20 years I felt it vital to raise the matter but at every stage I published whatever the trust sent to me in answer to my articles and letters that I had received, both for and against my points.”

The chairman of Belford Parish Council, Michael Young, said he was ‘disappointed’ at both the blame placed on the parish council and that the development trust would be folding.

“We have been posing one or two questions and the answers haven’t been forthcoming,” he said. “I know some have been answered in the accounts which have been posted online.

“We haven’t gone after the development trust and we have a representative on the development trust – it’s disappointing that they are having to fold. If there was anything we could do she (Ros Simpson) could have approached us.”

The development trust are currently in the process of selling the bank building which it owns in the village and Mrs Simpson made assurances that the money will be used for the benefit of the village.

The AGM takes place tonight at 7pm in the Blue Bell Hotel in Belford.