Crucial questions remain unanswered

CRUCIAL questions about how a development trust spent money still haven’t been answered, according to the local parish council.

Belford and Middleton Parish Council has written to Ros Simpson, chairman of Belford Development Trust, with a list of eight questions it says need clarifying.

It comes as the charity, set up to benefit the community, votes tonight to dissolve and sell off its assets, blaming a ‘witch-hunt’ by the parish for its failure to attract new trustees.

But council chairman Michael Young has strongly refuted the claims, saying key concerns still have not been addressed despite repeated attempts.

He said: “This parish council has been publicly accused by the chairman of Belford Development Trust of acting in a way which has been to the detriment of the Trust. We deny anything of the sort.

“Fairly recently, the Trust’s village information website was in financial difficulty and its future was threatened.

“It is on record that this parish council offered to help the Trust with some financial support to ensure the future of that website.

“I must defend this council’s position, in that we have sat through several meetings with the Trust over a long period of time to get answers to a number of questions which have been raised by our parishioners.

“It is our duty to pursue answers on their behalf, yet it is our firm opinion that no satisfactory answers have yet been given.

“The integrity of this council and some of its members has now been challenged by the chairman of the Trust and it is our belief that for the avoidance of doubt, it is essential that we clarify the questions that we have been asking.

“That is why I feel it is essential that we make them public.”

The questions include whether the Trust is in a position to hand over a reserve fund of £1,000 to the recently re-established Belford Carnival Committee, discrepancies in the War Memorial Account and the ‘considerable’ amount spent on consultants, which includes surveys.

The parish asks to whom was this paid and for full details of the work which was carried out.

The Trust is also asked whether any part of its premises were occupied for business purposes and if so, by whom, what rent was received and over what period of time.

And it is also asked to clarify so-called ‘related transactions’ which have taken place, but which have not been referred to in the annual accounts over the last four years.

The parish also says the income and expenditure shown on the Charity Commission website for the years ending March 31, 2008 and 2009 does not correlate with the recently-published accounts for these years on the Trust’s own website and has asked for an explanation.