Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Skating on Thin Ice

It’s not often that we hear from Cllr. Iris Johnston but she’s written-in and asked me to share this letter on local matters skating and revolutionary with you all:

"It would seem that Mr Keith Morris of Thanet Community Development Trust has forgotten my various requests that he should give presentations to Thanet District Council over the years.

When Labour controlled Thanet Council prior to 2003 Keith gave an update on his work to Full Council following my request.

This year several councillors asked for a presentation to Scrutiny on The Big Idea which Keith was promoting. At the end of that presentation, which had nothing to do with TCDT, I asked Keith if he would come back and give an update on the Trust wearing his other hat. He said he would.

In April this year when concerns were raised about the Trusts proposed increase in rent to Revolution I spoke to him at Charles Dickens School before a KCC and Community Safety meeting. I again suggested it would be useful for him to update TDC at Full Council so that we might have some understanding why the Trust were in difficulties.

An officer at TDC had already noted the request for such a presentation.

If Mr Morris wishes to be helpful he could reveal in your newspaper exactly how much is spent on his and others salaries and expenses.

Only then will we know if savings could be made to help Revolutions."


Anonymous said...

Good for you Iris, keep on at him, get the truth!
And all you other Cllrs join in, this issue is too important for all of us to ignore it.
We don't want the Skatepark to close and all those kids have nothing good to do with their time.
Also Keith Morris needs to come clean, if he has nothing to worry about then he might as well disclose everything relevant.
If he has something to worry about, well RESIGN!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone should look into who TCDT give their money to, the list is on their web site!

Anonymous said...

There are several interesting posts on this subject under another strand from earlier in the month - "Revolution In Jeopardy". An extra, curious dimension is what part the two Thanet Council representatives on the Trust's Board - Tory Councillors Ezekiel and Spencer - have played in challenging (or indeed approving) this rent increase. Councillor Wells, who also believes the rent increase is wrong, has promised to provide some further information. Perhaps Councillor Johnston would also like to look into this.

Anonymous said...

I have just looked at TCDT website as advised by 8.15pm. Although TCDT claims to be a charity, it does not appear to show a Registered Charity Number. Is it actually a Registered Charity? Why is it funding a Youth Pilgrimage to Bosnia? The income it receives from various sources for its Community Chest is £20,000 but the list of grants shown does not show the size or amount of grants. How much is retained for admin expenditure? I am beginning to be reminded of those leaflets through the door asking me to donate spare clothing to the 3rd World. It's not until you read the small print at the bottom of the leaflet that you realise you are not donating to charity at all but that some-one has a nice little business going on.

Anonymous said...

It's not a charity, it's a company. See Eastcliff Richard, who appears to have checked with Companies House.

Anonymous said...

No no, it's a charity!

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's a charitable company.

Anonymous said...

If the Skatepark close because of high rent the what can TCDT do with the building?
Will they still have to pay rent to EDF or whoever owns it?
Can they afford to do that? Should they afford to do that?
Will they then lose money?
Do we care given the circumstances?

All these questions and so few answers!

Anonymous said...

Surely, if its a company(it is listed with companies house) and it is not a registered charity, it is a commercial business with accounts that have to be filed and Companies House has their accounts available for scrutiny if anyone would like to down load them for a fee of £1.

Anonymous said...

The Youth Pilgrimage to Bosnia was nothing more than a school trip! A couple of teachers and some kids went around the local churches asking for money to 'support' their pilgrimage to help refugees! My friends son went and it turns out they spent only 20 minutes of the week at a refugee camp, the rest of the time on a church visiting holiday! Seems they conned TCDT the same way as they conned us in the parishes!

Financially Confused said...

I have just looked at ECR who is running an interesting post on TCDT. It is registered as a charity but its accounts submitted for 2003/2004 to the Charity Commissioners seems to show ZERO INCOME and ZERO EXPENDITURE? The accounts for 2004/2005 were overdue and are shown as received Feb 2006? Any one out there who can make sense of the link ECR gives to Charity Commissioners?

Anonymous said...

Dr Moores has already agreed to put a package of questions to Councillor Ezekiel about all of this. And there are certainly a lot of questions to answer, not least who represents Thanet Council on the Trust's Board. Councillor Wells has, separately, also promised to present some facts to Thanet Life readers.

Cllr David Green said...

Until Labour lost control of TDC in 2003, I was a Council nominated trustee of Thanet Community Development Trust. It was set up as a charity to administer part of the Council’s allocation of Single Regeneration Budget and European Regeneration Development Fund grants, i.e. the part allocated towards community development as opposed to “hard” regeneration of the built environment or business development. Another quarter went towards “spacial development” to develop a fund to provide services to our business parks to make them more attractive to inward investors.

The theory was that TCDT would invest the monies to provide sustainable future funding for community development. It would also be in a better position than the Council to apply for other funding streams for community development in Thanet.

As a charity, the Trust were not allowed to make a profit out of any of its activities of course. So to facilitate this, shortly before I left we set up a Charitable Company, the idea being that any profit this company made would pass to the trust. There was talk also of forming a further company to operate on a broader basis than Thanet alone.

It was at this time that the opportunity arose to invest in the land currently occupied by the Skate Park. I supported the investment, it “saved” the park, and gave the Trust further land to lease to other “community” businesses and to provide space for start up enterprises. We also set up the current training premises “The Academy” in Cliftonville which was intended to provide “community capacity building courses” cross subsidised by commercially based courses.

At a later date, I had a hand in persuading KCC to grant part of the old Hereson School site in Lilian Road, Ramsgate to the Trust to develop a Family Centre. Again the idea being to rent out space to provide sustainable funding for reinvestment.

Towards the end of my time the attitude of the funding bodies changed, and instead of block funding bodies like TCDT, they preferred individual projects, which TCDT could and did apply for. This meant that funding core staff became more difficult, and some of us on the Trust wondered whether the overhead the Trust represented, was worth the gain to community development in Thanet.

My understanding is that the salaries of the permanent staff of the Trust are paid by the Company. In my time there was active discussion of how much control of the companies would be retained by the trustees. I and others fought some quite difficult battles on behalf of the Trustees.

In 2003, the Tories took over control of the Council and Cllrs Bayford and Spencer became the Council’s nominees to the Trust. Since then, we have had no reports back to the Council, so I cannot comment on the current state of play.

I cannot really add to the current debate over the skate park, except to say the terms and duration of the lease have been known since the trust first leased the land. On the other hand, subsidy of a facility such as the skate park would be within the remit of the Trust. The fact that the Skate Park is a private company is a complicating factor.
I believe the Trust (especially the Council nominees) should have seen this coming and dealt with it.

Anonymous said...

I think this re-doubles the need for some urgent and probing questions to the Council Leader, who, according to Councillor Wells, has taken over the post occupied by Councillor Bayford on the Trust's Board.

Anonymous said...

According to the Charity Commissioners TCDT are required by law to present accounts within 10 months of a period. If 2004/5 accounts were late, then its nice to know that Cllrs listed as Trustees can be held to account. Cllrs acting as trustees need to keep up to flying speed on the 'charity' they are trustees for, as they are collectively responsible for its financial affairs. Cllr Green might be pleased he is no longer a trustee!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, but Tory Councillors Ezekiel, Spencer, and Bayford are, or have recently been Trustees. Let's hope they can, and will soon, give account of themselves.

Chris Wells said...

No longer trustees, observors only.

Cllr David Green said...

If what Chris says is correct, and I suspect it is, then it is truely disturbing that the Council has conceed full membership of the Trust. Attempts were made when I was a representative to reduce the Council representation and make us observers. This we fought succesfully with the help of one or two other trustees. I have heard, but cannot confirm, that the Tories were very poor attenders which may explain why they were content to concede representation. If true, this is a major loss to the people of Thanet who through the Council have invest a huge ammount of grant money in this project. I will be adding my voice to those calling for scrutiny of the situation as soon as possible.
As an aside, it would appear that the Council is now busily reinventing the wheel as part of the Cliftonville/Margate Regeneration project. Staff are being employed, projects commissioned, studies undertaken, no doubt with the usual 30-40% overheads bill that one could have expected the Trust to be equiped and already funded to do. I am trying to find out exactly what controls are in place over expenditure of these monies also. So far with only obstruction and delay.

Anonymous said...

Councillor Green, I welcome your commitment to calling for some detailed and searching scrutiny of this whole affair. The reply provided by Councillor Ezekiel - another more recent strand - singularly fails to address the questions posed by several readers. It does not explain the actions of the three Thanet Council Tory representatives - whether Trustees or observers - on the Trust Board. It certainly does not "set the record straight" as the strand headline would have us believe. I think you need to continue to probe.