Councillors raise doubts over Cirencester Community Development Trust
DOUBTS have been raised over whether a trust set up by Cirencester Town Council has been worth tens of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds spent on it.
The idea of the Cirencester Community Development Trust was sold to the town council after consultant Stephen Wright was invited to present the scheme in January 2012.
It was hoped it would tap into funds that the council was not able to access, to support costly projects such as the town centre regeneration.
So far more than £75,000 of council money has been spent or pledged on developing the trust, of which around £15,000 has been spent on Mr Wright’s £105 daily fee. In return, just £10,000 in funding has been secured.
The main stumbling block is that the trust has failed to gain charitable status because revamping a market place in a relatively affluent town is not considered “charity”
Now CCDT has dropped its initial goal of raising funds for the regeneration project and will instead focus on youth, heritage and business projects.
There are plans to support a new youth centre in the town centre and Sunday bandstand performances in the Abbey Grounds.
"We will continue to support the town regeneration but it just won’t be with huge sums of money,” Mr Wright said.
At the last full CTC meeting, councillors raised concerns over repeating a town council grant of £30,000 awarded to CCDT last year.
Cllr Lee Searles said he was unclear on what the trust’s purpose now and said he was “uncomfortable” with a recommendation for a further two-year funding agreement.
“We should only give the trust money on a year-by-year basis,” he said.
Cllr Deryck Nash, who is a trust board member, said once charitable status had been achieved, Mr Wright would be invited to explain to council members’ what they were getting for their money.
CTC agreed to award a grant of £30,000 to the trust for the next financial year.
When Mr Wright, who is now the trust’s company secretary, first presented the project to the council, he described it as “a leap of faith”.
To support its case, he outlined a black hole of council spending on town centre development projects over the previous five financial years, which included £100,000 spent on consultancy fees.
He said the trust offered an end to this situation.
This week Mr Wright told the Standard: “It has taken slightly longer than I hoped it would do. It’s still a leap of faith by those involved but things are starting to happen slowly.”
He added that the trust hoped to have charitable status soon and once more funding was secured, a chief executive would be appointed on a salary of £35,000 or more, based on 15 per cent of funding raised.
A CCDT annual general meeting will be held in June where board members, who include town mayor Andy Lichnowski and Cotswold district councillor David Fowles, will stand down and a new board appointed.