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Calls for probe into ‘failed charity’

19 May 2024 3 minute read
The Red House in Merthyr. Photo by Robin Drayton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter

A Labour MP and MS  have called on the charity commission to investigate a leisure trust which they describe as a “failed charity.”

Gerald Jones MP and Dawn Bowden MS have a written a letter to the commission in which they express “serious concerns” about Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust especially after issues around Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Community Centre and Redhouse Cymru.

They said: “It is our view that this charity is no longer fulfilling its charitable purposes and that there are serious governance issues that have jeopardised important and historic community assets.

“This is causing considerable worry in the communities we represent.”

They said the evidence suggests that the trust is a “failed charity” and that it “no longer appears to provide a public benefit.”

They’ve called on the commission to urgently intervene and investigate.

Reporting overdue

They summarised the trust failures by saying that they’d failed to provide up to date records to the commission with reporting overdue by more than 100 days, failed to respond to communication with elected representatives, failed to retain trustees with only a small number remaining and unilaterally closing a public building without consultation with public services using the premises (Redhouse).

They also said that they’d failed to pay staff, accrued liabilities that can’t be transferred to other organisations and failed to meet the commission’s aims and purposes

They said that there may be other issues that emerge once due diligence is complete and there is sight of updated accounts and records.

They said the most recent issue mirrors the trust’s inability to deal with the community, local authority, or its staff in relation to another of their assets; Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Community Centre, for which the trustees are still responsible.

Aberfan disaster

They said that the community centre, which was funded in the aftermath of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, is a place of considerable importance both locally and globally.

The Redhouse Cymru had to close its doors recently after Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association (MTHA) announced it was unable to progress with the proposed transfer from the trust saying it was unable to gain detailed information from the leisure trust to allow it to understand the full liabilities that would likely transfer adding that it would have put MTHA’s financial sustainability at risk.

This followed months of concern over the future of the Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Community Centre when it was announced that the trust’s contract to run leisure services in the county borough was coming to an end.

A management agreement has now been signed between the trust and the council allowing the centre to open after the council said it had continuously attempted to contact the trustees to find a resolution and way forward for services there.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: “We are aware of potential concerns at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust, including those raised on social media. We are assessing information to determine if there is a role for the commission.”

The trust has been contacted for comment.

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