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Charity too tight to even spend last year’s interest

Charity trustees sitting on a £1.4million fund to help the Borough of Bedford gave away only £36,000 last year.

And this week councilors sitting on the committee were annoyed when another worthy cause was refused a £10,000 grant after a mistake in simple arithmetic went against them during a vote.

The House of Industry Estate Management committee awards grants for those people and organizations in Bedford borough in need, hardship, and distress.

At the meeting it was revealed that the charity’s yearly account had a balance standing at £1,372,952.37; an increase of £164,851.08 from the previous year’s account.

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Nicky Attenborough, who is not a trustee of the charity, has called on the Trust to make £200,000 available each year to help out the needy in Bedford.

She said: “The Trust is sitting on a small fortune of more than £1.3million and my message is quite simple, if the Trust is serious about tackling poverty in the borough it needs to spend much more.

Only £36,534 was spent last year, lower than the three previous years.

“I want to see £200,000 made available each year to tackle poverty in the borough, to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged people in deprived communities.”

A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “The trustees of the House of Industry at their next meeting are due to receive a report recommending an increased annual spend in relation to grants to individuals and groups to alleviate poverty in the Borough.

“The House of Industry has benefited from the upturn in the property markets and a recent receipt due to land sales. The trustees have made it plain they are keen to explore ways of enabling the most needy in the borough to receive the benefits of their position.”

The House of Industry is a charity administered by the borough council. It was set up in the nineteenth century to run the area’s workhouses and owns land in Bedford, including part of Bedford Blues rugby ground and the car park at the junction of Kimbolton Road and Goldington Road.

At the same meeting a number of applications for funding grants were made including one for £10,000 that was to be used for a door-to door bus service in Bedford.

Nine trustee members sit on the committee, but Cllr Pat Olney left the room as she had declared an interest in the matter.

When it came to the vote a count up revealed that the committee voted four to three in favor of giving the money to the service and it was therefore granted.

Trustee member Cllr Tony Hare then realized that eight people had been voting and, as no one had abstained from the vote, a mistake had been made.

After a quick consultation with council solicitor Michael Gough, Cllr Roger Rigby declared the vote was tied and because he also held the casting vote as chair, he rejected the application and the funding was withdrawn.

Cllr Colleen Atkins who voted in favor of the money being awarded said: “It’s worrying that such a fiasco can happen when charities rely on funding from the Trust that can make or break them.

“We need to be giving money away to relieve people in hardship and it is important that we do fulfill our objective.”

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