Defunct charity cash to be spent in communities

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CASH deposits of more than £105,000 discovered unused in the accounts of eight defunct charities in Yorkshire are set to be transferred to a community foundation to be finally put to use.

Some of the funds date back to bequests made centuries ago, with more than £6,650 remaining in one fund, known as the Thomas Martin’s Charity, which was first set up in 1688.

According to documents held by the Charity Commission, the fund was set up in a will with the aim of “putting three, four or five boys to teachers who were born and are living in Doncaster”.

The other 13 charities, six of which are grouped together under the heading Doncaster Municipal Charities, have all ended up under the auspices of Doncaster Council in the years since they were set up by benefactors.

According to the authority’s head of finance, Simon Wiles, their value was recognised following a review by his team and moves are now required to release the funds.

Doncaster Council’s finance spokesman Coun Paul Coddington, and members of the authority’s ruling cabinet, will be given three options on how to move forward at a meeting next week.

One is to leave the money where it is, another would be to seek new arrangements with the Charity Commission which would allow the cash to be used, and a third is to transfer funds to another organisation.

In a report to the cabinet, Mr Wiles will explain that because the funds are held in trust, they cannot be diverted into the council’s “current account” to help meet Government cuts.

Instead he suggests that the best option would be to move the cash over to the Sheffield-based South Yorkshire Community Foundation (SYCF), which makes grants to grassroots organisations in the county.

He adds: “The first option would continue the present situation, whereby the funds are not meeting the needs of local people as envisaged by the original donors.

“Option two would result in the council continuing as the trustee with greatly increased administrative costs and it would be undertaking work that is not core to the council’s objectives.

“Option three would result in the funds being used to meet the needs of local people through an independent organisation regulated by the Charity Commission which would also be best placed to grow the size of the funds.”

Most of the other charities were originally set up to promote education either for adults or children, with one fund, the Jim MacFarlane Memorial Trust, containing more than £12,300.

That trust was set up in the 1980s, while another, known as Quintin Kay’s, was first started in 1804, contains more than £20,000 in total and was supposed to be dedicated to education and training for local people.

If approval is given for the cash to be transferred, it will become a Doncaster Communities Fund, which would be set up to award grants to projects which meet what Mr Wiles says are “council objectives”.

He adds: “The SYCF will continue to identify possible sources of additional funds so the Doncaster Community Fund could increase over time.”

These could include donations by local businesses, further trust transfers, legacies and donations from businesses relocating to Doncaster.

It is proposed to set aside £5,000 from the fund immediately so that grants can be made in this financial year, in a bid to make the dormant cash start to work as its original donors intended.

The SYCF was first launched in 1986 and has made grant awards of more than £20m across the county since its inception.

Over the last three years, it has given out over £4m in grant aid, including more than £705,000 in Doncaster, and it co-ordinated a flood relief fund in the region in 2007.