September 21 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
A Norfolk charity has been de-registered after an investigation following claims the organisation was to be used as a tool to avoid paying full business rates.
A Charity Commission report, released yesterday, stated how goods were being stored for The Melton Arts and Crafts Trust at industrial units in a business park owned by the charity’s founder trustee, but found no evidence of charitable activity.
The Melton Arts and Crafts Trust, established in Melton Constable, near Fakenham, was formed to promote the education of music, drama and the arts, which it did for several years at Melton Hall.
Events ceased in the late 1990s as restoration work at the hall prevented practical use of the building.
Furniture, machinery and other household and commercial goods, which the charity said had been donated to them, were being stored in industrial units at Tattersett Business Park, near Fakenham at nominal rents.
At the time this arrangement was agreed the charity’s founder trustee was the sole director of the business park.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) contacted the Charity Commission in November last year over concerns that the charity was to be used as a tool to avoid paying national non-domestic rates at a number of industrial units.
Full rates had been paid, but a retrospective application for business rate relief, on the grounds that the units were for charitable use, was made.
The Charity Commission’s report stated: “The commission found no evidence of charitable activity.
“There are questions about whether the leases are valid and whether the transfer of property was accepted in a conflict of interests.
“However, even if the trust does have title to the goods and has title to the leases, the trust does not operate as a charity.
“We decided that the charity should be removed from the register of charities on the grounds that it does not operate.”
The Melton Arts and Crafts Trust was asked to provide a copy of the minutes of trustee meetings and a charity business plan, but none was available.
It said two simple decisions had been taken: to accept the gift of goods and to take on premises to store them.
The report added: “Trustees have a legal duty to act only in the best interests of their charity.
“They must not put themselves in any position where their duties as trustee may conflict with any personal interests they may have.
“This is particularly relevant where a trustee may benefit financially or otherwise.”
Trustees have 42 days to appeal.
The EDP was unable to contact anyone from The Melton Arts and Crafts Trust yesterday for comment.
An NNDC spokesman said the council is not planning to take further action.