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VINDICATED FORMER LOCHGELLY COMMUNITY COUNCIL CHAIR CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF CHARITY TRUSTEES GUILTY OF POOR GOVERNANCE

PRESS RELEASE for immediate release

The Office for Scottish Charity Regulators (OSCR) has upheld multiple complaints of poor governance against the 4 Winds Trust, a charity which distributes almost £50,000 in annual community benefit from the Little Raith wind farm to local community groups. Trustees are members of the community councils of Lochgelly, Cowdenbeath, Auchtertool and Lumphinnans.

The OSCR findings vindicate former Lochgelly Community Council chair James Glen who first raised concerns about a lack of transparency and public accountability in the charity’s operations in 2015. Mr Glen felt compelled to resign as chair when he proved unable to obtain information about the Trusts’s activities and governance from his fellow councilors, Stevie Murray and Brian Schulz, who represented Lochgelly Community Council on the 4 Winds Trust.

The Office for Scottish Charity Regulators (OSCR) opened an investigation last summer into the 4 Winds Trust, a charity established in 2012 to distribute community benefit from the Little Raith Wind Farm to community groups in the community council areas of Cowdenbeath, Lochgelly, Auchtertool and Lumphinnanas.

OSCR was responding to a complaint about a series of breaches of charity rules by the Trust as well as conducting an internal investigation into the Trust’s failure to submit annual accounts to OSCR.

All the grounds for complaint were upheld. OSCR found against the charity for not keeping minutes, operating while inquorate, not holding annual members meetings, and for the late submission of their financial accounts. It concluded that “the charity’s governance has been weak, and the charity trustees have not adhered to the terms of their constitution.”

In September 2015, the then chair of the Lochgelly Community Council, James Glen publicly resigned raising concerns over the lack of public accountability and transparency in the operations of the 4 Winds Trust.

Mr Glen said: “The four community councils are ultimately responsible for the 4 Winds Trust, which is charged with distributing almost £50,000 annually in community benefit to local communities. This is an important source of funding for many groups and I had been asked questions by the public about the less than transparent way the charity had been making grants.

“As chair of the community council, it was my job to raise these issues with the 4 Winds Trust and in particular with my fellow community councillors Brian Schulz and Stevie Murray, who remain trustees in the position of Chair & Secretary, but I found it impossible to find out what the charity was up to.

“Instead some of the trustees demonized me for my efforts, and when my fellow community councillors did not support me, I felt I had no alternative but to resign. Subsequently Brian Schulz, one of the Lochgelly trustees on the charity, became chair of the community council, with Stevie Murray becoming Secretary. They continued to ignore my calls for openness and transparency and I am still being slandered at Lochgelly Community Council meetings.”

In a letter to the trustees, which Mr Murray did not publicly disclose to Lochgelly Community Council, investigations officer for OSCR Sharon Walker wrote:

“We discussed that the draft accounts prepared by Hugh McCormick & Co (Accountants) and submitted on 10 February do not comply with charity accounts regulations and are therefore unacceptable. The accounts submitted on 15 March are still not SORP compliant, do not contain a Trustee’s Annual Report and have not been signed off by a charity trustee.”

Miss Walker adds: “Four of those who attended the meeting signed charity trustee Declarations when charity status was sought which made them aware of their charity trustee duties. We are disappointed therefore that they have failed to comply.”

Mr Glen added: “I have now been vindicated with OSCR upholding multiple complaints against the charity. The lack of compliant accounts is a particular worry, and the 4 Winds Trust still hasn’t any information on who it gave what money to and for what reason. A Freedom of Information request to OSCR has revealed a skeleton list of awards, but this raises far more questions than it answers.

“The 4 Winds Trust is giving out substantial sums in community benefit which belongs to the communities, and it is essential this is done properly and seen to be done properly so there can be no suspicions of impropriety.

“The trustees responsible for all the breaches have brought the charity and the community councils they represent into disrepute. There has been no public scrutiny or accountability, with community councils and residents kept in the dark.

“The only way to restore public trust in the charity is for the trustees responsible for this mess to resign. If they don’t have the decency to do that, their community councils should sack them. The community councils need to commit to a more open and accountable process which keeps residents informed and up-to-date about how the 4 Winds Trust distributes community benefit.”

Notes
1. James Glen’s original open letter of resignation is available at: http://lochgellycommunitycouncil.org.uk/2015/09/open-letter-of-resignation/
2. Two posts on the community website Loch of Shining Waters summarise the results of the FOI requests, including the final letter from OSCR which the 4 Winds Trust did not disclose publicly: https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/07/oscr-blasts-4-winds-trust/
& https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/07/little-raith-community-benefit-expenditure-from-2013-2015/

CONTACT: James Glen,
james@concepts.org.uk
01592 782 150

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Tech geekery, blogging, volunteering, graphic/web design, photography, digital activism and community-based campaigns are some of the things that I am passionate about.

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