Community centre charity could be wound up after insolvency experts are put in charge
A CHARITY set up to run a Yate community centre could be wound up, after the government's watchdog placed it under the management of two insolvency experts.
The Charity Commission has been investigating the Shire Way Community Association, which was founded to "advance education and provide leisure and recreational facilities for the inhabitants of Sodbury, Yate and Westerleigh", at the Shire Way Community Centre.
The regulator opened a statutory inquiry in January "over concerns about the trustees’ management of the charity’s resources and financial affairs".
The commission said: "All of the trustees have since resigned, leaving the charity unable to function.
"The Charity Commission has now appointed interim managers to the charity as part of its inquiry."
The mangers, Charles Turner and Paul Barber, are partners in "business rescue" specialists Begbies Traynor, and are listed on the company's website as insolvency experts.
They were appointed to run the charity, "to the exclusion of its trustees", on July 18.
The commission said: "Their responsibilities include securing the charity’s assets and reviewing its financial viability.
"The outcome of the financial viability assessment will inform their next steps, either implementing new governance arrangements or, if it is found to no longer be viable, winding the charity up.
"This may include engaging with external third parties with regard to future arrangements for the charity’s key property assets."
The SWCA was set up in the early 1980s to run the community centre in the south of the town, with support from Westerleigh and Dodington parish councils.
The centre was expanded in the 1990s and included a main hall, skittle hall, activity room, restaurant, kitchen and changing rooms, with the venue operating as the Midway Social Club.
But it has been closed since the Charity Commission launched its inquiry "over concerns about misconduct and/or mismanagement", saying the SWCA had failed to submit annual reports, accounts and returns for three years running.
The commission said it had "subsequently found evidence of payments of ‘wages’, despite accounts for 2019 stating the charity has no employees," adding: "There are also questions about the information reported to the Commission regarding the identity of the charity’s trustees."
Dodington Parish Council has been trying to secure the centre site for "continued community use".
At the end of May South Gloucestershire Council agreed to a nomination from the parish council to designate it as an asset of community value (ACV) to give it some protection from development for the next five years.
In a statement on its website the parish council said it was committed to the site and aimed "to work closely with the Charities Commission and other stakeholders".
The commission's inquiry into the charity continues, with the commission set to publish a report once it has finished.
In its page on the Charity Commission website, SWCA listed its finances for 2019 – one of the years the Charity Commission says it has not filed accounts for – as being £11,180 in deficit, with income of £94,841 but expenditure of £106,021.