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Letter to Editor: Why is the secretive Harlow and District Sports Trust sitting on so much money?

Politics / Wed 17th Jan 2024 at 11:50am

Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir

Re Harlow and District Sports Trust

ON March 31st 2009 Harlow and District Sports had £439,936 in cash and bank balances. 14 years later, on March 31st 2023, this had increased by over £7 million to £7,555,679.

May I ask why it has chosen to build cash reserves rather than put money to good use for the people of Harlow and its neighbourhood in line with its stated objectives  “to provide or to assist in providing facilities for recreation physical education or other leisure-time occupation in or in connection with the town of Harlow and its neighbourhood”, especially during a period when communities like ours have undoubtedly suffered due the likes of austerity and cost of living increases.

Not so many years ago we had a Sportscentre with a football ground, athletic track and cricket field. Now we have a leisure zone and a car park. Incidentally, the car park is valued at £1miilion, to me this seems a lot of value for a car park unless you plan to develop it.

The trust does operate in relative privacy. It seems to be only accountable to its trustees (i.e: its members). It does not hold public meetings to present to us how it has performed and what its plans and intentions are.

I have no idea how trustees are appointed, some have been around a long time. Harlow Council appear not to have taken the opportunity to appoint the two trustees they are eligible to nominate since around 2008 despite the Council foregoing rate income.

I have to say that I think the Leisurezone is marvellous. However, this week alone I have heard of complaints about cleanliness, the state of bowling mats and difficulties with subscriptions. I have also heard that it is expensive so perhaps there are areas of concerns to consider.

So I would ask Chairman Patrick Hay to address my comments and to make the whole trust more transparent to the Leisurezone customers and the wider population.

I would certainly like to see money spent on for the benefit of the town.

Yours

Peter Henegan

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29 Comments for Letter to Editor: Why is the secretive Harlow and District Sports Trust sitting on so much money?:

Paul Fagan
2024-01-17 11:58:31

Very interesting

Tootse
2024-01-17 13:08:21

I did not know this. Thanks. I hope you get a reply from them soon

ML
2024-01-17 13:27:59

That's really interesting. I do hope you get a response. I had a quick look at the Charity Commission website and the records for the trust and the £7,555,679 figure is actually from March 2022. The figure as at 31st March 2023 is actually £8,201,267.

Rose Chitseko
2024-01-17 13:55:07

This letter raises many good questions. How are people appointed to the Board of Trustees and are there any actual LZ users on it? Would it be possible for the Board to invite nominations from groups which regularly use the facilities? I agree with the OP that it does seem to be very opaque at present.

Peter Piper
2024-01-17 14:28:18

Way too expensive and they should pay rates if they're not going to be carrying out their stated objectives. I also thought the charity commission were going to be clamping down on 'charities' that do not actually carry out the activity/aims for which they exist

Eddie
2024-01-17 16:54:46

Start spending the money on more sports facilies, like more football pitches and get the kids out from being stuck in front of their computer screens. When I played football in the town , Harlow had the most leagues in Europe. If you have got all that cash then don't sit on it , use it for the community. Is that okay Pete

Turkey
2024-01-17 18:04:29

If they want to donate money to sport in Harlow. Perhaps they could donate some to tye green indoor bowls club , as its one of the only 9 Lane indoor bowls club around . It's used by many of the older people of Harlow is is like a community hub for single older men and women. They work hard for the people of Harlow and the extra cash would be wisely used

Pedro
2024-01-17 18:14:38

How and where do the sports trust get their money from?

Mick
2024-01-17 18:41:35

Well Peter it will be interesting to see what answers they come up with --- if they bother to respond Harlow could really do with a 3G football pitch as every other town seems to have one so come on Harlow do something positive for the community

Peter Henegan
2024-01-17 19:05:52

Mick and Turkey, comments like yours are precisely why I asked the question about the trust's cash position. Have either of you applied to the trust, is there even a procedure in place for doing so. Watch this space!

Pedro
2024-01-17 19:08:15

Is anyone one the trust Paid a salary and if so is there information as to how much, as a registered charity it does see to be sitting on a lot of cash that should be used for Harlow Residents

Simon
2024-01-17 20:41:24

Hmm hopefully not more Tory corruption

Reg
2024-01-17 20:47:22

They are saving up enough to fill the pool with money like Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales

Blake
2024-01-17 21:17:36

Well said Peter..... Transparency is a must.

Luke Burton
2024-01-17 21:56:21

Excellent digging. Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention, Peter.

Tim the Turtle
2024-01-17 22:24:56

Check out the commitment to play on the Millennium Sundial by Harlow Sports Trust in the Town Park. When approached no answer was the short reply!?

Stephen Siggers
2024-01-18 09:34:24

Very interesting. This surely raises quite a few questions.

Net
2024-01-18 11:36:21

Very interesting, look forward to hearing more about this, this was all new to me

RJC
2024-01-18 15:47:24

With that amount of funds growing over the years how about giving Harlow pensioners free memberships to help with keeping fit and healthy.

Gordon
2024-01-18 16:40:41

Very interesting point Peter, a nice idea would be to used some of that money to subsidise Leisurezone fees for residents in Harlow, I daresay there are a million and one similar ideas, but please use the money to aid sports people of Harlow. I suppose what would have to happen they will need to spend £2m on consultant fees and inquiries before anything like that can happen

Nostradamus
2024-01-18 21:13:41

Outrageous especially as so many grassroots sports youth and adult clubs struggle to survive? Many have long waiting lists and no or poor premises. Harlow residents once were able get residents permits to access the old sports centre at discounted rates. It's reported that the town had the largest amateur football leagues in Europe and facilities like a ski slope and velodrome. Now we have an expensive LeisureZone many can't afford to use with a fat bank balance. A foonote: always seems odd that a high energy use building with perhaps the largest roof in town plus a large car park doesn't have a single solar panel on it.

Kim Oconnor
2024-01-19 09:48:26

The old pool was an Olympic size swimming pool, famous swimmers used to travel to use it.. we lived directly opposite the pool , spent our childhood in there, and then went to park.. This new pool is unaffordable to say, a family of 4.. and you can't go an chill in the park, unless you want to sit on the car park. They should of left it where it was, and maintained it.. But like everything else, everything else its all about chasing the money... And the houses built on old pool site, look like there going mouldy..

Rob
2024-01-19 20:57:15

I had no idea, we need more transparency and accountability .

Simon Carter
2024-01-20 12:44:59

There are some interesting points on transparency and use of funds, but also a lot of scare stories. The Harlow and District Sports Trust is a registered charity which has an annual general meeting to which members can attend. I am not a member so I don't know when they are held, and I don't hide behind a pseudonym. The trustees receive no payment or expenses and are elected from the members. Pedro, they receive their money from membership and attendance fees. They did receive support from the government during the lockdown, as did nearly every other business. Simon, Tory corruption? Please, where does that come from? The Conservatives have no connection with the trust, although I notice a number of former Labour councillors appear as trustees. And Kim, the pool was never Olympic size, it was deliberately short to prevent athletes from taking over the pool. The Trust do have large reserves for specific projects, such as the care and maintenance of the buildings, swimming pools need a lot because of the chlorine. There is also a reserve for maintenance and replacement of the sports equipment, all those running machines don't come cheap. Another reserve is for their pension fund, which they provide themselves for their staff. I have no idea what the tie up is with football club. But they do have a lot of money and as many have suggested, it could be used to develop further resources. And being a major activity in the town, they could be more open about their activities. The Harlow Health Centres Trust has invested in outdoor gyms across the town. for example.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-01-20 17:24:56

Simon, you would think in this day and age that an email could be sent to every member advising them of the AGM and an advert placed in the entrance, but I have never seen either. £8 million is a huge sum of money, I know those that play short mat bowls have been asking for new mats for ages without success, a very small sum of money could sort this issue out.

Peter Henegan
2024-01-20 23:02:16

I believe that the members are the trustees, there is no requirement for a public meeting, although the trust has to file its annual accounts and other stuff with Companies House and the Charities Commission.

Perspective
2024-01-22 18:11:03

Generally, charitable organisations (and the trust is similar in its accounts), look to retain 6 months of running costs which for the trust would be circa £2.25M. Allowing let’s say £2.75M for (just in case) capital/emergency major/running repair works, then there still does appear to be a surplus of around £3M. So some wriggle room for some upgrades/members wish lists maybe for the trust. I am a member of the Leisurezone and generally a great facility and staff, so just saying…always room for improvement, but not quite as it seems or suggests i.e. £8.2M stashed.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-01-25 17:01:11

No word from Cllrs Dan Swords or Chris Vince on this matter. The only comments are from the Harlow Alliance Party who have been at the heart of raising this issue. No word from Patrick Hay either.

Jake Shepherd
2024-02-07 12:47:09

Thanks, Peter for putting the leg work in (no pun intended) to discover this, I've submitted a question to Harlow Council about apportioning its share of Trustees and to advocate for improvements to the public tennis courts. I am a big advocate for our town's sports and leisure facilities, as a keen tennis player and cyclist myself, and so I hope HDST will look at ways of increasing the accessibility and affordability of sports and leisure to all of Harlow's residents. With best wishes, Jake Shepherd Labour & Co-operative Candidate for Passmores Ward

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