Thursday, 27 March 2014

Whitstable Castle in Wonderland

Murder mystery evenings have been among the events organised at Whitstable Castle since its restoration, where real life gets 'mysteriouser and mysteriouser', to almost quote Alice in Wonderland.
On 6th March, Canterbury City Council's executive approved a £15,000 emergency grant to the Castle following a confidential report explaining the reasons behind the application to cover core costs for 6-8 weeks. As you'll see from here (scroll down to item 206) the word 'emergency' was used several times in the minutes and the reason for the decision was given as 'The funding minimises the risk of the Council having to take back the building and prevents immediate insolvency of the Trust'. 
The Trust which runs the Castle (the property is owned by the council) declined to comment at the time on this, or on the hasty departure of the latest in a series of managers.
Finally, one of the trustees has this week spoken to the admirably dogged Whitstable Times*, saying: "The trustees applied for a grant from the single grants gateway panel, like many other charities in the district do.
"We are not and never have been insolvent."
So was there no real 'emergency' after all - just a run-of-the-mill request for a bit of help? In which case, was the council's formal minute about the Trust being in dire danger of losing the Castle just somebody's exaggeration?
My sniffing and observing over the last couple of weeks has seen one of the confidential reasons for the grant application emerge from two different sources (which suggests a degree of corroboration). It looks as if there has been a backlog in filing some financial accounts to the board, although this does not seem to be the fault of the voluntary treasurer whom I know to be a highly experienced, diligent and conscientious person.
If so the call for cash could, indeed, have been put forward as vital with the financial year-end only weeks away, but surely it should have been explained and responded to as a temporary situation rather than mortal danger?
And perhaps if, as the trustee suggests, the Castle is a long way from insolvency, a loan would have sufficed.
Emergency, what emergency?
To quote again from Lewis Carroll: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean," (after Humpty Dumpty).

*(I can't give you a link to the Times story because it has disappeared from the Times website, possibly because of an ironic mix-up over the words loan and grant in a heading which needs to be rectified.)

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