A letter to the new Kenilworth Town Councillors


To: Kenilworth Town Councillors                                                                                         22nd December 2015

This letter is directed especially to those new members elected in May 2015.

The trustees and management of theKenilworthCentre wish you to know that the decision you took on 10th December, to cut all fixed funding of the charity from April 2016, was based on a combination of factual errors and misrepresentations. Your leader Cllr John Cooke has led you to a decision which is both wrong and against the wishes of Kenilworth residents.

The comments of Cllr Cooke reported in the local newspaper included criticism of our “current style of management” and the implication that we had not been responsible with ratepayers’ (sic) money. These comments were an insult to the integrity and hard work of the trustees, a group of local people who have given voluntarily many thousands of hours of their time and effort to launch theKenilworthCentre as an independent local charity, and to develop its activities and facilities in line with its agreed objectives.

We ask all other members of the Town Council to dissociate themselves publicly from the reported comments of Cllr Cooke.

Objectives of theKenilworthCentre charity

Attached is a copy of the agreement between the Town Council and theKenilworthCentre dated 15th May 2012, signed by the then mayor Cllr Shilton. The responsibilities of theKenilworthCentre included:

1. provision of a programme of youth activities within Kenilworth, using experienced staff and volunteers and led by a manager with youth experience.
2. Operation of theKenilworthCentre building as a community centre meeting the needs of the local community.
3. Provision of other community activities as needed.

The trustees of theKenilworthCentre have kept to their side of this agreement. Suddenly, after 3½ years, Cllr Cooke appears to have forgotten about objectives 2&3.

It is also important to recognise that the trustees are obliged to act in accordance with theKenilworthCentre’s charitable and legal objectives, as well as the terms of the agreement with Warwickshire County Council dated 18th April 2012, which transferred the assets and funding of the centre to the charity. These both clearly state that the charity and the building must be operated for the benefit of the whole community. Extracts from these documents are attached.

All this has been known to the Town Council from the outset. It is therefore palpably wrong for Cllr Cooke to imply, as he did in The Kenilworth Weekly News, that the building should have been used primarily for youth work – this is not and never has been the case, even when it was under the control of Warwickshire County Council. The objectives and remit of theKenilworthCentre charity are wider than operation of the building, although that remains a fundamental and integral part of the whole. As our presentation to you outlined, work with young people has been considerably expanded in Kenilworth since 2012. We are still a very young charity and further projects will be identified and developed in ways that appropriately meet the specific needs of young people, and as sustainable funding can be obtained to support such projects responsibly.

Responsibilities of the Town Council

These were also set out in the agreement document, and included:

  • Provide support and advice as required to the charity, including review of an annual core activities programme, participation with the Friends of theKenilworthCentre group, and nomination of a member to be an observer at the quarterly trustee meetings of theKenilworthCentre charity.

During the period of the agreement and up to the formation of the new Council in May 2015, your observers at theKenilworthCentre trustees’ meetings at various times were Cllrs Bunker, Cooke and Vincett. At no time did any of them voice the concerns about the management of the charity that were expressed by Cllr Cooke at the meeting on 10th December, and reported in the local newspaper

Evidence from the Kenilworth Town Council Action Plan Survey

Question 29 of the 2013 Action Plan survey read as follows:

“Community Facilities. The Town has the benefit of ‘the Kenilworth Centre’ which has recently been taken over from the County Council and is now being run by a Charity. Adjacent is the new Senior Citizens Club which is nearing completion. This community hub should be encouraged to expand its offering to the wider community.

Of the 1,637 people who responded to this statement, 94.8% agreed or strongly agreed.

Surely this provides clear evidence of the strong support from local residents for the wider community remit of theKenilworthCentre, as enshrined in its charitable objectives and agreements with the County Council and Town Council.

Financial sustainability

Attached are copies of the business plan submission to the County Council which form Schedule 1 of the agreement to the take-over of the youth and community centre by theKenilworthCentre, together with the 3¼ year financial forecast on which the plan was based.

The forecast was that theKenilworthCentre would essentially break even over the period of the plan when the £30,000 p.a. grant from the Town Council was included. It was never claimed that the charity would become self-sustainable without the Town Council grant within this time period.

The actual performance of the charity, as reported in our annual statutory accounts, was also breakeven over the lifetime of the plan. Despite considerable economic pressures and a number of shocks and unforeseen events over the 3¼ years, we performed remarkably closely to our financial forecast.

The trustees understood in 2012 that the then Town Council could not commit funding further forward than the May 2015 elections. We never assumed that this funding would be permanent in perpetuity, but neither was it intended that it be cut off before we could be sustainable without it. Indeed, such understanding was fundamental to the trustees being prepared, in good faith, to undertake this onerous commitment on behalf of the wider community.

If the Town Council’s sudden withdrawal of funding causes theKenilworthCentre to fail, then £120,000 of public money will truly have been wasted.

Town Council precept increase in 2012/13

Cllr Cooke disputed our statement that the Town Council made a step increase in the precept in 2012/13, equivalent to about £3 p.a. per household, in order to start paying the £30,000 p.a. grant to theKenilworthCentre. The facts speak for themselves, however:


If the step increase in 2012/13 was not specifically for theKenilworthCentre, what was it for? If you now cut the amount are you prepared to reduce the precept by the equivalent?

Finance Committee 25th June 2015 recommendation

The minutes of your Finance Committee meeting on 25th June 2015 recorded the following:

RECOMMENDED that the Town Council consider funding theKenilworthCentre for two further financial years (making six years in total) comprising, for 2016-17 the sum of £20,000 (Twenty thousand Pounds only) and 2017-18 the sum of £10,000 (Ten thousand Pounds only). This would conclude the Council’s funding support for theKenilworthCentre.

This recommendation was deferred at the Full Council meeting on 9th July.

At the special meeting of the Finance Committee on 26th November, no new recommendation was made. Should not the recommendation from 25th June therefore have been voted on at your meeting on 10th December?

While this recommendation would still represent a substantial financial challenge for theKenilworthCentre, at least it would have the virtue of giving the charity some time to adapt and to seek replacement sources of income.

If your objective is for theKenilworthCentre to become self-sustaining, and to ensure that the £120,000 investment by the Town Council is not wasted, surely this is a more sensible course of action now?

Mandy Brougham – trustee                                    Andy Norman – Community Devt. Manager
Andy Garsed – trustee
Rebekah Leadley – trustee
Jane Poulter – trustee
Stefan Sollinger – trustee
John Whitehouse – trustee

File A. Agreement between the Town Council and theKenilworthCentre dated 15th May 2012.
File B. Charitable objectives of theKenilworthCentre.
File C. Extract from the transfer agreement with Warwickshire County Council dated 18th April 2012.
File D. Business plan submission to County Council (Schedule 1 of transfer agreement).
File E. Business plan 3¼ year financial forecast.

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