Complaints that Sudbury fire fund has not been distributed

Firefighters and emergency services at the scene of the huge blaze in Friars Street, Sudbury in Sept

Firefighters and emergency services at the scene of the huge blaze in Friars Street, Sudbury in September - Credit: Archant

People who donated money to help the victims of the Sudbury fire are concerned that more than three months after the incident, the bulk of the cash has still not been distributed.

Following the huge blaze on September 6 which gutted heritage buildings, displaced businesses and left 20 people homeless, there was a huge outpouring of support which saw more than £5,000 of donations handed in to the town hall in just one week.

Now the total stands at around £15,000, but less than £3,000 has been given to fire victims who needed “emergency funding”.

Bob Darvell, who helped to organise a concert in Lavenham which raised over £1,000 for the fund, has complained to the district and town councils about the length of time it has taken to get the money to those who need it most.

Last night, Sudbury town clerk Jacqui Howells said the delay was due to the “lengthy legal process” involved in setting up a charitable trust to handle the money, which was due to be finalised today.

But Mr Darvell, who was living in France when the fire struck, claims more should have been done to speed up the process.

He said: “When I heard about the fire, I was very upset because it’s my home town and it had been hit really badly. Realising the urgency, I immediately looked to see if I could get involved with the fundraising and came back from France especially to help organise the Lavenham concert with Robbie Gladwell. We raised £1,080 for the victims.

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“The firefighters themselves raised around £1,500 and the Quay Theatre collected £1,800 but most of the money still hasn’t been distributed which is diabolical.

“A lot of people put a great deal of effort into raising this money – from kids giving their pocket money to big donations like ours – but none of the people who need it have seen any great amount of it. It makes me really angry.”

In the days after the fire, the town council handled donations of emergency supplies including clothing, food and toiletries which were disseminated immediately.

But Mrs Howells said the task of distributing the money was not as straightforward.

She said: “We had to do a detailed analysis and ask everyone who donated money whether it was for the homeless, or just anyone affected by the fire.

“This has been a very complicated process and that is why it has taken so long.

“We have taken legal advice and the Sudbury Fire Aid and Recovery Trust has now finally been set up with seven trustees to decide how the money is going to be distributed.”

Mrs Howells said the town council had worked with Babergh to ensure that all of the people made homeless by the fire were re-housed, and some had been given emergency funding.

She added: “Babergh has been extremely supportive in getting this trust together. The town council would have struggled to cope with donations on such a massive scale.”

District and town councillor Sue Ayres, who is also deputy mayor, is representing the council on the new trust.

She said: “I understand that a lot of people are very frustrated about the length of time it has taken but we had to get the whole process done by a solicitor.

“We also had to find the right trustees, who come from all different walks of life, and wait for a bank account to be set up.

“We will now be inviting applications and we will look very carefully at the individual needs. We want to make sure the application process is a fair and just as possible.”

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