Charity accused of running Grade I listed medieval building ‘like a large village hall’

Hadleigh Guildhall has been running at a loss, propped up with taxpayers' money. Picture: GREGG BROW

Hadleigh Guildhall has been running at a loss, propped up with taxpayers' money. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The financially-troubled charity running one of Suffolk’s finest medieval buildings has faced fresh criticism from one of its departing members.

The Market Feoffment Charity, which is responsible for the upkeep of Hadleigh Guildhall, has been accused of running the 15th Century building “like a large village hall” and ignoring its “deteriorating financial position”.

It has been losing thousands of pounds each year, requiring the charity’s trustee, Hadleigh Town Council, to prop it up with taxpayers’ money – including £18,000 last year alone.

MORE: How Hadleigh’s Guildhall is losing thousands of pounds a yearSome councillors, who also act as charity “feoffees” are unhappy with the way it is run.

In a recent letter of resignation, former feoffee Rickaby Sanders said the charity’s documented purpose was to use the Guildhall, which has offices, meeting rooms, and residential accommodation, to generate income for Hadleigh’s benefit - not cost it money.

“Money appears to be going the wrong way,” he added. “Money should flow from the Guildhall complex to the people of Hadleigh, not the other way round.”

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With just four meetings a year, he questioned whether it could provide the required “dynamic” management for such a property.

Mr Sanders claimed warnings about the charity’s financial position failed to inspire action. Questions about how the charity intended to fund its losses also went unsupported, he added.

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“The feoffees appear have been operating the Guildhall in a manner more suitable for a ‘large village hall’ without any business plan and, more importantly, no strategy for leasing,” he said.

Mr Sanders said the practices could expose the council to financial risk. He questioned whether the relationship between the council and charity, could give rise to conflicts of interests. Mr Sanders said he could not carry out his councillor duties, while remaining a feoffee and so resigned from the charity.

Hadleigh mayor Yvonne Free said the charity was doing well to increase bookings in a “competitive climate”. However she acknowledged the current relationship with the town council posed funding difficulties - as it prevented applications to grant organisations. “What we really need is for some local townspeople to come forward and form a charitable support group who could apply for funds to aid the upkeep of our fine heritage buildings,” she added.

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