Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust – The Truth?
When I wrote my blog ‘Delapre Abbey – Dark Clouds of Mistrust Grows’ about the sudden and dramatic resignation of the entire Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust Board I didn’t expect to find myself investigating what really happened.
I’ll start with a quote from the Leader of the Northampton Borough Council, Cllr Mackintosh who said when asked about the resignations,
He had “asked that the Friends of Delapre Abbey have representation on the joint project board that is being set up to bring everyone together to oversee the restoration”.
“Unfortunately, this simple request appears to have been unacceptable to DAPT.”
I have said previously that I’m sure this isn’t the last we will hear on this subject.
During the last week I’ve been provided with information that has cast some more light on the issue and answered some of the questions I raised in my earlier blog.
I have been sent a copy of the Partnership Agreement between Northampton Borough Council and Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust which I understand was agreed in June 2013 and on which the successful bid for Heritage Lottery Funding was based.
One of the questions about the Restoration of Delapre Abbey that is crucial to its progress is who is actually responsible for overseeing the restoration and more importantly who was/is the Accountable Body.
The partnership agreement makes it very clear in paragraph 1.2 under Definitions that,
‘Accountable Body means the organisation specified by the Heritage Lottery Fund (“HLF”) to hold and be accountable for HLF funding.
More importantly under Governance the agreement clearly states,
3.1 The Project will be governed by a Joint Project Board (“the JPB”) which will be set up as soon as practicable after the date of this agreement.
3.2 The JPB will consist of four representatives from each of the Council and the Trust and will be chaired by rotation on a meeting by meeting basis. The Chair will not have a casting vote.
3.3 The JPB will replace the existing Project Board once the submission to the HLF is made.
What is also clear is that the Borough Council for the first phase of the HLF project would hold the grant aid funding and as such be the Accountable Body.
What is also clear is that DAPT were responsible for seeking ‘Match Funding’ and that they would hand it over to the Borough Council but that it would be ring-fenced for the restoration of the Abbey.
The partnership agreement is clear on the essential point that it was a partnership and even though there is a procedure to be followed in the case of a dispute all of the evidence seems to demonstrate that it wasn’t followed.
I would never try to pass myself off as a legal expert but from experience once you enter into a Partnership Agreement and accept Lottery Funding, in other words public money, the Agreement is a Legal Document that has to be complied with.
If has been breached threatening ‘match funding’ I fail to see how the HLF can continue to provide the funding and in fact when dealing with Lottery Funding in the past they have seen fit not only to freeze and refuse to release any further funding but also ‘clawed back’ any funding that has already been provided.
The impression given by Cllr Mackintosh is that this is just a bunch of volunteers who because they were asked to change the agreement had a hissy fit and resigned.
Let’s be clear about the makeup of the DAPT.
The members of the Preservation Trust were volunteers who came forward, were interviewed and whose only interest was in the restoration of an important Heritage building and site.
The eleven Members of the Trust were people who had shown the commitment and more importantly the ability to turn the Delapre Abbey restoration from an ambition into a reality.
The Board was recruited for their extensive business, finance, law, estate management and development, construction, project management; education and academic historical research experience all of who have a huge and extensive network both locally but more importantly nationally and internationally.
Hardly people who would resign en-bloc without a good reason so I for one have no problem in believing that they were not consulted on the changes to the JPB and therefore it is absolutely certain that Cllr Mackintosh didn’t make a ‘ simple request’
I also don’t have a problem with FODA being invited to be a member of the JPB, but surely if Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland had wanted them fully involved why didn’t they include them during the development of the Partnership Agreement in June of last year.
What it indicates is that the Conservatives and Cllr Mackintosh really did consider, as reported, FODA to be ‘Far Cotton troublemakers’ which is why they had excluded them and tried to effectively close them down by not making arrangements for temporary tea rooms and offices during the restoration of the Abbey.
As people now know a decision that they were forced to rescind by an opposition motion at full Council.
It is absolutely disgraceful that he won’t admit the problem has arisen because of his dictatorial approach and lack of vision when drawing up the agreement in the first place.
The question is who is telling the truth?
I have it from a very reliable source within the administration that Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland didn’t make a ‘simple request’ but operated unilaterally and ‘told the DAPT’ that they were changing the JPB membership.
So why did they try to make it sound as if the DAPT had resigned and were be in unreasonable over a ‘simple request’?
The truth as I see it is very simple.
Cllr Mackintosh has not told the truth over what he did to cause the DAPT board of trustees to resign.
What will happen next and especially the reaction of the HLF trustees and board regarding the continuation of the HLF Stage 2 Award for Delapre Abbey when the organisation tasked with seeking match funding is no longer in place is anyone’s guess.
It cannot ignore the situation given that the role of the HLF is to manage funding as part of the National Heritage Memorial Fund whose Chair is the highly respected Dame Jenny Abramsky who with her East Midlands colleagues take their role very seriously.
As I said earlier the question is where will replacements of the calibre of the outgoing DAPT trustees be found?
And even more of a concern is why anyone would volunteer to be a trustee if they are going to see agreements breached by politicians who want to use the Delapre Abbey restoration for their own self-promotion.
In very simple terms the outgoing DAPT trustees will undoubtedly be contacted by people of the calibre required who may consider applying to be a trustee and when they explain how they have been treated by Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland!!!!!,
What is clear is that we haven’t heard the end of this is issue and I expect further information will continue to come to light as we go forward.