THE boss of a coalfields revival charity has spoken out against the controversial sale of a key community centre in Mexborough for “less than market value”.
Coalfields Regeneration Trust chief executive Gary Ellis said he believed Mexborough Resource Centre has been sold on the cheap.
A £300,000 grant from the CRT part-paid for Mexborough Community Partnership to buy the resource Centre on Dolcliffe Road in 2006.
But after MCP found themselves in financial trouble last year, Mexborough Business Centre stepped in to take over and revive the semi-vacant centre.
Mr Ellis has criticised the value put on the centre in the deal — understood to be valued at £120,000 — and a lack of wider consultation.
“The support that we have given Mexborough Community Partnership has been well documented over the years,” he said.
“As with all funding applications and contributions, in each instance we followed the necessary and robust governance that we have in place.
“It is therefore disappointing that the building has been sold for less than market value and without consultation, particularly as the funds we have allocated have ensured the facility continues to deliver services that meet with the complex needs of local residents.
“We will be pursuing the group and those involved for further clarification to ascertain how this decision was reached and what it means for the future.
“As ever, our focus remains on supporting the coalfields and the communities that we serve.”
Financial documents from 2017 set the partnership’s assets at £900,000, but paperwork relating to the sale of the resource centre put the sale price at £120,000.
The business centre will pay MCP £100,000 over ten years, plus a £20,000 deposit, as well as providing it with accommodation in the resource centre.
MCP chair Sue Phillips has maintained since news of the sale was revealed last autumn that it represented the best deal for the town, especially after two key tenants pulled out for their own financial reasons.
As reported just before Christmas, MCP insisted everything had been done above board, with the involvement of a solicitor and consultation with the CharityCommmission, which had raised no objections.
The partnership said in a statement that the loss of tenants had meant it was “no longer financially viable”, adding: “If we didn’t act quickly, the business, including the charity, would have to enter a process of receivership.”
The resource centre had been valued at between £200,000 and £250,000 on the open market but the partnership’s solicitor “felt that this was unrealistic and probably unachievable for this area”, given many buildings in the town had stood empty for years, MCP said, noting that the combined cash plus accommodation deal was worth more than the initial valuation.
Proceeds from the sale would go towards work training for residents, helping community groups and environmental projects and tackling loneliness and mental health issues.
Mexborough First councillor Sean Gibbons said he and his fellow councillors planned to raise concerns with the Charity Commission.
He added: “We’re not happy. We are getting more and more concerns from people that it was not done properly and we hope the CRT will throw the book at them (MCP) over it.”