Charity closed following 'fundamental governance weaknesses'

A Birmingham charity has been taken off the Charity Commission's register and the status of another is unclear after an audit investigation by Birmingham City Council uncovered "fundamental weaknesses in governance arrangements" at both.

Summerfield Care and Repair, which provided assistance to disadvantaged people to repair their properties, was removed from the register in April. The decision followed a report by the city council, which revealed that Lloyd Blake, chairman of the charity’s management committee and one if its trustees, was also chief executive of the Summerfield Foundation. These roles “enabled him to exert undue and unchecked influence” over the organisations, the report concluded.

The report, which came to light when the Birmingham Mail made a Freedom of Information request, also found serious holes in the bookkeeping of the charities, which had received grants worth £700,000 from Birmingham City Council over three years. These included unexplained cash withdrawals of up to £3,000. Following the findings, the council declined to renew its funding

Minutes of official meetings were handwritten and difficult to follow, and Blake replaced the official auditors without telling them, leading to confusion over who was responsible for checking the accounts, the report found.

Neither charity had filed accounts with the Charity Commission for two years. The commission said that Summerfield Care and Repair was removed from its register following “discussions”.

A spokesman said: “We found governance and accounting issues within the charity. The accounts and annual returns were overdue, the funding by Birmingham City Council had ceased and in effect the charity was no longer operating and so was removed from the register.”

The spokesman also said the commission was in correspondence with Birmingham City Council and the trustees of the Summerfield Foundation, which offers employment and training in its local community.

“We are awaiting confirmation as to whether the charity is operational and whether funding and internal financial controls are in place,” he said.

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said its investigation had found that its grants “had been used for the purpose for which they had been granted”. She added: “All grant funding to the organisations has ended, and no further action is therefore proposed.”

The Summerfield Foundation could not be contacted as Third Sector Daily went to press.

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