Charity locked out over rent row

Sheffield-based Somali women's group to be wound down after Charity Commission finds no one home

A charity was locked out of its offices for five months after a row over building repairs and unpaid rent, according to a Charity Commission report released yesterday.

The Mama East African Women's Group, which worked with Somali women in Sheffield, decided to stop paying rent in October 2007 until its landlord carried out repairs after an inspection deemed its premises to be unsafe.

But the landlord forced his way into its offices and changed the locks a month later, leaving the organisation unable to remove its property. By April 2008, when the charity was again granted access, the derelict building had been broken into several times and most of the property had been damaged or stolen.

The commission opened an inquiry into Mama after visiting its derelict premises in April in search of the trustees, who had failed to turn up to a meeting to review their progress in implementing prescribed reforms after an earlier investigation.

The regulator's report criticises the charity's trustees for failing to discover that one of their number was an undischarged bankrupt and therefore not qualified to act as a trustee.

It also says the trustees showed "poor conduct" by failing to answer commission letters or turn up to the meeting. It says the commission will continue to monitor Mama until it is formally wound up and removed from the register.

The inquiry found that the charity had still been offering some services from other premises while it was locked out of its registered address, but had chosen to wind itself up after Sheffield City Council ended its funding, which accounted for the bulk of its £64,000 income in 2005/06, last May.

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