Probe finds weak governance in wind farm cash charity

© DC Thomson
Turbines at Little Raith which generated the cash

A charity given more than £140,000 to distribute in its community has been criticised for week governance following an investigation.

The 4 Winds Development Trust was established to administer community benefit cash given annually by the owner of Little Raith wind farm, near Lochgelly.

An inquiry was launched by the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator following a complaint about the organisation, whose trustees are community councillors in Lochgelly, Cowdenbeath, Auchtertool and Lumphinnans.

The watchdog’s investigations officer Sharon Walker told the charity: “OSCR’s findings are that the charity’s governance has been weak and the charity trustees have not adhered to the terms of their constitution.”

There was no suggestion of impropriety in the grants issued, which have gone to numerous local causes, including  playgroups, pensioners’ groups, Christmas lights and Cowdenbeath Civic Week.

However, OSCR found the trust had acted without a quorum of trustees and failed to keep proper minutes, hold annual members’ meetings and submit its accounts on time.

James Glen, who resigned as chairman of Lochgelly Community Council last year after claiming it had been left in the dark about the trust’s activities, said the outcome vindicated his concerns about a lack of transparency and public accountability and called for trustees to resign.

Mr Glen said: “The 4 Winds Trust is giving out substantial sums in community benefit which belongs to the communities and it is essential this is done properly and seen to be done properly so there can be no suspicions of impropriety.

“The trustees responsible for all the breaches have brought the charity and the community councils they represent into disrepute.

“There has been no public scrutiny or accountability, with community councils and residents kept in the dark.

“The only way to restore public trust in the charity is for the trustees responsible for this mess to resign.”

A trust spokesperson claimed a vexatious allegation was made against the trust before the complaint was made last year.

He said: “We accept that there are certain areas which need to be improved upon and have already taken steps to address these.”

The number of trustees had already been increased, he said, a members’ meeting held and Fife Voluntary Action contacted for guidance.

He said: “Mr Glen really needs to put the findings into perspective.

“There was never any question about the financial affairs of the trust and although it is slightly disappointing that OSCR criticises them because of the format and the lack of supporting statement and signature, Mr Glen would appear to be attempting to mislead people.”

He said it was a struggle to recruit trustees and added: “If we hadn’t continued to consider applications and suspended all funding, as Mr Glen would have us do, then we wouldn’t have seen awards going to all the good causes who have benefited.”

An OSCR spokesperson said: “Our inquiry into the 4 Winds charity has been concluded and we have made a number of recommendations to the charity to strengthen its governance going forward.”

The regulator allowed the trustees the chance to make necessary improvements and is to review progress at the end of September.

Little Raith owner, Kennedy Renewables, declined to comment but pointed out that the 4 Winds Development Trust acts completely independently of it.