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Forward Coupar Angus: Perthshire charity founder questions use of £1m in public cash

The charity bought a unit in Coupar Angus in 2019 and turned it into the Re-use Shop.
The charity bought a unit in Coupar Angus in 2019 and turned it into the Re-use Shop.

The founder of a Perthshire community charity fears the organisation could fold in a matter of days amid a leadership crisis.

Forward Coupar Angus is facing an uncertain future after the trust was left with no one to run it.

The four remaining directors — all in post for less than a year — have stepped down in recent weeks.

Michael Gallagher, who found the charity in 2011, says the current predicament means it cannot continue unless a new full board is successfully appointed next week.

The launch of the Re-Use Shop was attended by John Swinney.

Having been launched with the aim of revitalising the town and handing more power to locals, he says the current predicament doesn’t surprise him and claims it took a wrong turn after he left eight years ago.

It has so far received £1.1 million in government funding too, with Mr Gallagher questioning whether the projects delivered have been good value for money.

Founder says charity was ‘sidetracked’

He said: “The survival of the trust is on a knife edge.

“If fewer than 20 ordinary members turn up at the public extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on February 16, it will not be possible to elect a new board and the trust will fold.

“I thought [the charity] would be a democratic renaissance where locals had more social and economic input in to the development of the town.

“But it very quickly got sidetracked in the hobbies of the directors.

“The £1m in public money it has received has not benefited people in Coupar Angus very much; anything positive has been fairly minor.”

It has received big cash injections in recent years, including grants totalling £440,000 from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.

The foundation also bought Meg’s Cafe in 2015.

The cash was used for projects to improve knowledge of climate change and promoting low carbon choices in the town.

One of these saw the charity take the reins of a community outlet in the town’s George Street, rebranding it as the Re-use Shop, promoting recycling and re-using products.

The move prevented the building from being lost to the community and converted into housing.

The launch was attended by local SNP MSP John Swinney who said he was “impressed” with the charity’s desire to reduce the local carbon footprint.

Charity owns several assets in area

The charity also bought Meg’s Cafe in the town, transforming it into a community shop named the High Street Store, and also manages Butterybank Community Woodland where many trees have been planted.

But it has gone through 27 directors in just 10 years and for the first time has no board in place to run it.

Despite criticising the achievements of the organisation, Mr Gallagher says he is considering putting his name “in the hat” to become a trustee again.

“If it does happen, I hope the other trustees are more democratic than some of those who have come before,” he said.

The charity faced criticism in 2020 after volunteers with additional support needs were allegedly called “bloody useless” by a director at a board meeting.

It has struggled with leadership stability ever since amid a raft of board resignations.

EGM to be held to recruit trustees

A worker at the charity, acting as a spokesperson, confirmed all trustees have now resigned.

He says if it cannot find new trustees the organisation could struggle to continue.

“If we cannot get trustees in, a decision will have to be made,” he said.

“Without trustees, it’s a very, very, different ball game.

I believe we can continue to operate with things that are already in place but any large decisions cannot be made.”

Charity spokesperson

“I am not a decision-maker at the charity but there are none at present.

“I believe we can continue to operate with things that are already in place but any large decisions cannot be made.

“We are going to focus on getting a new board in place and we will need to see what happens.”

The EGM is planned for February 16 at 7pm, at the bowling club in Coupar Angus.

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