Hurst House – eight years and still waiting

It is eight years Hurst House closed as a community education centre and five years since the Civic Society first complained to the Charity Commission about the negligent misconduct of Derbyshire County Council as sole trustee of the charity which owns the property.

We’ve previously highlighted what we believe is a scandal (this post is an update from that published in April 2022), as Hurst House remains empty and not a single young person in Chesterfield has benefited as intended from the charity since it was created in its present form in 2002.

Hurst House empty for eight years – in better times. Who would have thought in 2022 that it would still be empty and unsold? Moreover that not a single young person in Chesterfield has benefited as intended from the Foundation Derbyshire charity since it was created in its present form in 2002.

After being given two rather different reasons why the transfer of Hurst House from the county council to Foundation Derbyshire was not completed on 28 February this year, as we were told was the intention, the Civic Society decided to lay a further complaint against the county council. This is about its maladministration of the charity and, for the first time, also to complain about the performance of Foundation Derbyshire.

The Charity Commission responded to our letter in its usual way: it was ignored until we sent a reminder three weeks later. This we copied to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Minister for Government Efficiency, with some observations about the efficiency of the Charity Commission. As if, by magic, a reply was forthcoming on the day our second letter was received by the Commission.

The Commission’s reply was in itself reasonable, if belated. It stated that our complaint had been studied and officials had decided to call a meeting with officers of the county council and Foundation Derbyshire to try to establish the reason for delay in completing the transfer.

We responded by suggesting that a month was quite enough time to arrange a meeting and stated that unless we were told by 17 June that this had been done we would make a complaint about the performance of the Charity Commission, as well as the two charities it is supposed to supervise.

At the same time, we have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Derbyshire County Council asking for certain specific pieces of information about their recent conduct as sole trustee of the charity.

Our view remains that Hurst House should be sold as quickly as possible, probably by auction, preferably with a view to its restoration as a private residence.

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