'We are not in trouble', says charity which was subject of town councillor comment

PUBLISHED: 16:39 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:33 23 October 2019

Manager Neil Hurlock with the keys of TRIP's brand new VW Crafter minibus. Ref mhh 24-16SH 7668. Picture: Simon Horn.

Manager Neil Hurlock with the keys of TRIP's brand new VW Crafter minibus. Ref mhh 24-16SH 7668. Picture: Simon Horn.

Archant

Bosses at a Honiton transport charity have strongly denied a claim that it is 'in trouble'.

TRIP, in New Street, said the comment made by town councillor John Taylor at a meeting on Monday (October 14) is 'fundamentally incorrect'.

Cllr John Taylor, speaking in front of more than 100 people, at a debate over funding for The Beehive community centre in Honiton, described the charity as being 'in trouble' and 'having a problem'.

In 2016 TRIP received government money for two new minibuses but later had to repay some of it after the Department for Transport realised competition legislation meant it had paid more than it was allowed. The charity has said the matter is fully resolved.

At the meeting Cllr Taylor used the incident to illustrate the care the council must take when providing funding for charities.

He said: "There is an organisation called TRIP, and TRIP has got a real problem...

"They are in trouble because they have received money to buy their buses."

The mayor, Cllr Zarczynski, who was chairing the meeting interjected and told Cllr Taylor he could not allow his statement to continue as he was discussing another company's business.

Mr Taylor asked whether he could finish, and said: "Ealing has got the same thing - it's with the minister to decide and that's the point.

"That's the law and the minister is going to decide... the fact is it's up there and it's a real worry for another organisation and that's the problem."

TRIP office manager Neil Hurlock said several users of the charity have since raised concerns about its future.

Mr Hurlock said: "Mr Taylor is probably referring to a mistake made by the Department for Transport, which kindly funded the acquisition of two minibuses for the use of our ring and ride services.

"Unfortunately, after they made the grants, they realised that this had put TRIP over the limit set by the EU for contributions from local and national governments made within a three year period.

"Therefore, TRIP refunded the excess to bring us below that limit. While it meant that TRIP had to find some money for this, it did mean we were able to acquire two minibuses and update our fleet at a substantially lower cost to the charity."

Speaking to the Herald at the time, Mr Hurlock said the two vehicles would preserve the future of Honiton's ring and ride service 'for the next 10 years'.

In a statement provided to the Herald, Cllr Taylor said: "The article on TRIP and the quotes from TRIP suggesting I said the charity was in trouble is wrong.

"I said TRIP had hit trouble because of the grant system and that they had to repay that grant.

"At no time did I imply or say that TRIP had broken the law.

"In point of fact, I mentioned that the law was aimed at large organisations and had come to the fore, I believe, via Ealing Council.

"I said in the meeting that this matter is still with the minister.

"What I was going to say before I was shut down was that the ministry is looking to find a solution to the problem where the law has hit small operations like TRIP across the country inadvertently.

"As a result of this kind of action, I have always sought to have Honiton Town Council get suitable advice before any action is taken."

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