A leading Market Harborough councillor has vowed to finally “find a good home” for almost £50,000 raised for a town charity launched 27 years ago.
Cllr Roger Dunton made the firm pledge after he helped to launch the Hippo Appeal to bankroll a £250,000 hydrotherapy pool to treat “people with handicaps” such as arthritis, back pain and muscle injuries.
The long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor spoke after veteran Harborough fundraiser Carole Tilley told local MP Neil O’Brien she was concerned about what had happened to the charity’s funds.
Cllr Dunton, who’s represented Harborough’s Welland ward since May 1987, said: “We have raised about £47,000 over the years and the money’s safe in Harborough Building Society.
“We were hoping to raise £250,000 to pay for an above ground hydrotherapy pool at Roman Way Day Centre.
“But I realise now we are not going to make that amount so maybe it’s time to think of alternative uses for the money.”
The ex-merchant navy seaman was asked why the Hippo Appeal is no closer to spending cash raked in nearly 30 years after big-hearted volunteers began supporting it. I’ve been trying to find a home for the money and I’ve been hawking it around for the last 10 years.
“I’ve tried the rugby club and the Market Harborough & The Bowdens charity as well as other groups,” insisted Cllr Dunton, who was a firefighter in Harborough for 30 years.
“I can understand why the good people of Harborough who have got behind us are asking questions but I’m doing my best and the money they’ve raised is safe. I’d like to think that I can find a good home in Harborough for our funds in the next 12 months.”
The married father-of-three was shocked to be told that the long-running venture was officially de-registered as a charity by the Charity Commission on September 9, 2009 after being registered on August 26, 1993.
Cllr Dunton, also a trustee of the locally-based Howard Symington Memorial Charity, said: “I wasn’t aware that we had been removed from the Charity Commission.
“I should have been told and I wasn’t – and I can’t give you a finite answer as to why I wasn’t.”
Charity supporter Carole Tilley, 71, of Bath Street, Harborough, said: “I’ve been helping to stage fundraising events to support the Hippo Appeal since 1992.
“Mr Dunton approached me the year before and asked me to get involved.
“Many people in Harborough have given up a lot of their time and many more have dug deep over many years to get behind it.
“We simply want to know what has happened to all the money we generated.
“It’s very frustrating that this cash is still sitting there in a building society account in 2019 and been put to no good use what so ever.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “It would be great to see the money raised going towards good causes to benefit the local community after all this time.
“Whether in the form of the originally envisaged hydrotherapy pool or any other local projects, I’m sure it will make a considerable difference to many people.”