No receipts for thousands spent by Corby homeless charity

Corby Nightlight logo
Corby Nightlight logo

Accountants discovered nearly £7,000 of ‘unsubstantiated cash withdrawals’ in the annual accounts of Corby Nightlight.

The annual accounts of the homeless charity - covering its first year in operation from May 2017 to June 2018 - have been published by the Charity Commission after a two-month delay.

Former CEO Nicola Pell, who has now left Nightlight, with Diane Boyd

Former CEO Nicola Pell, who has now left Nightlight, with Diane Boyd

During the accounting period, six trustees resigned after concerns over the running of the charity were raised publicly.

Now chair Diane Boyd has said that the new board have learned from the mistakes that happened during 2017/18 and are hoping to move forward with scaled-down plans for the next year.

Nightlight, which set up a winter night shelter in the town’s former police station, attracted public scrutiny in December 2018 after former CEO Nicola Pell was accused of an alleged assault outside a Corby pub. There was also a police probe into £10,000 that went missing from the charity, only to be repaid later by the bank.

Ms Pell left the charity in January 2019.

Plans by Corby Nightlight to turn the building in Cannock Road into a homeless shelter were dropped last year.

Plans by Corby Nightlight to turn the building in Cannock Road into a homeless shelter were dropped last year.

The published accounts, independently examined by Moore Stephens, do not cover this period, but encompass the year before when the charity was operating out of St Peter and St Andrew’s Church in Beanfield Avenue.

They show that the charity had an income of £51,912 in donations during its first official year in operation.

A total of £27,919 in outgoings included £2,256 for accommodation, £1,051 for stationery, £2,128 for travel expenses and £6,846 in ‘unsubstantiated cash withdrawals’.

The independent examiner’s qualified statement says: “During the course of the examination we were informed that due to the change in trustees in the year and the first year of operation that sufficient documentation had not always been retained for income received and expenses incurred.

“As a result of this there was difficulty in gaining assurance for a small number of transactions within that period.

“The value of cash expenditure that did not have adequate supporting evidence was £3,846.”

The trustees’ report, written by chair Diane Boyd who joined the charity in June 2018 after the period these accounts relate to, says: “A consequence of four trustees resigning in February (2018) was to cause the Charity Commission to ask questions of Nicola Pell and consider the actions taken by her between then and June when the new trustees were put in place.

“While some matters are still being considered, the Charity Commission is now working with the new Board of Trustees to ensure that all necessary policy documents are in place and all members understand their obligations to the charity.

“The Charity Commission provided the Trustees with an action plan at the end of June, they are working through the tasks to bring all paperwork up to date.”

The trustee’s report also describes the disappointment experienced by volunteers when two proposed night shelters - in Wood Street and Cannock Road - fell through.

The charity provided a safe place to sleep for 101 homeless people during the winter of 2017/18 and helped 11 people back into their own accommodation.

Crowdfunding also took place to buy a burger van to provide hot meals after the shelter closed.

Ms Boyd’s report continued: “The charity is in a reasonably healthy financial position with enough cash reserves to serve the charitable objectives in the short term.

“The financial recordkeeping of the charity does need improvement and we have taken steps to ensure that this occurs for future periods.

“There have also been issues with ensuring control is maintained over the charity’s cash assets in particular with issues arising beyond this year end with misappropriation of monies from our bank account (later fully returned).

“Nevertheless this weakness in control is something that the Trustees take very seriously and we have been making efforts to ensure that problems of this kind never occur again.”

Speaking to the Northants Telegraph yesterday (Thursday, September 12), Diane Boyd, said that Nightlight was continuing to work with the Charity Commission and was considering what direction it would now take.

“The Charity Commission has no concerns with the present trustees.

“I was not involved in the charity during the accounting period so it is difficult to comment about what happened.

“Where cash expenditure did not have adequate supporting evidence it means that you can see that there’s a point of sale but no receipt to justify what it was being spent on.

“We don’t know whether that expenditure was worthwhile.”

Ms Boyd said that the charity would continue but would not open a winter shelter this year. She added they would be happy to work alongside the shelter proposed for the Kingswood estate in a supportive role.

“We’d like to get our catering van up and running and we still have donations left over from last year that we can use.

“We’re still helping our homeless community and doing what we can.

“We’ve no firm plans for the next year. It will be a much smaller provision but hopefully still effective.

“The trustees have had a very busy summer in terms of sorting things out. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes.

Admitting that there might also be some similar issues next year with the accounts that cover late 2018 and early 2019, Ms Boyd said that the charity hoped to move forward in a transparent manner.

- Northants Police have confirmed that a 34-year-old Corby man has been arrested with regard to the missing £10,000. He has been released on bail pending further enquiries.