Watchdog to take no action against Kettering's Wicksteed Charitable Trust after complaints

The trust owns the land and assets of Kettering’s much-loved park
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The charities watchdog will take no further action against the trust which owns Kettering’s Wicksteed Park after looking into complaints made by former trustees.

As reported by NN Journal earlier this year, four former Wicksteed Charitable Trust board members made official reports to the Charity Commission under a whistleblowing procedure, outlining concerns about how the charity was operating.

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They had made allegations about the trust’s governance and financial controls, which were assessed in a ‘compliance case’ by the regulator with no statutory inquiry opened.

Wicksteed ParkWicksteed Park
Wicksteed Park

But the Charity Commission has since confirmed that they will not be taking any further regulatory action, instead issuing advice and guidance which it said was standard practice when complaints have been made.

A Charity Commission spokesman said: “We have looked into complaints about Wicksteed Charitable Trust. After engaging with the trustees and issuing regulatory advice and guidance, we do not consider that there are any concerns requiring further regulatory action by the Commission.”

The spokesman said they could not provide a copy of the regulatory advice issued to the trust but that, should any further concerns come to light, they would assess them.

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Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which owns the theme park’s land and assets, is chaired by Oliver Wicksteed, great-grandson of park founder Charles Wicksteed, who has been a trustee since 1999.

Oliver Wicksteed, chair of the Wicksteed Charitable TrustOliver Wicksteed, chair of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust
Oliver Wicksteed, chair of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust

A spokesman for the Wicksteed Charitable Trust said: “We are pleased that the Charity Commission has confirmed that it has no reason to proceed with an inquiry into the Wicksteed Charitable Trust.

“The advice and guidance it has given is welcomed and is commonplace in its work with charities across the country.

“The trustees are delighted that they can now move forward and concentrate on securing the long term-future of Wicksteed Park.”

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Charity trustees are the people who share ultimate responsibility for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run. They safeguard the assets of a charity and make sure it complies with the law.

The trust’s Charity Commission entry says it spends its money on ‘the provision, for the benefit of people resident primarily but not exclusively in Kettering and its neighbourhood, of facilities for recreation and other leisure time occupation in the interests of social welfare to improve the conditions of life of the users of such facilities’.

The trust’s most recent trustees’ report, for the year ending February 2021, said income from the potential opening of the planned retirement village within the park's grounds would be used to bolster the reserves balance to support the trust to ‘meet its charitable objectives’.

In 2020 the firm that operated the park’s leisure facilities – Wicksteed Park Ltd – went into administration with dozens of people losing their jobs. The Covid-19 pandemic had forced the park to close all rides, leaving them unable to trade and the business ‘critically impacted’.

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A huge fundraising campaign was launched to save the park, which raised more than £70,000 in just 24 hours.

Wicksteed Charitable Trust backed a new, smaller company founded by a group of employees which was set up to run the park.