TRUST has completely broken down between Hungerford Rugby Football Club and some town councillors over alleged financial “discrepancies” in the latter’s accounting.
The club was dramatically accused of misleading councillors over cash payments at a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee on Tuesday night, October 17.
The meeting had been due to consider a new lease agreement between the council and the club.
But before discussions could get under way, deputy mayor Helen Simpson dropped a bombshell.
She said she had discovered that, for the past three years, the club had allowed Hungerford’s Tesco store to use the field for social events, without booking them into the management committee calendar as agreed.
In addition, the meeting heard, the council had been given assurances, upon investigating, that no money had changed hands.
But Mrs Simpson added: “The mayor and I spoke to Tesco’s manager today. Tesco did pay. We’re clearly owed money that hasn’t been given to the Triangle Field management committee.”
Councillor Claire Winser said: “I’m extremely disappointed to hear this. I feel let down that they withheld such information from us.”
Councillor Carolann Farrell said: “The trust has completely gone. It’s great that the club is growing, but they’re taking advantage by using land that doesn’t belong to them.
“It’s a private club and we shouldn’t use public money to fund that growth.
“How many other functions are being held on that ground – that they don’t own – which are making money which is not paid back to the management committee?
“There’s more that I’m not prepared to divulge tonight, but which does concern me greatly.”
Councillor Dennis Benneyworth said: “There are members of the press here...and they (the club officials) don’t have a right of reply.
“I don’t think it’s good that we’re coming out with these statements without the other party here. We're blessed to have such a facility.”
However the meeting heard that club officials had been invited to the public meeting but had not attended.
Mrs Simpson said: “I want answers to some questions before I’m comfortable, as a representative of the town, that we can trust what what’s being said.
“I’m fed up with being seen as ‘difficult’ – I just want to be fair.
“These things are happening right under our noses and we need to have things honest and transparent.”
Councillor Paul Whiting said: “We need to seek some clarity and some honesty.
“We’ve invested a lot of money in that land. It’s sad to hear there have been discrepancies in accounting...we need to get answers.”
The meeting agreed to Claire Winser's suggestion that the committee should invite rugby club officials to a subsequent meeting “to discuss the anomalies.”
Invited to respond, club chairman Rob Cox told the Newbury Weekly News: “I don’t know the specific details of this.
“All I would say at this stage is that people do hire the club house for events and that’s totally different to hiring out the field. It’s important not to confuse the two.”