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Sandwich Tollbridge fund costs 16 times more to run than the grants it gives out

By Eleanor Perkins

Calls for clarity have been made to the trustees of the town’s Tollbridge Fund after it was discovered it costs 16 times more to run than the amount it gives out.

Sara Trillo, Labour’s candidate for last week’s by-election, has written to the town council, which administers the £3.3 million fund, asking: “Where is all the money going?”

The purpose of the fund is to donate the surplus profits from the account towards “public works for the advantage of Sandwich” but in 2015/16 only £12,090 was donated to local organisations, just 0.36% of the total fund and 6% of its annual running costs.

Labour activist Sara Trillo
Labour activist Sara Trillo

But the Mayor of Sandwich Cllr Paul Graeme has defended the council’s decision, saying the fund is also there to pay for the upkeep of the Guildhall.

Last year the council divided £12,090 between 10 organisations. The highest amount, £5,150, was paid out to the Phoenix Youth Centre while the St Clement’s Church and St Peter’s Church organ funds each got the smallest grants, £100. This is despite the fund earning an income of £31,786 that year from parking charges and £43,211 from letting the Guildhall as a venue.

The Sandwich Tollbridge Fund, which is worth £3,330,168, includes a copy of the Magna Carta valued at £1 million for insurance purposes.

The small amount the fund gives out to good causes is dwarfed by its expenses: £204,340 in 2015-16. This is made up of £47,948 on administrative costs such as salaries and office, £5,365 on governance, £140,228 on trading expenses and £10,799 on investment managers’ fees.

These figures are listed in a public document which can be found on the charity commission government website.

Mrs Trillo has written to the officer in charge of the fund, town clerk Laura Fidler, who is on leave, replaced by clerk Anna Irwin.

Sandwich Guildhall
Sandwich Guildhall

She said: “I want to know where the money is going and how the council can justify spending 16 times more on office expenses and other fees than they actually give to local good causes. Who is watching where this money goes?

“The fund has only one purpose, which is to support the town, but people will be very angry to see how it has been managed. The latest Conservative newsletter from Clare Felton said that the council has ‘careful and responsible management’ of the fund’, yet it only give 0.0003% of the fund for the purpose it was set up for.”

“The people of Sandwich deserve more than just £12,000 per year spent on them. People have been complaining about waiting in the rain for a bus outside the Guildhall for months but the council haven’t done anything. The money should go on simple projects like putting a bus stop in place and looking after the elderly residents in the town, rather than pay big salaries to people.”

Mayor of Sandwich Cllr Paul Graeme said: “Since the inception of Sandwich Tollbridge Fund in the mid 70s Sandwich Town Council have been committed to preserving the Guildhall as a place that can be an asset to the residents of Sandwich as well as being a commercial operation being let out for weddings and other functions. It also houses Sandwich’s new museum which exhibits our recently discovered Magna Carta valued at £1m, also is the base for the town’s archives.

“Both the Tollbridge Fund and Sandwich Town Council have always agreed to share expenses of the running costs and these are reflected in the audited Accounts for the Fund and Sandwich Town Council.

“Currently Sandwich Town Council and the Tollbridge Fund are fully committed to the “New Vision For Sandwich” and at this very moment there is a full review of the future operations of the Guildhall by outside consultants ahead of the Open Golf in 2020.”

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