What happened to half-a-million pounds a Faversham man left in his will to help local youngsters?
Former fruit broker Colin Sharpe died in 2017 aged 79, leaving £500,000 to “help young people learn, train or gain experience which would equip them for a future career” reported the Faversham News earlier this year.
Mr Sharpe, who lived in Court Street, enjoyed a long and successful career travelling the world buying and selling fruit. A Faversham resident for 55 years, he wanted to leave a “lasting educational legacy” with “particular emphasis on technical training and apprenticeships”.
According to the Faversham News, the half-amillion was bequested to Faversham’s Bensted’s Charity by Mr Sharpe’s friend, then Town and Swale councillor Mike Cosgrove.
“He was always keen on thinking about helping young people,” Mr Cosgrove told the
paper. “So I thought about a local charity like Bensted’s with charitable objectives which include education.”
The article described Cosgrove as Colin Sharpe’s ‘executor’, yet Faversham’s Tassells Solicitors are officially recorded as executors. And it didn’t make clear whether it was Mr Sharpe or Mr Cosgrove who gave the money to Bensted’s. So we emailed the solicitors to ask. “I regret that I have no information for you,” replied Tassells’ solicitor Simon Wolfe, unhelpfully.
What the Faversham News also neglected to mention was that Mr Cosgrove was, and remains, a trustee of Bensted’s Charity. Seven of the charity’s nine trustees are ex-Conservative councillors. Its chairman is former town councillor, ex-mayor and prominent local freemason Bro Andrew Osborne. Another masonic Bensted’s trustee, former Conservative councillor Bro Tom Gates is a member of the late Mr Sharpe’s Manor of Faversham lodge.
Regular Eye readers may remember that Bensted’s helped bankroll Mr Cosgrove’s deeply unpopular war memorial to the tune of £32,700.
It also provided a bank account for the project and paid out at least £1,820 in ‘consultancy fees’. To date, the charity still hasn’t publicly accounted for all the war memorial donations and according to the Charity Commission, its 2017 accounts were never filed. Its 2019 accounts, due back in June, are also missing.
A charity for ‘the relief of old, sick and infirm persons, and for the provision of educational and recreational facilities’, Bensted’s has a typical annual income of around £25,000.
Half-a-million could make a huge difference in Faversham, a town urgently needing investment in youth training and facilities. So what good uses has Mr Sharpe’s generous contribution been put to? What valuable local education initiatives have benefited? How many young lives have been enriched or changed for the better?
The answer is none, as far as we can ascertain. We are not aware of any. We asked Bensted’s for information on its youth training funding but the charity declined to answer our emails. Perhaps someone else can enlighten us as to exactly what ‘lasting legacy’ Mr Sharpe has left?