THE war of words over Durham Miners’ Gala has moved up a gear.
The Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), which organises the annual event, has warned its future is in doubt after the association was landed with a £2million bill over a lengthy legal battle to secure compensation for miners suffering from osteoarthritis.
But Durham North MP Kevan Jones has challenged the association’s leadership to explain what has happened to the millions of pounds the organisation had in its coffers when the former Durham NUM became the Durham Miners’ Association in 2007.
Now he has issued a series of ten questions he says the association’s officials must answer.
He said: “If the leadership of the Durham Miners’ Association are saying the gala is under threat because they don’t have the money to support it, then they need to say what happened to their finances in the past.
“This is money that was built up over many years by miners and their families in County Durham. It is important that what has happened to this money is explained.
“In 2007, they had £6.4million in their bank account. Even taking £2million off that, there is still a substantial amount of money left.”
But the DMA hit back in a statement accusing Mr Jones of ‘waging a vendetta’ against the organisation and its solicitors
“He has raised all these questions on many occasions and they have been answered and we do not intend to revisit them,” it said.
“Accounts to which Jones refers were properly audited within the rules of the Durham Area (NUM). We are not claiming we have no money left but what we have left is greatly depleted since the Durham Miners’ (NUM) accounts of 2007 and it is self-evident, with no working miners paying contributions, a time will come in the near future when the Gala cannot be funded.
“The Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala was formed to ensure that the Gala will continue for decades into the future funded by thousands of supporters giving a small amount on a regular basis.”
Kevan Jones’ 10 questions:
1) NUM Durham Area received £10.9million from its solicitors for the handling of the coal miners’ compensation scheme. In 2007 it had £6.4million in investments. What has happened to this money?
2) Why in 2007 did the Durham NUM have offshore funds of £687,628 with a market value at £934,413?
3) With the North East Area NUM having only 35 full members, including only seven contributing members in Durham, why did the President and General Secretary have a combined remuneration package of almost £170,000, particularly as the expenditure for the 2007 Gala was just £59,595?
4) When were the General Secretary and the President of the NUM North East Area and the NUM Durham Area last elected by the membership?
5) Why did only 12 people, three of whom had a direct financial interest, take the decision to de-list the Durham NUM as a trade union and establish the DMA as an unincorporated association, whose accounts are no longer published?
6) In 2007, the Durham Area NUM had only seven contributing members and 15,370 associate members. Why were these people not consulted about the future assets and organisation of the union?
7) The Durham area NUM claimed to be active and responsible for benefits to their members. So why is it that they did not register any activities in their returns to the Certification Officer in 2007, and only paid out £2,400 in benefits?
8) Do the DMA leaders have cars and travel paid for as part of their current roles? The 2007 accounts they registered a combined £12,318 in cars, and an additional combined £16,370 in ‘other’ expenses, which they have not disclosed.
9) The DMA claim to have been burdened by a £2million legal bill for the osteoporosis case, which they lost. Why was this funded completely from the union’s coffers, and why did their solicitors not make a contribution?
10) If the DMA are asking for public financial support for the Gala, why are they not willing to publish their accounts?