Mayor Palmer yet to hand over proceeds of summer 'charity' ball- a sum helped by caterer's decision to knock £2,000 off the bill after an invoicing error
PUBLISHED: 19:33 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 20:09 05 February 2019
MLV Photography 2017
Mayor James Palmer admitted tonight that £9,385.87 raised by his ‘charity’ ball last July is yet to be handed over - seven months after he announced the final sum raised would “comfortably top £12,000”.
An additional £1,600 – from one of those attending the £120 a head ball – was handed direct to PTSD999, a company run by former Cambridge Conservative Association chairman Simon Lee that provides support for emergency service workers affected by post traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Lee (who also likes to be known as Simon Durance, his wife’s surname) is co director of PTSD999 and said today that “we haven’t yet received the money from the mayor. I think they are just waiting to finalise things so we can have a cheque presentation”.
Proceeds could have been lower had it not been for the generosity of the company that catered for the 200 or so guests in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral.
Crown Catering of Dullingham near Newmarket won the lucrative contract to provide canapés and a three course dinner for the mayor and his guests but though the event went well, the book-keeping less so.
In December Crown agreed to write off £2,000 after they accepted they had made an invoicing error when billing the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA).
Roger Hornett, chairman and chief executive of Crown Catering, explained that last June his company catered for two separate balls at around the same time.
“The other organisers paid a deposit of £2,500 at their request and those organising the mayor’s ball paid our standard deposit of £500,” he said.
“However when it came to preparing the final invoice I inadvertently deducted a deposit of £2,500 from the mayor’s ball invoice as well as the other invoice.”
He said the mistake was not discovered “until we got an inquiry from the mayor’s ball organisers prior to Christmas.
“I emailed back to say that it would be churlish for us to expect a refund for a charitable event and we would be happy to write off the £2,000 that we were out of pocket.”
Mr Hornett said that after settling the issue and taking the £2,000 knock he heard nothing further until last week.
“That was when I received a phone call asking how we might remedy the situation to satisfy standard accounting procedures,” he said.
“In order to avoid further error I checked with our accountants who advised me to issue a credit note, which I have done,”
A spokesman for Mayor Palmer said: “The fundraising amount is ready to be paid to PTSD999 and we are working with them to finalise arrangements.
“As previously mentioned, the final reconciliation of the numbers meant the immediate post-ball figure given to the mayor had to be revised down a bit.”
He added: “The ball made a big surplus for a good cause.
“The combined authority’s final audited accounts will be made public, and so will the report that our scrutiny committee has asked for. This is as far as we can take this particular inquiry.”
After the event Mayor Palmer said that he was “chuffed to hand over a cheque for more than £12,000” to his chosen good cause.
Last week Mayor Palmer said at a CAPCA board meeting that he was “ashamed that the people of Cambridgeshire have questioned the way in which I have raised this money”.
Mayor Palmer added that he was “shocked and disgusted by the scrutiny my charity work has received in the press in recent days”.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “I can’t see why the accounts for the ball should be muddled in with the combined authority.
“Has there been any apportionment of the time spent by officials organising and sorting this? I am not against these charity balls, but they should be run at arm’s length. It is one of these issues where the combined authority has got itself in a mix up.”
Lib Dem deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Aidan Van de Weyer said the event had effectively been “underwritten” by the public.
Cllr Van de Weyer said: “Why is all this on the combined authority books? It was meant to be a private ball. Even if it made a profit, it was effectively underwritten by the CA.”
Concerns have also been raised about whether the authority should be engaging in fund raising.
Cllr Herbert said: “I think the public has a right to ask the mayor what he is doing.” Mayor Palmer said: “It is the intention to host another mayor’s ball this year, for a different cause, which will again be self-financing and hopefully build on the success of the 2018 event.”
In the aftermath of the ball Mayor Palmer praised the work of PTSD999 described as a “Cambridgeshire-based charitable cause which offers much-needed mental health support to emergency services workers who are suffering post-traumatic stress”.
Mr Lee said today that although it remained a limited company it was effectively a social enterprise and he was working towards achieving charitable status for it.
He said the National Lottery had been satisfied with its operations after giving them £10,000 one year and £46,000 last year to help those affected with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “to cope and recover through team-building and action-based activities, one to one workshops and group retreats. This will enable them to explore the concepts of conflict and resolution”.
Mr Lee, who stood unsuccessfully for election to Cambridge City Council last year as a Conservative, describes himself as a former parachute regiment officer “with a service record that includes significant experience of operating in conflict zones and areas of great operational complexity”,.
On the networking site LinkedIn he prefers to call himself Simon Durance and the co-founder “at Blue Hero & PTSD999”.
Describing how he left school at 14, went into the armed forces, and how he received help when it was needed adds that “I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, meet, see and engage at all levels from kings, queens, presidents to music legends even the Dalai Lama”.