HSBC under fire for freezing charity cash
Cash earmarked for eight local charities cannot be distributed because the Newmarket branch of a major bank has frozen the account where it is held.
The money belonged to the Crockfords Park Residents’ Association (CPRA) and was raised to fight plans for a housing development on allotment land there – a battle that the residents finally lost in 2017 leaving £1,349.67 in the account at the HSBC branch in Newmarket High Street.
Former chairman of the CPRA Garsham Robertson has now raised a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman, the banking industry watchdog, to force HSBC to give the association its money back.
“The association had been set up to serve a particular function which no longer existed so it was wound up and agreed by committee members, in line with its constitution, that the funds left should be divided, with £349.67 going to the Neighbourhood Watch for local benefit and the other £1,000 split between eight good causes,” said Mr Robertson.
At about the same time, he was contacted by HSBC which said as there had been no transactions carried out with the account for some years, they intended to freeze it.
“I went to the bank, with the co-signatory, and the bank agreed to keep the account open long enough for one final cheque to be drawn, transferring all the remaining funds to me so I could distribute it as we had agreed,” said Mr Robertson.
“Unfortunately, we then discovered that without any approval or authority from us, the bank had closed our account.”
Since then, Mr Robertson says he has made numerous attempts to retrieve the money under HSBC’s own unclaimed balances procedure but has been unable to get any response from the bank.
“We have done all the jumping through hoops, some of which the bank itself created, to no avail. It is now up to them to deliver this money so it can be handed over to charities and good causes.
“I am concerned that this delay could affect my good name and besmirch my character as people in the local community are awaiting notification that I have done what I was tasked to do.
“I would not blame anyone who, given my silence on the matter, suspected that there was some ulterior motive on my part.”
Mr Robertson is hoping that an intervention from the ombudsman will be enough to release the funds, which are due to be given to causes such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease charities, the Voluntary Network, East Anglian Air Ambulance, Magpas, Newmarket Day Centre, St Nicholas’ Hospice and a local food bank.
The Journal contacted the HSBC’s media office about Mr Robertson’s complaint but had had no response at the time of publication.