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Extra time for charity over £200k grant

PUBLISHED: 06:29 24 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:35 05 July 2010

A charity which has been told to pay back nearly £200,000 in grants has been given extra time by the government to piece together missing financial records.

A charity which has been told to pay back nearly £200,000 in grants has been given extra time by the government to piece together missing financial records.

The Aid and Assist project, which repairs and restores furniture for low-income families in Lowestoft and Oulton Broad, has been ordered to pay back a European grant after failing an audit because important invoices had been lost in a flood.

The charity told the government earlier this month that it could not afford to pay back the grant but yesterday the project was given more time to prove that the money was not misused.

Aid and Assist, which has been working in the town since 1983, was awarded £185,000 of European Social Fund money in 2000 to set up a workshop in Rotterdam Road, Lowestoft, where adults with learning difficulties were given training in repairing and restoring furniture. The extra time should allow the charity to provide evidence of its work and to piece together records showing the qualifications which people have gained under its supervision and evidence of trainees who have gone on to get jobs as a result.

MEP Richard Howitt, pictured, who has been helping the charity fight for time to reassemble its missing records, said: "I am relieved that any action which could lead to the closure of the charity has been averted for now.

"I will do my utmost to work with Suffolk County Council and the government offices to try to find some of the missing evidence so that the debt can be written off once and for all. This stay of execution means that the charity can continue to operate, providing this invaluable service for the Lowestoft community, which is especially important in these financially difficult times."

Some archive documents have already come to light from a Suffolk County Council-supported project which worked in partnership with Aid and Assist and it is hoped that they could go some way to prove that the grant money was spent properly.

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