The figurehead behind Whitby’s Totally Locally has quit her post amid concerns over “financial irregularities” relating to the scheme, it has emerged.
Kate Longmate, of Rosemount Road, has stood down as head of Totally Locally following allegations that thousands of pounds worth of bills relating to last December’s Christmas market have not been paid.
It has also emerged that the 38-year-old is under investigation by North Yorkshire Police following the alleged theft of a charity collection, relating to a 20-week challenge she completed last year.
Miss Longmate was arrested in April this year after allegedly failing to hand over the funds she raised in aid of the Open Nest Charity. She told the Gazette yesterday that this was due to falling out with the charity operated by her former employers at La Rosa Hotel in Whitby.
The development has thrown the future of the Whitby branch of Totally Locally into review as Miss Longmate is in sole possession of the finances for the entire scheme, collected through public donations and sponsorship.
Speaking to the Gazette, other Totally Locally members have expressed concerns that these finances have not been presented to the group at any stage. A Totally Locally group member said: “There have been concerns about the lack of engagement as an open and accountable group.
“The way this has been managed, it certainly damaged Totally Locally as an initiative in Whitby, because a lot of people have been dissuaded from questioning what’s been going on.”
On March 11 this year Northampton County Court ordered Miss Longmate to pay over £1,500 to NTL Electrical Services of Seamer. The company had provided electricity for last year’s Christmas market but had not received any payment from Miss Longmate and so took the matter to court.
Miss Longmate denied any knowledge of the county court matter although the Gazette has been provided with a copy of the judgement.
The Gazette understands that Scarborough Borough Council is also owed around £600, although the local authority was unable to confirm this due to business confidentiality.
Miss Longmate said yesterday that these bills had been “settled”.
In an email resigning her position within Totally Locally, Miss Longmate explains how “immensely proud” she is of the success. She adds: “Totally Locally has never been about me.
“It has been about everyone and about Whitby, but I have taken on the organising and co-ordinating with the hope and intention of making a difference to our independent town centre.
“I think in many ways that has been successful.”
A group of Whitby business owners will now take over the operation of Totally Locally, including Mathew Brown of Dillon’s guest house.
“We are all in agreement that we want to resurrect and save Totally Locally Whitby,” said Mathew.
A public meeting has been organised for Tuesday May 27 at 6pm at the Station Inn, where Miss Longmate has been invited to present the financial accounts.
The meeting will also be used to discuss new ideas for the scheme and how it can move forward.
Mathew added: “We want to focus on the positives. There are some really good ideas that people have got and there are independent traders who want to be part of it. I am sure things will start to look up.”