THE leader of the borough council has said that the situation of Enham Trust is 'worse than he feared' as he works to get answers for residents over a proposed business merger.

As previously reported, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) leader Cllr Phil North said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the announcement that the disability charity is set to merge with a housing association later this year.

Housing association Aster Group recently announced that Enham Trust is set to join its group, subject to consultation and final approval in the autumn.

Enham Trust’s care home facilities recently received an ‘inadequate’ rating from the Care Quality Commision, and pledged to improve. 

READ MORE: Enham Trust disability charity care homes rated ‘inadequate’ by Care Quality Commission

Cllr North set up a meeting with the charity, and asked residents to contact him with their views and questions.

Posting an update to Facebook following the meeting, Cllr North said: "A huge thank you to everyone who has contacted me in the last two weeks about the proposed merger of Enham Trust with Aster Group. It has been really useful to hear the views of trust tenants, residents of the wider village, friends and family of care home clients, employees and other local people who are concerned about the future of the charity.

"Last week, I met the chief executive, Simon Williams and chairman of the trustees, Ben Merrett to discuss those concerns. We had a robust but productive conversation. More recently, I have had correspondence with Aster and have a meeting in the diary for early September with the group CEO, Bjorn Howard.

"My main takeaway from the conversation with Enham executives is how in their view this merger is essential to secure the future of the trust. This underlines my concerns that Enham is in a worse position than feared. Not just in terms of the recent inadequate Care Quality Commission report but in relation to the trust’s finances."

Cllr North said that he has "been clear" with the charity that communication and transparency with the public is crucial going forwards.

READ MORE: Disability charity Enham Trust to merge with Aster housing association

He contuned: "They need to level with the village, and set out a clear, comprehensive and transparent rationale about why in their view the merger is needed. Providing much more detail than what’s currently on their website. They also need to explain precisely what Aster are bringing to the table to secure Enham’s short and medium-term future. For example, one of the benefits could be that they will no longer have to sell off end of tenancy housing stock to plug short term financial difficulties.

"In short, I used the meeting to put across the message that Enham need to communicate much more effectively. I say that as a friend of the charity and as someone who has raised quite a lot of money for them over many years, including running a number of marathons. This is a critical moment for the future of the Trust and the identity of the village itself."

Cllr North added that the charity agreed to set up a meeting next month, where residents will be able to go along and ask questions, with details to eb announced in due course.

READ MORE: Cllr Phil North reacts to proposed merger between Enham Trust and Aster Group

He added: "Whilst I’m concerned that Enham will essentially become a subsidiary of Aster Group and that members of the Aster board will double up as the board of trustees for Enham, I was given assurances that by law the new board will have to make decisions in the best interests of the trust. Meaning Enham as a charity and incorporated company would continue. Retaining its brand, heritage and history.

"I was also given assurances that people’s tenancy agreements will remain with Enham Trust, that it won’t affect rent and service charges and that there is a commitment to retain a local maintenance team. Villagers will be able to probe this further at the meeting though to get further public assurances.

"In the meantime, I encourage interested parties to respond to the trust’s formal request for feedback."

Details of this consultation are available at