Thousands of pounds of missing crowdfunded money intended for a defibrillator is being “slowly” paid back.

Our investigation in August 2019 traced the Whitley Community Development Association-raised funds (WCDA) back to the personal account of a prominent local political figure.

Maureen McSevney, who allegedly kept the money in her personal bank account but lost track of it, is now paying that money back slowly, according to Trisha Bennett.

READ MORE: Reading bowlers battling to save Rivermead Bowls Club hand in petition to council

Trisha Bennett, community development coordinator at WCDA said Ms McSevney is “slowly paying the money back”, while community development worker Maria Cox said the charity is now “stronger than it has ever been”.

The money was raised in memory of Matthew Farrall, who died from a sudden heart attack in April 2018.

The defibrillator is the second that WCDA has fundraised on behalf of Mr Farrall, from Whitley, who died suddenly on April 20, 2018.

READ MORE: Palmer Park Library will re-open next week after heating improvements

The first defibrillator was fundraised for and put in place at the South Reading Community Hub on Northumberland Avenue in July 2018.

Despite the loss of funds, WCDA has now purchased a second unused defibrillator from a building site and is looking for a publicly accessible box to place it with a host near the Whitley Wood Co-Op on Northumberland Avenue.

A third defibrillator is planned at the northern end of the same road.

What happened to the money?

The JustGiving money raised by the Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA) was traced back to the personal account of Maureen McSevney.

Ms McSevney is a former chair of Reading and District Labour Party (RDLP) and was a Reading Borough Council (RBC) election candidate last year for Redlands.

She kept the money in her personal account from October 2018 but lost track of it, according to an investigation.

In a document leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), titled ‘Investigation meeting With Maureen McSevney’, she said she “frittered away” £3,132.99 in her own bank account over a nine month-period.

Ms McSevney was removed from her job at WCDA on May 10, 2019.

An investigation meeting took place on that day, with Ms McSevney recorded as saying: “The money sat in my bank account and was frittered away in the last nine months.

“I can’t deal with the idea I’ve f***** up for everybody else. It’s not even a useful amount of money to have nicked.

“I was careless and didn’t check.”

According to the leaked document, the fundraised money was paid into Ms McSevney’s account and when she attempted to transfer the money into WCDA’s account it bounced back as it had not reached her own account yet.

How is the charity doing now?

Despite the setback, employees say the charity is “stronger than it has ever been”.

Ms Bennett said: “It is phenomenal what is happening now. In the last few years it feels like we have really taken wings.

“We have been here long enough that people know we are going to stay and trust us.”

READ MORE: Letter: Extinction Rebellion Reading asses council's first year since declaring Climate Emergency

WCDA started running its own food surplus service last year, handing out leftover food from supermarkets Aldi, M&S and Morrisons four days a week.

Reading Chronicle:

Ms Bennett makes clear: “It is not a food bank.

“People aren’t referred. I have heard mums says how shameful it is to queue at a food bank.

“Our food would go to landfill if we didn’t use it.”

She said the food parcels are having a huge impact on the community.

One woman told the WCDA she no longer has to beg because she gets food from the charity.

“She wants to volunteer for us now,” Ms Bennett added.

Another example is Welfare Rights asking WCDA to put together a parcel for a 70-year-old man who would have otherwise had to wait around in the town centre till 8pm to get food.

“He said ‘you have saved me’,” Ms Bennett recalled.

The food surplus service is available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-3pm, subject to availability, at the Whitley Community Café.

READ MORE: Reading Borough Council axes free swimming for over 60s WCDA also provided parcels for 50 people at Christmas, delivering a festive food delivery to their doors as well as a small gift for each child.

Recipients included vulnerable people and families who they knew would not ask for help.

To watch footage relating to the Christmas delivery, visit:

“I used to think it was pious to say it changes lives but I do not anymore,” Ms Bennett added.

“It has changed lives.”