A CHRISTIAN charity has said it behaved “responsibly”

during a saga which saw a centre for homeless men closed and its staff lose their jobs.

Tom Raine Court in Darlington was forced to close in June last year when the Salvation Army, which ran the complex, lost out to fellow homelessness accommodation provider the 700 Club in a council re-tendering process for a new contract to provide such services.

A total of 19 staff who lost their jobs have since submitted a joint claim, believing they were unfairly dismissed and were entitled to statutory redundancy payments which they did not receive.

The case is being heard at an employment tribunal hearing in Newcastle, which was yesterday attended by a number of former staff, along with officials and legal representatives from both charities.

The staff claim the Salvation Army failed to follow socalled TUPE regulations which would have seen them automatically transfer to the 700 Club with their existing terms and conditions protected when the new contract was agreed.

The Salvation Army disputes this and states that it cannot be liable for any claim since it did comply with the regulations and as such the staff could be classed as working for the 700 Club when they were dismissed.

For its part the Darlingtonbased 700 club, which is named as a second respondent in the claim, also denies liability.

Its position is understood to be that it never employed the affected staff and, therefore, could not have unfairly dismissed them.

Keith Lightley, a divisional director with the Salvation Army, said he regretted the fact that it had not retained its contract to provide some homelessness services, but believed it had acted “responsibly”.

He said Tom Raine Court, which operated for 25 years, was regarded as a flagship centre by the charity.

Robin Barton, head of business development at the Salvation Army, said it had been paid £295,000 a year by Darlington Borough Council to operate the complex. The funding came from the Government’s Supporting People scheme, which aims to help vulnerable people live independently.

Ten out of the 28 residents living in the complex eventually secured accommodation with the 700 Club, the tribunal was told.

The hearing continues.