Campaigners fighting to restore Highbury Hall are threatening legal action against Birmingham City Council for dereliction of duty.
Activists have accused the council of dragging its feet and ignoring a promise to establish an independent Trust to run the building that was the home of Joseph Chamberlain.
In a letter to the Charity Commission, the Highbury Coalition makes it clear it is losing patience and could go to court to seek compensation for lack of maintenance and unpaid rent by the council which continues to make money out of the building by using it for functions.
Mary de Vere Taylor, the great granddaughter of Joseph Chamberlain, is among those fighting to remove overall control of Highbury Hall from the council’s hands and open up the building for community use.
She said: “Along with other members of the Chamberlain family, I’m furious about the council’s blatant disregard of its responsibilities.
“This shows a marked lack of respect, not only for the community which it is meant to serve, but also for the legacy of the man who transformed the city.”
Earlier this year the Highbury Coalition believed it was celebrating victory after the council invited it to form an advisory group and play a direct role in the restoration and future running of the imposing Grade II listed Victorian manor house in Moseley.
But coalition spokesman Tony Thapar said no progress had been made since then.
Mr Thapar added: “We suggested a partnership approach with Birmingham City Council and anticipated regular meetings and on-going dialogue about returning Highbury to charitable use.
“We were assured that council officers would progress the matters we raised, help us find information and liaise with councillors and colleagues.
“Yet, as far as we know, most of our concerns, requests and recommendations remain unresolved or have not been progressed.”
He said it was clear that the council was not prepared to dedicate sufficient staff to resolve the Highbury Trust problems.
He continued: “There are, allegedly, insufficient funds within the council to repair and restore Highbury. Birmingham City Council continues to use the house and grounds for non-charitable activities, despite the Charity Commission’s warning several years ago about the lack of separation between the trust and the council.
“Despite the Charity Commission’s general recommendation earlier this year that the appointment of independent trustees is good practice, the council has failed to respond to offers from the Chamberlain family to join the board of trustees. Last year, we sought legal advice about Highbury Trust and its governance arrangements. We are aware that if Birmingham City Council and the Charity Commission fail to resolve Highbury Trust’s governance problems, it would be possible to bring proceedings against the Council.
“Such proceedings could see a recovery of losses incurred by Highbury Trust since 1932 from the council for inadequate maintenance and unpaid rent.”
John Alden, chairman of the Trusts and Charities Committee, said the council was working towards resolving the issues raised by Mr Thapar.
Coun Alden (Con Harborne) added: “I have made it clear to the Highbury Coalition that I am always willing to engage with key stakeholders over the future development of Highbury.
“This includes proposed reforms to our current governance arrangements so that independent trustees can sit on a Trust for Highbury.
“Officers and members of the Highbury Coalition attended a meeting with Architectural Heritage Fund in August with a view to securing funding for an options appraisal for Highbury.
“Following that meeting a proposal was put forward to the Highbury Coalition which included the appointment of independent members to a newly formed sub-committee of the Highbury Trust, with a detailed schedule of tasks moving forwards.
“I am therefore surprised by comments made by the Highbury Coalition, as they did not accurately reflect the position as I understood it to be.”