Statement from the Charity Commission
After a long delay the Trust has received a response from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding the Charity Commission Scheme. It was announced at the Board meeting on the 12th March that DCMS felt that the preferred option for updating the Malvern Hills Acts was by a Private Bill.
Over the coming months the Trust will be taking steps to investigate and cost the options available to it before deciding on how to proceed.
A statement from the Charity Commission can be found below:
“The Commission met with Malvern Hills Conservators (MHC) in late 2016 in relation to changes the charity were considering making to improve their governance arrangements and modernise the charity. These changes related to the five acts of parliament that govern the charity, which have been in operation since 1884.
At the time, and with the agreement of the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) the Commission advised the charity to apply for a parliamentary scheme, to become effective via an Order by the Secretary of State for DCMS. MHC complied with this advice, preparing all relevant material for the scheme and, as advised, undertaking a public consultation, which took place between 2 September 2019 and 13 October 2019.
The amount of public interest the consultation generated was significant, particularly from precept payers of the charity, many of whom expressed concern about the proposed changes. It’s therefore been agreed by DCMS and the Commission, that these changes to the charity’s governing documents would now be best handled via a private bill, allowing greater scope for public scrutiny and debate than under a parliamentary scheme procedure. The charity has only recently been informed about the change in advice.
We understand this delay may be frustrating for people at the charity and others invested in the process, who want to see this issue resolved as quickly and as efficiently as possible. However, the significant amount of work undertaken by the charity in preparing for a parliamentary scheme will be relevant for preparing a private bill.
This charity manages a hugely significant and well-loved open space for the UK so it’s important to ensure that changes are made in the right way. The Commission and DCMS will therefore be supporting the charity as needed, as they pursue the next steps of this process.
Charity Commission for England and Wales
11 March 2020”
Further information about the Charity Commission Scheme, the proposals put forward by the Trust and the results of the public consultation can be found below.
Public Consultation Report
Thank you to everyone who has responded to our public consultation by submitting the consultation questionnaire.
We received 467 responses from the public and all the responses have now be collated, analysed and summarised by the Charity Commission Scheme Working Group. Their report, along with recommendations can be viewed in the full report below. A summary is also available at the start of this document.
A document with the responses in full has also been provided for reference, as well as the Public Consultation Document, glossary and table of acts.
Charity Commission Scheme - Full Public Report (with summary) - January 2020.
Full consultation responses
Public Consultation Document - September 2019
Table of Acts
This report, and the recommendations within it, will be discussed at the Governance Committee meeting on the 30th January 2020.
PROPOSALS FOR A SCHEME UNDER S 73 CHARITIES ACT 2011
The Malvern Hills Trust (the working name of Malvern Hills Conservators) cares for 1200 hectares of the stunning Malvern Hills and Commons. This is a landscape of national importance - 85% of the area which we manage is within the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 58% is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The Trust was established in 1884 and is governed by 5 Acts of Parliament which set out the duties of the organisation and the powers which it has. It is a quasi-public body with a power to raise a levy from 10 wards and parishes in the Malvern area. The Board of trustees is the decision making body and some of the trustees are elected by local residents.
In 1984, the Trust became a registered charity (charity number 515804).
Because the Trust is governed by statute, changes to its administrative arrangements and its powers can only be made by another Act of Parliament or through a Scheme under section 73 Charities Act 2011. Section 73 enables the Charity Commission to settle a Scheme, which is given effect by order of the Minster for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A Scheme takes effect as a Statutory Instrument.
Why is a Scheme needed?
The Trust’s Acts are very out of date and this affects our ability to care for the Hills in an effective way in the 21st Century. Issues which need to be addressed include:
- The Acts refer to many statutory provisions which are no longer in force
- The Victorian language is difficult to interpret
- Because there are 5 Acts, it can very difficult to find the relevant provisions on a particular topic and sometimes there are contradictions between them
- Some of its administrative provisions are contained in an Act of 1847
- The Trust needs to be able to deal with practical situations which were not envisaged when the Acts were passed
- Some of the language used in the Acts has no clear meaning (for example “Natural Aspect”) (See Objects)
- Many sections of the Acts no longer serve any purpose (See Repeals)
- The Trust needs a number of additional powers to enable it to operate more effectively.
- The Trust cannot comply with the current recommendations for good governance of charities. For example, the Board of 29 is too big for effective decision making and there is no way of ensuring its members have the necessary skills, experience and knowledge
What changes will be made?
The aim is to consolidate in one document the provisions in the 5 existing Acts that are still relevant and add some extra powers. The Scheme will:
- Set out all the sections of the existing Acts that are being retained in a logical order
- Repeal the provisions that are no longer relevant as well as the duplicated provisions
- Contain an up to date set of administrative provisions to comply with the requirements for a modern charity (See Modernising the Board’s administration)
- Establish new methods of election and appointment of trustees to a smaller Board
- Contain new powers to give greater flexibility, more fundraising options and enable more effective land management
- Change the statutory name of the organisation to Malvern Hills Trust
What won’t change?
There are some fundamental elements in our Acts which will not change. These include:
- The essential objects of the charity – public rights of access and the land remaining open and unbuilt on
- Commoners’ rights
- Who pays the levy and who votes
Key proposals to be included in the Scheme
We aim to add some powers to allow the Trust to operate more effectively.
- We want to be able to diversify our income streams by having powers to:
- Set up a membership body
- Set up a trading subsidiary
- Sell items that we produce in the course of our work such as wood and compost
- Land management
- We need to have more flexibility in the ways we can manage our land by:
- Having a power to secure the grazed commons in order to make grazing viable in 21st century
- Having a power to install watering points for livestock
- Having more flexibility to put up temporary fencing if necessary
- Clarifying the rights of estovers in relation to trees planted by the Trust
- Changing the Trust’s liability to the public so that it is the same as that for owners of land open to the public under Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
- Being able to purchase, and look after livestock, including a clear power to purchase land for stock management purposes
- General power
- To include a power to do any lawful thing not otherwise prohibited by the Acts in order to further the Trusts charitable objectives. This type of power is now very common both for charities and local government.
- New arrangements for the Board
- We need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Board decision making and bring it in line with Charity Commission best practice. In order to do this we propose
- Reducing the maximum size of the Board to 12, made up of:
- 6 trustees elected from the same Wards and Parishes as currently, but based on one combined electoral area
- up to 6 trustees selected by an independent panel for their relevant skills and experience and with a view to ensuring greater diversity
- candidates drawn from a wider area
- Limiting the length of time trustees can serve on the Board without a break
- Providing a power to remove a trustee (for example in the event of gross misconduct, prolonged ill health or persistent failure to attend meetings)
- Some of the other things we would like to include are:
- An explicit discretion to enable MHT to make a charge for events held on MHT land together with a power to allow temporary refreshment facilities associated with those events
- A power to remove all types of vehicles abandoned on our land
- An up to date set of administrative provisions
How you can help?
Follow these 3 steps to give us your feedback:
- Read the consultation document.
- Once you have done that, if you have any questions join us at one of our consultation events.
- Then please take time to complete the consultation questionnaire to let us know what you think.
The consultation period starts on 2nd September and closes on 13th October (11th October for paper submissions)