- This story was clarified on 26 June: see final paragraph
The member of the Royal Albert Hall who applied to the Charity Commission to have the charity removed from the register has told Third Sector he did so to attempt to clarify the situation pertaining to the reselling of members’ seats.
The charity has accused the member of "trying to make life difficult for us" and called his application "baffling".
When the hall was opened in 1871, it was funded by members who paid for 999-year leases of about 1,200 seats. These are now held by about 300 people and businesses, a small number of whom have sold their seats for substantially more than face value – a practice that the regulator warned in 2012 could constitute unacceptable private benefit.
On Wednesday, Third Sector reported that a member called Richard Cavendish Lyttelton had applied to the commission to have the charity removed from the register of charities. After this was rejected, Lyttelton appealed the decision at the charity tribunal, and the case has recently been stayed until 2 July.
Lyttelton’s solicitor has since contacted Third Sector to confirm that he brought the appeal in an attempt to bring to a resolution the issue of ticket reselling by members, not because he hoped it would be stripped of its charitable status.
She said that Lyttelton had been given a separate legal opinion that those members who serve on the charity’s trustee board might not be "complying with their duty to make decisions solely in the interests of the charity".
"People have questioned my client’s motives, which is unfortunate because actually his motives are altruistic," she said. Lyttelton would withdraw his application, she said, if the issue of members reselling their tickets was resolved. She said the hall had not met deadlines imposed by the Charity Commission to introduce reforms to deal with the matter.
A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator could not comment on the question of that deadline and said it would make no other comment beyond its statement issued to Third Sector on Wednesday, which said: "We consider that the corporation is, and has always been, established for charitable purposes for the public benefit. Consequently, it remains registered with the commission. However, we remain in active dialogue with the charity about its governance arrangements."
A spokesman for the Albert Hall described Lyttelton’s application to the commission last year as "baffling" and said the charity was pleased the commission had confirmed its charitable status.
He said of the tribunal case: "Mr Lyttelton is trying to make life difficult for us as a national charity. We don’t claim to understand his motives and we don’t propose to provide a running commentary while his appeal is pending. When there is an outcome, we will comment further."
- Clarification: Lyttelton’s contention following specialist legal advice is that the trustees and members of the hall have over time made amendments to its constitution which they do not have the legal authority to make. Putting this right would not affect the right of members to sell their tickets, but would affect the numbers of tickets they could sell. His main concern is that the hall should operate lawfully.