- This article was corrected on 13 February: see final paragraph.
A trustee has resigned from the Camphill Village Trust, a charity that manages communities for disabled people including Botton Village in north Yorkshire, claiming that he is being excluded from the decision-making process.
Ian Bailey has been a "co-worker", or live-in volunteer, at the trust's Grange Village community in Gloucestershire for 14 years, and a trustee of CVT for four years.
A statement from Action for Botton, a pressure group opposing changes at the charity, said: "It is very clear from Mr Bailey’s resignation letter that changes planned by the CVT trustees and being implemented by the charity’s senior management have rendered his position untenable."
Until recently co-workers in Botton Village were treated as unsalaried volunteers but the charity has begun to treat them as employees, which has resulted in some cases in changes to their living arrangements.
The statement said Bailey's resignation letter cited deep concerns about the way the board was operating. These included his disagreement with the board's interpretation of the articles and memorandum of the trust and the almost total lack of information provided to him, including minutes of board meetings. The statement says: "He states that the charity seemed not to have 'felt any obligation to treat me with the respect normally due to a trustee.'"
The statement from Action for Botton, which was formed by Botton Village residents, co-workers and members of the local community, alleged that the charity's management had engaged in underhand tactics such as "gerrymandering the voting membership to force change through without regard to the clear and unequivocal wishes of the community members".
The Charity Commission has conducted an operational compliance case on the CVT, which found that benefits for co-workers included payments for schools fees, holidays and mobile phones.
The case was closed in February last year, when the commission told the trustees to introduce a clear policy on co-worker remuneration and ensure that at least half the board of trustees – who determine co-worker benefits – were not co-workers.
It is understood that some co-workers received benefits worth £60,000 a year. Action for Botton says it has figures derived from the CVT accounts showing that the average co-worker costs about £15,000.
It is also understood that HM Revenue & Customs told the charity last year that it was at risk of incurring penalties if it did not convert the status of co-workers from volunteers to employees by April 2015. Action for Botton says HMRC has told the co-workers' accountant that it is still reviewing the position.
Huw John, chief executive of CVT, said in a statement: "Ian was both a trustee of the charity and a co-worker at one of the charity’s communities. This inevitably meant that there was a direct conflict of interest for him in relation to many decisions necessary to meet the explicit requirements of the Charity Commission and HMRC.
"Ian is aware that these conflicts of interest meant that he could not receive some board papers or be involved in some discussions. It is saddening to see such appropriate governance being portrayed as having a more insidious purpose.
"Whilst many such unfounded allegations are being made by campaigners against CVT, there has been no action by a statutory authority against the charity as a result."
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission confirmed that the regulator had received complaints about the charity since its published its compliance report but said it had written to the complainants pointing out that it was for the trustees and not the commission to take decisions about co-workers and it would not be investigating the complaints.
"The commission cannot instruct the charity to suspend the change from co-workers to employees as it is precluded from interfering in the administration of a charity," said the letter. "The charity has advised us that they believe they can still maintain a sense of community for the beneficiaries despite the shift to co-workers being employees."
- This article has been corrected to make it clear that Ian Bailey lived at Grange Village, not Botton, that he is not a member of Action for Botton, and that his reasons he gave for resigning were concerns about governance rather than changes to co-worker benefits. Other points have been clarified.