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Governors of a college for disabled young people resign over dispute with charity trustees

Six governors of Hinwick Hall College have stepped down after they found out that disability charity Livability was planning to disband the existing governing body

Hinwick Hall College [© Copyright Nigel Stickells]
Hinwick Hall College [© Copyright Nigel Stickells]

More than half of the governors of a college run by Livability have resigned in a dispute with the disability charity’s main trustee board.

Hinwick Hall College, on the border of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, provides education and care for 16 to 25-year-olds with physical and learning difficulties. Six of the the 11 governors have resigned after their chair received a letter that said Livability was planning to disband the board of governors.

The charity told Third Sector it wanted to take a more hands-on role in the management and governance of the college.

In its letter to Jimmy James, chair of the governors, it said it would appoint its education oversight committee, originally set up to liaise between the college governors and the charity’s trustees, to temporarily take over the college’s governance. It would then form a new governing body with a new chair, and some of the current governors might be among those asked to join it.

James, one of the six who resigned, said that when he received the letter he arranged a meeting to show it to the other governors. At that meeting, held at the end of August, he said, he and five others agreed to resign.

James admitted there had been some "incidents" involving the care of students at the college. He said the board of governors had acted properly in reporting these incidents to the charity’s education oversight committee. He declined to provide detail but said the incidents were "not life-threatening, but quite serious".

"This is not something new," he said. "There have always been incidents; it is inevitable with students with such complex difficulties."

He said he was surprised that the charity wanted to disband the board of governors, because it had been successful in improving the college’s Ofsted rating from ‘unsatisfactory’ in 2006 to ‘satisfactory’ in 2008.

He said relations between the trustees and the board of governors had been difficult for some time because some governors thought the trustees did not appreciate their efforts or thank them for their work.

Asked about James’s claim that relations were difficult, the charity issued a statement that said: "We simply do not accept that the allegations made reflect in any way the culture of our organisation. The board of trustees has always supported the Hinwick Hall College board of governors and will continue to do so."

Asked about the governors’ resignations, the charity said: "The environment in which the college operates has become increasingly challenging and, in order to meet our responsibilities, we feel it is important that we take a more active role in the management and governance of Hinwick Hall.

"Six of the governors have recently left the board of governors and we wish them the best in their new ventures and charitable pursuits."

The statement said the remaining governors would work with the education oversight committee to govern the college.

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