Case study: How a local group became a charity

The Tatton Community Association proceeded slowly when it applied for charitable status.

The background

Tatton Community Centre in Chorley, Lancashire, had been run by the local council since it opened in 1976. An association of local people had been raising money to improve its facilities for the past 14 years. When Chorley Council began a programme to let the local community run facilities, the group was keen to take charge of the centre. Registering as a charity was an integral part of the scheme.

The process

Tom Watson, who has chaired the community association for most of its history, says it did not rush into making an application for charitable status. Members first spent two years attending training courses run by the council's community development team - particularly those on finance.

The association submitted its application to the Charity Commission last September, and it was granted in April. Watson says: "Because we were negotiating with the council over the community management side of things at the same time, there was a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation."

A two-month wait for Criminal Records Bureau clearance for the seven trustees and 10 volunteers also slowed the process down.

The results

Watson now chairs the community association's hour-long meetings every other week and its full meetings every six weeks. The charity has a 25-year lease on the building and raised nearly £20,000 to refurbish it. "But we need to be careful how we do things," he cautions. "The treasury team won't let us spend money we don't have."

The association recently supported Chorley Council's successful bid for Beacon status. "We did it in return for what they did for us," Watson says. "If people help you, you should help them when they need you."

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