Commission rejects Melton Mowbray Town Estate proposals

Desired new governance arrangements have no clear benefit and could damage public confidence, it says

The Charity Commission has refused to rubber-stamp new governance arrangements at the Melton Mowbray Town Estate because of concerns they will damage public confidence and accountability.

The 460-year-old charity in the Leicestershire market town wanted to reduce the number of trustees – known as 'feoffees' – from 14 to 12 and to have the two most senior – known as 'town wardens' – elected by the board rather than the public at the charity's annual public meeting. It also wanted to interview potential candidates before allowing them to stand for election.

Pat Cumbers, a former senior town warden, told Third Sector she was glad the proposals had been put on hold, but said the commission had appeared willing to authorise them before a BBC documentary shown last month highlighted local concerns about alleged sexism and secrecy at the charity.

In the programme, she claimed that she and another former female trustee had been victimised during their time at the charity. She said she had been unconstitutionally barred from standing for re-election at this year's public meeting. 

The commission's decision review document, seen by Third Sector, says trustees argued that the proposed governance changes would ensure people with the right skills and experience were put forward for election.

"However, they could be (and were) interpreted as a means of ensuring that only individuals whose views were compatible with the existing trustees would be permitted to stand," it adds.

It says the reduction in the number of trustees local people could elect had "no clear benefit" to the charity and appeared to reduce the charity's public trust and accountability.

The report also says the complaints and allegations about the charity and its trustees must be resolved "to the commission's satisfaction" before new governance arrangements can be authorised.

Third Sector was unable to contact the Melton Mowbray Town Estate for comment.



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