Dartford trustees 'may be council puppets'

Charity Commission or local residents should appoint new members of the governing committee, say appellants in charity tribunal case

The extra trustees the charity tribunal has told Dartford Borough Council to appoint to the governing committee of a piece of charitable parkland might be "council puppets" unless they are chosen by the Charity Commission or local residents, according to the appellants in the case.

Derek Maidment and Lennox Ryan appealed to the tribunal last year after a section of the Kidd Legacy land was sold by the council, its sole trustee, to a property developer. The tribunal did not have the power to overturn the sale, but it ruled that the council must recruit a quorum of independent trustees so that decisions could be made in the absence of councillors with conflicts of interest.

Maidment told Third Sector he was concerned that if the candidates were selected by the council, it might choose "puppets" who would allow it to go back on its commitment not to use any more of the charitable land for the development.

The Charity Commission's latest submission to the tribunal, seen by Third Sector, says it "cannot see any proportionate or viable alternative" to having the independent trustees selected by the council.

But it expresses concerns about the robustness of the council's proposed arrangements for dealing with conflicts of interest on the charity's governing committee. It says the council should be required to draw up a formal policy that takes into account the tribunal's concerns and the commission's advice on managing conflicts of interest.

A panel led by Alison McKenna, principal judge of the charity tribunal, is expected to respond to the submissions soon. Dartford Borough Council was unavailable for comment.

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