Melton Mowbray Town Estate denies sexism claims

Response on charity's website refutes allegations of bullying and acting unconstitutionally

A 500-year-old Leicestershire charity has responded to allegations by two former trustees of sexism, victimisation and acting unconstitutionally.

Pat Cumbers alleged in a BBC documentary in November that she and another former trustee of the charity, Sue Gowans, had been bullied and frozen out by male trustees at the Melton Mowbray Town Estate, which runs most of the town's parks and leisure facilities.

Cumbers alleged that the charity had unconstitutionally barred her from standing for re-election to the board at the charity's annual public meeting last October. 

She also said the charity had refused to have its trustees and employees CRB-checked, despite previous incidents of paedophile activity involving people associated with the charity.

The charity declined to speak to the BBC or Third Sector about the allegations, but it has now posted a detailed response to them on its website. The response denies that the charity is a sexist organisation and that Cumbers was refused access to financial documents, and says the charity is not legally required to carry out CRB checks on its employees because they do not have responsibility for children or vulnerable adults.

It says Cumbers was not allowed to stand for re-election because new procedures, approved by the Charity Commission, required potential candidates to declare themselves 42 days before the annual town meeting, during which trustees are elected, and submit to an interview to make sure they were competent.

It also says the charity was advised by the commission not to take part in the BBC documentary. However, the commission cited the charity's silence as one of the reasons for rejecting an application to alter its constitution last month to formalise the new electoral procedures. 

A commission spokeswoman said the regulator did not advise the charity not to take part in the programme. "This matter was not discussed with the charity," she said.

Cumbers disputed many of the claims in the charity's response. She denied that the commission approved the 42-day notice period and said the first call for nominations for last year's meeting did not appear in the local press until 39 days before the meeting. The advert also said the closing date for applications was 15 days later, she claimed.

The commission spokeswoman was unable to confirm the exact advice that was given to the charity about its elections because the relevant staff were unavailable. The spokeswoman confirmed that the commission was continuing to talk to the charity to make sure its recommendations were adopted.



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