National Trust members narrowly reject motions from protest group at annual general meeting

Two out of three resolutions put forward by the Restore Trust were voted down, while the third was supported by the charity

National Trust members have rejected two resolutions put forward by the protest group Restore Trust at the charity’s annual general meeting this weekend, amid a record turnout for AGM and council election voting.

But three of the protest group’s preferred candidates were elected to serve a three-year term on the charity’s council - although one has since disavowed any connection with Restore Trust.

The National Trust has faced criticism from the national press, MPs and the former chair of the Charity Commission Baroness Stowell, over accusations that it was pursuing a so-called “woke agenda” after it published a report in 2020 detailing the links between 93 of its properties and colonialism. 

Restore Trust, which describes itself as a grassroots movement of 6,100 current and former members, was founded in response to the report and claims it wants to force the charity to “regain the nation’s trust”. 

But the charity’s chief executive, Hilary McGrady, revealed in her speech at the AGM on Saturday that the charity was gaining a new member every 23 seconds.

And a record 13,000 people - 2 per cent of the charity’s 5.6m membership - turned out to vote on AGM resolutions and on elections to the charity’s council, which appoints and advises the charity’s trustees.

Restore Trust put forward three resolutions and six preferred candidates at the AGM as part of its aims to challenge the direction and leadership of the National Trust.

A Restore Trust resolution criticising the charity over curators being made redundant and claiming they were being “undermined” in their role was narrowly defeated, while another resolution, which criticised the charity’s treatment of volunteers, was rejected by a similarly small margin. 

A third resolution, which called for greater transparency around senior staff pay, at the charity was passed after the charity recommended members should vote in favour, saying it was confident that it already complied with the resolution.

Three of the group’s six preferred candidates were elected to the charity’s council - although one of these candidates, Guy Trehane, who was re-elected after previously serving a three-year term on the council, has since released a statement denying any involvement with the Restore Trust or that he represents its interests. 

In a statement on its website, Restore Trust described Saturday’s AGM as “an excellent starting point” for its campaign. 

It said: “We would like to thank the thousands of National Trust members who have shown their support for our campaign so far and agree with us that the senior leadership of the trust is no longer up to the task of protecting, preserving and  promoting Britain’s magnificent heritage.”

The statement went on to say: “We will use every tool at our disposal to hold the trustees and  the senior management to account and prevent them from politicising, closing or dumbing down their glorious properties, and from bullying or  denigrating their excellent staff and volunteers.”

As well as Restore Trust’s preferred candidates, council members Sarah Green  and Caroline Kay were re-elected to the 36-strong body, while Sandy Narne was also elected. 

In a statement on the National Trust’s website, a spokesperson for the charity thanked members for voting, saying: “We would like to thank all our members who voted on the resolutions and for new council members.

“The board of trustees will reflect on the outcomes and we will be back in touch with members through our usual communications materials, including member emails and the magazine, in the coming weeks.”

The charity is expected to appoint and announce a new chair by the end of the year.

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