National Trust to reform following critical review

John Plummer

The National Trust is set for radical change after agreeing to accept the findings of an independent review into the way it is run.

The trust, Europe's largest conservation organisation, is accused of lacking transparency and being run by an impenetrable inner circle elected by a voting system that arouses deep suspicion.

"To many people, what goes on in meetings such as those of the council and the governing body is a mystery," states Lord Blakenham, chairman of the review group, in his report.

Following a full council meeting last week and further discussions on Monday involving members of the trust's central committees and regional chairmen, it was decided to proceed with the recommendations. They will now be submitted to the AGM in November.

Charles Nunneley, who this week retires as chairman of the trust, said: "We are convinced that the report gives what we need for a robust, responsive structure."

Criticism centred on the 52-strong ruling council and the proxy voting system that allows members to assign votes at the AGM to the chairman.

The review acknowledged that proxy voting aroused "deep suspicion". It also concluded the council was too large and cumbersome and this, along with an excessive number of central committees, resulted in duplication.

The review recommended establishing a 12-strong governing body, appointed by the council, to act as trustees. The council's main role should become that of appointing and monitoring the new body.

It also recommended proxy voting be abolished for council elections but retained for resolutions, a move that will be welcomed by many members who have highlighted undemocratic elections in the past.

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