President of Albert Hall complains about regulator's handling of dispute

Jon Moynihan has written to the Charity Commission saying the venue has sought to avoid negotiation by media, but is disappointed the latter has shared information with the Telegraph

Jon Moynihan
Jon Moynihan

The president of the Royal Albert Hall, Jon Moynihan, has complained to the Charity Commission about its handling of recent developments in the long-running dispute between the hall and the regulator.

On 9 September The Daily Telegraph newspaper published a story saying that the commission had asked the Attorney-General for leave to refer the case to the charity tribunal in order to clarify relevant points of law.

The story contained a statement from the commission that was withheld from other media until later. 

In a letter to members of the hall – people who own a quarter of its seats – Moynihan says the hall has sought to avoid negotiation through the media: "However, the Charity Commission has now issued what it has described as ‘a press release’, which it shared with The Daily Telegraph (but not with the Royal Albert Hall, and it cannot be found on their website).

"This is most disappointing and we have complained to the commission, and contacted the Attorney-General’s office directly, regarding it.

"The commission's public communication to the Telegraph means we now feel it necessary to comment to you on that 'press release' despite our preference (and, we had understood, the Charity Commission's professed preference) that we keep our interaction with our regulator private."

The letter also calls the regulator "credulous" and says it has been "infected" by statements from Richard Lyttelton, a former president of the hall who is pushing for reform.

The commission has for years been pressing the hall to alter its constitution so that the members, who can and do sell their tickets for inflated prices on the internet, no longer form a majority on the charity’s governing council.

It has told the hall it sees a potential conflict of interest and a real risk that members of the council will prefer their own interests to those of the charity. The hall has resisted this and the commission now wants the charity tribunal to clarify its powers to enforce a change in the constitution, which is laid out in acts of parliament.

Moynihan’s letter also says members "can be assured that the commission has not – as the papers had claimed – ‘reported’ us to the Attorney-General: rather, the commission is, we believe, asking the Attorney-General for permission to put questions of law to the charity tribunal which pertain to us.

"We do not know what these questions are as the commission has not as yet informed us of them (despite promising that it would as soon as it was able to do so)."

The letter, seen by Third Sector, also points out that the hall complained earlier this year about stories in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph and received "a handsome apology… We are considering further complaints following these more recent articles."

At the hall’s annual meeting earlier this year, Moynihan referred to an interview in The Sunday Telegraph with the commission chair, William Shawcross, which said the hall had been given until May to put its house in order or face a formal inquiry by the regulator.

The minutes of the meeting say "it was still not clear what had, or had not, been said by Mr Shawcross, as the commission had declined to confirm or deny the comments".

It is understood the regulator is expecting the complaint letter but has not yet received it. 

A spokesman for the commission said: "The charity is well aware of the commission’s concerns arising from the lack of independence of the council, and was informed about our decision to seek the consent of the Attorney-General to make a reference to the tribunal in early August.

"We remain in correspondence with the charity and will provide the charity with further information regarding the reference in due course."

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