Ramblers Association to curb members' voice

The Ramblers Association is planning to reduce the power of its members in dictating policy as part of plans to emphasise the charitable nature of its work.

The Association's ruling governing council, elected by 450 local groups, currently determines policy for the charity's trustees who sit on an executive committee.

But at a meeting of the council in April, the charity's chief executive and trustees will attempt to persuade the body to allow the committee to take full responsibility for running the Association.

"We are taking steps to restrain the hitherto absolute power of members to dictate policy," chief executive Nick Barrett told delegates at the NCVO's annual conference last week. "We want the trustees to be advised by the membership rather than being mandated by it."

But he emphasised that he wants the charity's 140,000 members to continue to have an influence over policy and to call trustees to account. "We need a single identifiable body in charge of the organisation. We want members to have a voice, but they are not the only stakeholders," he said.

The proposed governance changes follow a Charity Commission visit in October, when the regulator said that the trustee board must be in full charge of the charity in order to comply with charity law. But Barrett said that the commission's advice was 100 per cent in line with what the charity's management wanted.

The governance reforms are part of a broader attempt at rebranding by the Ramblers Association to focus on its charitable activities and relationship with non-members. "We have to do a better job to emphasise that we are a charity and deliver public benefits," said Barrett. "A part of our membership doesn't readily identify with the Ramblers Association as a charity."

Plans include a change in the way the association promotes membership to concentrate on the value of its work, rather than just the personal benefits of joining.

The association will also work to give a higher profile to its public-benefit roles, which include lobbying to promote the health and social inclusion values of walking.

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