COMMUNITY INTEREST ORGANISATIONS RULES – “INVOLVEMENT WITH POLITICAL PARTIES MUST BE BALANCED” SAY CHARITY COMMISSION
Two CIOs (community interest organisations) have applied to take over the running of the Carnegie library, Herne Hill which is owned by Lambeth council but currently closed.
One is the Carnegie Library Association whose members include the Friends of Carnegie Library and other library users.
The second is the Carnegie Community Trust. The forerunner of this group – original name uncertain – was formed in secret in 2012 and whose public existence was only revealed in December 2014 – by accident.
Its members have included at least two Lambeth Labour councillors.
The five trustees – apparently self-elected – include two former Lambeth Labour councillors (Carol Boucher and Fred Taggart) and the life partner of a former Lambeth council Labour leader (Helen
The Trust’s constitution states that only trustees can elect new trustees. There appears to be no system which allows anyone to challenge this. There are references to non-voting members but nothing else.
News From Crystal Palace approached the Charity Commission asking what their rules relating to Community Interest Organisations are.
A Charity Commission spokesperson told News From Crystal Palace:
“Trustees must run their charity in line with their governing document —this includes the method of selecting trustees and holding trustees’ meetings and members’ meetings (if applicable). For effective governance, the Commission recommends that a minimum of two trustees’ meetings are held in any 12 month period.
CIOs can be set up either with trustees and a wider voting membership, or with the trustees being the only voting members. In CIOs with a wider voting membership, the voting members must take certain decisions, including appointing some or all of the trustees, at the AGM (or other general meetings).
In CIOs with no wider voting membership, the trustees are the only voting members. The trustees appoint new trustees at a properly convened trustees’ meeting (unless the constitution provides any other methods of appointing trustees).
All CIO constitutions must include provisions about the holding and calling of general meetings. There are certain decisions that legally must be taken by the members rather than the trustees. But in the case of a CIO whose only voting members are its trustees, only the trustees [as members] will be allowed to vote at the AGM meeting.
There is no requirement for CIOs (or charities generally) to allow non-members to attend their AGMs and in practice it is not usually the case. That would be a decision for the charity, taking account of the circumstances.
BOLD Trustee boards may include serving politicians or representatives of political parties. However, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced.
BOLD A charity must not support or fund a political party, nor a candidate or politician. Trustees must not allow the charity to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the personal or political views of any individual trustee or staff member.
In addition, trustees must avoid putting themselves in a position where their duty to the charity conflicts with their personal interests or loyalty to any other person or body. And a charity trustee of a CIO must not take part in any decision from which they would directly or indirectly benefit personally, unless they cannot reasonably be regarded as having a conflict of interest.
CIOs are corporations created under powers in the Charities Act. A CIO only comes into existence when it is registered by the Charity Commission and will only be registered once the constitution has been checked and approved. Amendments to a CIO constitution must be registered with the Commission to take effect, and key amendments, like the charity’s charitable objectives, require our prior consent.
Any concerns on the governing of a charity which interferes with their charitable objectives should be raised with the Commission.”