Meeting Details

General Purposes Committee
15 Mar 2018 - 19:00 to 21:00

Documents

Agenda

Standard Items
1. Apologies for Absence
There were none.
2. Urgent Matters
There were none.
3. Declarations of Interest
There were none.
4. Matters to be Considered in Private
There were none.
5. Minutes

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 31st October 2017 be agreed as a true and correct record, and signed by the Chair.

That the minutes of the meeting held on 31 October 2017 be agreed as a true and correct record, and signed by the Chair.
6. pdf Victoria Hall Trust (197Kb)

The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed members of the public in attendance. 

 

Councillor Bell (Leader of the Council, Policy Overview, Regeneration and Planning) introduced a report which provided an update in relation to the Victoria Hall Trust, in particular the outcome of a recent consultation regarding the proposed change of ‘objects’ of the Trust and the disposal of the Trust property to Mastcraft Limited by way of a long lease, as part of the redevelopment of Ealing Town Hall. 

 

Councillor Bell reported that the proposal would retain the community use of Victoria Hall, in-line with the original objectives of the Trust.  He explained that the Hall would continue to be used as a community facility, in the same manner as it currently operated, and would remain for hire at a discounted community use rate.  The terms of use would be written into the lease agreed with Mastcraft. It was envisaged the hire costs would be uplifted by 10% to reflect the costs of refurbishment and redevelopment of the new facility.

 

The Interim Director of Regeneration and Planning provided the Committee with a draft image of the proposed redevelopment of Ealing Town Hall.  He reported that the Town Hall facilities would be improved and Victoria Hall would continue to be used as a community facility.  He explained that discussions were on-going with Mastcraft regarding the terms of the lease, however it was anticipated that a 60% discounted rate for at least a 10 year period would be agreed.  Members were advised that the Council was committed to protecting the use of the space by the community for the length of the 250 year lease, and the Committee, as trustees, could request that officers ensured this matter was discussed with Mastcraft, as part of the negotiations. 

 

Members were advised that following the appointment of Mastcraft, the Council had undertaken a due diligence process and uncovered the existence of the Victoria Hall Trust.  The Council had obtained legal advice from Counsel, which had stated the ‘objects’ of the Trust did not meet with up to date charitable guidelines and should be amended.  In response the Council had undertaken a consultation regarding the changes to the objects, running from 3 November 2017 – 9 February 2018.  In addition, the Council had undertaken a separate consultation on the disposal of the Town Hall, which had run from 2 February to 2 March 2018.  Details of the representations received and the responses of officers were set out in the report.

 

The Interim Director of Regeneration and Planning reported that the Charity Commission had recently informed the Council that the Victoria Hall Trust could not be classified as a charity.  In light of this recent information, a list of revised recommendations had been circulated to the Committee.

 

The Committee was advised that minutes and accounts for the Victoria Hall Trust had not been prepared for a significant time, however this would be addressed in future, and clear, publicly available minutes and accounts of the Trust would be maintained.  The Interim Director of Regeneration and Planning advised that a further report would be presented to the Committee to address these historic failings and to obtain trustees authority for the future financial management of the Trust.

 

The Director of Legal and Democratic Services explained that she was in attendance to provide legal guidance to the Committee members as trustees, and the Head of Legal (Property and Regulatory) was in attendance to act on behalf of the Council.  The clear separation of roles addressed any concerns in relation to conflicts of interest regarding the Committee’s trustee role and the Council’s as land owner.

 

The Chair advised members that a request to address the Committee had been received from a representative of Ealing Voice.  The Chair explained that speaking at the Committee meeting was at his discretion and on this occasion he had agreed to allow a public speaker to address the Committee.

 

The Chair invited Mr Will French, a representative from Ealing Voice to address the Committee.  Mr French raised concerns in relation to the lack of information provided as part of the consultation process, the Council’s mismanagement of the Trust, councillors’ lack of capacity to fulfil the role of trustees and carry out fiduciary duties, and the loss of a community space. He stated there was a conflict of interest due to the Council’s dual role as local authority and trustee of the charity.  He stated that the Victoria Hall generated income and should be able to fund the operation of the Trust in future. In addition, he stated that financial support in the form of charitable grants could be accessed to assist the running of the facility.  He felt the Trust would not be adequately compensated under the proposed arrangements to dispose to Mastcraft.  In concluding his presentation, he stated that the Trust had been mismanaged, the Council had no right to dispose of Victoria Hall, the Committee, as trustees were not sufficiently independent to make the decision, and local residents should be allowed to join the Trust Board.

 

QUESTIONS

 

Councillor Conti highlighted that Ealing Council had been formed by the merger of Acton, Ealing and Southall Councils.  He noted that councillors of Ealing Council represented different geographical areas to those of the original trustees of Ealing Local Board.  He queried if this had any implications in relation to the eligibility of councillors to act as trustees.  In response, the Director of Legal and Democratic Services explained that the creation of Ealing Council subsumed the previous powers, duties and responsibilities of the former councils and therefore this had no bearing on current arrangements.

 

Councillor Conti further queried if Victoria Hall would be maintained as a community asset for the entire 250 year lease period, and if the hire fee for community groups would be linked to inflation.  In response, the Interim Director of Regeneration and Housing reported that the terms of the lease were currently being negotiated and as part of the discussions with Mastcraft, the use of Victoria Hall for the duration of the 250 year lease would be reinforced

 

Councillor Bell reported that it had been made clear to the developer as part of the tender process that as minimum, current arrangements for community access to the Hall would be maintained.

 

Councillor Kaur-Dheer highlighted the cost of maintaining Victoria Hall and queried the ability of voluntary groups to meet the on-going running costs of maintaining the facility.

 

Councillor Ahmed asked about the structure of trustees and if at any time, anyone other than councillors had been trustees.  The Director of Legal and Democratic Services confirmed that the Trust had only ever consisted of councillors.

 

Councillor Shaw asked if there were any financial records to evidence that the Trust had in the past been financially viable.  In reply, the Director of Legal and Democratic Services reported that records available indicated that Victoria Hall had historically not been financially viable.  In addition, she read from a historic document that reported that Victoria Hall had continually been subsidised by the Council.

 

The Chair thanked officers for the report and a comprehensive presentation.

 

RESOLVED: That the General Purposes Committee:

 

 

NOTED THE CURRENT POSITION WITH REGARD TO THE VICTORIA HALL TRUST

 

AGREED THAT SUBJECT TO A DECISION OF THE CHARITY COMMISSION THAT THE TRUST WAS CHARITABLE:

1. considered the outcome of the recent consultations with regard to proposed new objects (the Scheme) for the Trust and the proposed disposal of trust property to Mastcraft by way of a long lease as part of the wider redevelopment of Ealing Town Hall as summarised in Appendix 1, of the report;

2. agreed that the Council (as trustee) should apply to the Charity Commission to approve the Scheme and to the disposal by way of a long lease to Mastcraft;

3. delegated authority to the Executive Director of Regeneration and Housing following consultation with the Chair of General Purposes Committee and the Director of Legal and Democratic Services to finalise the legal agreements with Mastcraft consistent with the Council’s role as trustee insofar as was necessary to protect the interests of the Trust.

 

AGREED THAT SUBJECT TO THE CHARITY COMMISSION’S DECISION THAT THE TRUST WAS NOT CHARITABLE:

     

1. noted the Charity Commission’s findings;

 

2. considered the outcome of the recent consultations with regard to outcome of the consultations with regard to the proposed disposal of trust property to Mastcraft by way of a long lease as part of the wider redevelopment of Ealing Town Hall as summarised in Appendix 1 of the report;

 

3. agreed that the Council (as trustee) dispose of the Trust property by way of a long lease to Mastcraft;

 

4. delegates authority to the Executive Director of Regeneration and Housing following consultation with the Chair of General Purposes Committee and the Director of Legal and Democratic Services to finalise the legal agreements with Mastcraft consistent with the Council’s role as trustee insofar as was necessary to protect the interests of the Trust;

 

5. noted that a further report would be brought back to General Purposes Committee with regard to the future financial arrangements with regard to the Trust and, in particular, the purposes to which Trust income should be applied.
7. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on 25th April 2018.

The Committee expressed its thanks to Councillor Padda for his work as Chair of the Committee.

  

 

COUNCILLOR PADDA  (Chair)

 

 

The meeting finished at 8:20 pm

Declarations of Interests

Visitors

Also in attendance at the above meeting were:

COUNCILLORS: Councillor Bell (Council Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration).

OFFICERS PRESENT: Jackie Adams (Head of Legal - Property and Regulatory), Helen Harris (Director of Legal and Democratic Services), Janine Jenkinson (Democratic Services Officer), David Moore (Interim Director of Regeneration and Planning) and Mwim Chellah (Democratic Services Officer).

MEMBERS OF PUBLIC EXPRESSED A DESIRE TO ADDRESS THE MEETING WERE:

Will French (Ealing Voice), and Julian Smith (Ealing Voice).