Bath & North East Somerset Council
Cllr Charles Gerrish, Cabinet Member for Customer Services
On or after 15th September 2007
Forest of Avon Trust
EXECUTIVE FORWARD PLAN REFERENCE:
AN OPEN PUBLIC ITEM
List of attachments to this report:
Appendix 1 Funding summary
Appendix 2 Memorandum and Articles of Association
1 THE ISSUE
1.1 At its meeting on 5 December 2006 the Forest of Avon Partnership agreed that the Forest Director should progress the Forest of Avon Trust, with a minimum Board of six, including one local authority representative with a view to creation late in 2007. The Partnership is now seeking the Council's endorsement of the Forest of Avon Trust in its final form.
1.2 Whilst approval in principle to creation a similar Trust, was given by the four unitary authorities in 1999, the model now being promoted is significantly smaller with only one place on the board for a local authority member as opposed to the original four.
The Cabinet member is asked:
2.1 To endorse the final form of the Forest of Avon Trust as defined in the attached Memorandum and Articles of Association.
3 FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
3.1 Core funding for the Forest of Avon is split equally between the four unitary authorities of the former Avon area and the current annual contribution for Bath & NE Somerset is £28998. In February 2005 the Council signed a new 5 year agreement to continue funding to March 2010.
3.2 In order to establish the Trust, the Forest Partnership has agreed to the Forest Director spending an average 0.5 day per week on this process for a year, supported by South Gloucestershire Council's Solicitor. There is a modest Forest of Avon Trust account managed by the Forest Director, which is being used to fund legal fees and other costs associated with Trust creation. The Forest Partnership is not seeking any additional funding from the Council.
3.3 Once set up the Trust will work alongside the Forest Partnership and focus on the operation of a Membership/ Supporter's Scheme, provide for a mechanism through which donations and bequests can be received and an entity through which applications for charitable funding will be made.
4 THE REPORT
4.1 Over the past 2.5 years the Forest Partnership has had its overall core funding significantly reduced due to the Countryside Agency support ceasing in March 2005 and the subsequent two year transitional funding from the Forestry Commission ending in March 2007.
4.2 The table in Appendix 1 illustrates that the Forest of Avon team has been highly responsive to changing financial circumstances and has put in place the processes to ensure the Forest of Avon's long-term future, whilst delivering key benefits for people across the West of England Unitary Authorities. Costs have and will continue to be tightly managed and the team has been restructured to focus skills and reduce core costs.
4.3 Whilst significant external funding has been attracted, the Forest of Avon Trust is required to allow charitable sector funding to be accessed, to allow the operation of a membership scheme and to facilitate donations which can be off-set against Gift Aid, Capital Gains and Inheritance Tax. This is supported by the practical experience of the Goblin Combe Environment Centre Trust, which has attracted considerable additional charitable funding.
4.4 The Forest of Avon Joint Committee (JAC), the forerunner of the Forest Partnership, discussed the principle of a Trust to work alongside and support its work in 1999. At its meeting on 17 June 1999 the Planning Highways and Transportation Committee resolved to "endorse the establishment of a Forest of Avon Charitable Company limited by guarantee as set out in the `Memorandum and Articles of Association - Forest of Avon Trust' and supports an application to the Charity Commission for charitable status of the said company".
4.5 The Trust was also approved by the other West of England Unitary Authorities, the Countryside Agency and Forestry Commission. Development work followed, but ultimately, the Forest of Avon Trust was not progressed at that stage.
4.6 At that time, the proposed Trust was based on a model which included one representative from each of the 4 Unitary Authority Partners.
4.7 At its meeting on the 26 April 2006, the Forest of Avon Partnership requested that the Forest Director research the business case for a Forest of Avon Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee, to work alongside the Partnership. This was supported by Pro Bono (free) advice from Burgess Salmon.
4.8 On the 22 September 2006, the Forest of Avon Partnership resolved to support the establishment of the Forest of Avon Trust with a minimum Board of Trustees of six, one of whom would be the current Forest of Avon Partnership Chair, where they were a local authority member. (If they were not, a local authority representative nominated by the Partnership would attend in their place). This ratio would mean the Charitable Company would not be `controlled' or `influenced'.
4.9 At its meeting on the 5 December, the Forest of Avon Partnership agreed that the Forest Director should progress the Forest of Avon Trust with a view to creation late in 2007.
4.10 It was also agreed that the Solicitor for South Gloucestershire Council, as lead authority, would assist the Forest Director in creating the Forest of Avon Trust. With his help, the Forest Director made an application to Company's House to incorporate the Forest of Avon Trust as a Private Company Limited by Guarantee. This was successful on the 18 May 2007. The Memorandum and Articles of Association of the proposed Trust are contained in Appendix 2.
4.11 The next step is to establish a shadow board to support an application for Trust status from the Charity Commissioners. In this respect the Forest Partnership supported the Forest Director in making informal contacts with individuals to establish their possible interest of individuals in becoming Forest of Avon Trustees/ Directors.
5 RISK MANAGEMENT
5.1 The report author and Cabinet member have fully reviewed the risk assessment related to the issue and recommendations, in compliance with the Council's decision making risk management guidance.
6.1 The Forest of Avon Partnership has supported the Forest of Avon Trust being established with a minimum board of six, one of whom is the Partnership Chair, where a local authority representative. (If not, a local authority representative nominated by the Partnership would sit on the Trust Board). This arrangement is considered to be effective and does still allow other local authority Partnership members to sit on the Trust Board as observers.
7 OTHER OPTIONS CONSIDERED
7.1 The model for the Trust discussed in 1999 allowed for 4 board members from the Local authority sector, one from each of the unitary authorities. However there is a significant administrative advantage in the Forest of Avon Trust not being established as a Controlled or Influenced Company. This means that the Board may include no more than 19.9% current or previous local authority members/ staff. This approach is more likely to be approved by the Charity Commissioners.
7.2 The 1999 model would require a minimum board size of 21 resulting in a potentially ineffective and cumbersome organisation to support.
8.1 Stakeholders/Partners; Other Public Sector Bodies; Monitoring Officer
8.2 The Forest Of Avon Partnership coordinates delivery of the approved Forest Plan, comprises appointed members from the 4 unitary authorities, Forestry Commission and other key stakeholders. The Partnership has been fully involved in the process of setting up the Forest Trust.
9 ISSUES TO CONSIDER IN REACHING THE DECISION
9.1 Sustainability; Other Legal Considerations
10 ADVICE SOUGHT
10.1 The Council's Monitoring Officer (Council Solicitor) has had the opportunity to input to this report and has cleared it for publication.
Sue Murtagh Countryside Partnerships Coordinator 01225 477618
Report and minutes of the Planning, Transportation and Highways Committee 17 June 1999
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