|Independent Co-optee To Join Victoria Hall Committee|
'Spartacus-style' response to non-voting role expected
The hunt for an independent co-optee to join the committee making decisions over Ealing’s Victoria Hall could start this autumn.
At a crunch meeting of Ealing Council’s General Purposes Committee it was agreed to look for a non-voting member to join the committee, as part of the Charity Commission’s recommendations to allow the authority’s town hall sell-off to Mastcraft to go ahead.
A deal between Ealing Council and hotel developer Mastcraft to sell off Ealing Town Hall has been in the pipeline since 2016, but has been blocked since the discovery the deal would involve selling off assets -some of which did not belong to the council.
Victoria Hall – located next to the town hall – belongs to Victoria Hall Trust charity, which means the Charity Commission must approve the deal. In a damning report in April, the Charity Commission agreed to the plan in principle but called for “stronger protections” for the charity in the proposed deal.
Currently trustees of Victoria Hall are all members of the council’s General Purposes Committee. While they are legally advised to act as trustees and not as councillors on matters relating to the charity, the Charity Commission wrote in a damning report in April that the set up was “inherently conflicted”.
It advised: “There needs to be an arrangement whereby there are independent co-optees to form a quorum.”
Questions however were raised at the Thursday, July 30, meeting as to whether there is any point in having a non-voting member.
Trustee Hitesh Tailor said: “I’m really trying to understand the purpose and the point of it…Not sure the value of cooptee would be with no voting rights? It seems like a bit of a halfway house.”
Head of legal services, Helen Harris, said there were legal challenges to having a voting member sitting on a council committee, who was not a councillor.
She added: “The recommendation was made because the committee asked for it at the time…If that is what the committee would like to see then my suggestion is we would advertise the opportunity around Ealing, it would be set up in October and we would shortlist an interview around that.”
Chair of the group, Kamaljit Kaur Nagpal, asked for officers to draw up a role profile and advertise it, and hoped it would be a “nice, open, transparent process”.
Voting on the move, all councillors agreed to the clause however trustee Jon Ball added: “I’d like them to be voting but non-voting is better than nothing.”
Reacting to the meeting Friends of Victoria Hall campaign group chair Roger Green said he could be among those to apply for the role, and expects a “Spartacus-style” reaction to the advert.
He added: “It will be interesting to see the wording of it being done but we won’t get any power to influence it. It’s kind of a waste of your time – no vote no power…
“It is kind of insulting the intelligence of the wider community and it is a shame that some of our representatives think it is OK to do that.”
But “the game isn’t over yet”, as the group will meet next week to object to the trustees’ response to the Charity Commission.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
August 3, 2020