YOUR LETTERS: Charity must pass test of public benefit

No Caption ABCDE
No Caption ABCDE
Have your say

I refer to a letter from Coun Worth regarding Spalding United.

He assures the people of Spalding that the football club has no tenure of the field, and being so prompt to inform us of the fact. I can confirm that after contacting the FA that the football club has had their tenure extended for next season, which says to me that their tenure had not run out? Also Coun Worth was not so prompt in informing the people of Spalding about the sudden change.

Could Coun Worth assures us that the conflict of interest that exists between the trust and the beneficiaries over public benefit will be settled in the same quick and prompt manner?

I have included two statements from the Charity Commission to remind Coun Worth and the people of Spalding what was said previously in communications.

Do not forget also that Coun Worth is a trustee and is supposed to be looking after the interests of the beneficiaries .

A fundamental test of whether an activity of a charity is charitable is whether it satisfies the test of public benefit.

As you will see there is a dividing line between sport as public recreation and sport as a member’s benefits pursuit, delivered by (non- charitable) clubs.

If trustees permit private sport to take over or to dominate a facility that should be available for public charitable recreation they risk to act in breach of the charitable trusts because they are failing to meet the test of public benefit.

The letter states that the council has “a duty of care to ensure that the site remains fit for purpose as a sports specific facility”.

This might reflect the position that would apply to a council-owned facility, but in relation to the trust the object is to provide “for the benefit of the inhabitants” a playing field. The fact that there is a requirement to fence the land is not the same as a requirement to exclude the public from access.

If public access is excluded even when there is no booking, it appears that the inhabitants are effectively denied access: the objects are therefore breached.

Effectively the beneficiaries become confined to the members of private sports clubs.

This we received in a recent correspondence from the Charity Commission as part of the explanation why they disengaged from the inquiries.

In our guidance for recreational charities. when considering the term “the public at large” our guidance RR 4 states that the Commission considers that facilities must be available for anyone who wishes to use them, without being subject to any election to membership or payment of a prohibitive entrance fee or any personal qualification (age, gender race, financial circumstances, religious views etc).

We would like to state that this is not about winners or losers but about the inhabitants of Spalding being able to have the use of something that they are beneficiaries to.

Why would Sir Halley Stewart make us all the beneficiaries if he did not want everybody to have the use of this public field?

Bill Johnson

Spalding Community Campaign