Delays in appointing student trustees breaks charity commission, says Lancaster SU.

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Lancaster SU have made a serious incident report to the Charity Commission following their delay in appointment of student trustees.

Releasing a statement on the matter, the Student’s Union said:

The delays in taking a decision on these appointments have placed the union in a position where there is a majority of paid trustees (six – the Full-Time Officers) to unpaid trustees (four) on the Board for a sustained period of time. This is a violation of our governing documents and of Charity Commission rules. As a result, we have this morning submitted a serious incident report to our regulator, the Charity Commission.

In addition to the violations, the current situation poses a significant governance risk: if five paid trustees (including the President) agree on anything they can pass it through the Board, as the President has the casting vote. This threatens the independence of the Board and prevents it from providing meaningful challenge to the leadership of the organisation. The union has further been advised by its solicitors to seek consent from the Charity Commission to continue paying the salaries of the Full Time-Officers.

We have been able to clearly demonstrate and evidence that numerous steps that have been taken to attempt to resolve the situation and reduce the impact on the charity.

The Chair of the Executive Committee has called an emergency meeting to discuss the ratification of the Student Trustee appointments. The Vice-Chair of the Trustee Board has contacted the members of the Executive Committee encouraging them to make a decision on the appointments in line with the Articles of Association and legal advice they have received.

We will keep members informed of our progress in this matter.

Lancaster University Students’ Union

This follows Tuesday’s trustee appointment update:

The appointments are currently awaiting ratification by the Executive Committee. The union is not aware of any issues with the merits of the candidates or their ability to act as trustees. However, some members of the Executive Committee would rather not ratify the appointments following the referendum in Michaelmas Term, in which students voted for majority of elected trustees on the Trustee Board.

After that referendum, the Trustee Board approved a democratic governance review to be carried out in the second half of this academic year. The referendum result and the motions passed at the AGM in October will be key points of focus for the review, which will be based upon extensive student consultation.

The aim of this review is to produce a set of recommendations to improve the union’s governance arrangements and governing documents, which will then be approved through the required process.

Changes to the Articles of Association require a lengthy process, including consultation with students and the opportunity for amendments. The final proposal must then be approved by the Trustee Board, by students (in either a referendum or student members’ meeting), and by Lancaster University, before being submitted to the Charity Commission.

The changes to the appointment process for trustees called for in the referendum motion cannot be put in place until this process is complete.

Lancaster University Students’ Union

Speaking exclusively to SCAN, Vice-Chair of the Trustee Board Graeme Osborne said:

It is vital that the Trustee Board has a full set of Student Trustees. We are working hard to resolve the issue and are in close contact with the Charity Commission. We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on students and on the Students’ Union.

Graeme Osborne

This is an ongoing story.

Olivia Kenny

Hi! I'm Olivia (but everyone calls me Liv) and I'm the Associate Editor for SCAN for 2019-2020. I was previously the News Editor and have contributed to the section since the beginning of my first year. Now in my third year, SCAN is a huge part of my University life. Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you!

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