Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)



Mr Ruane

  100. Do you think he will be as supportive after he reads the minutes of this Committee? The Chairman touched on the issue that geography should play no part in your decision in deciding where the axe should fall. Your decision should have been taken on need. South West Wales and the Valleys is an Objective 1 area which means it is one of the poorest areas, not in the UK, but in the whole of Europe. Coming down to your basic philosophy on where the axe should fall, what happened to the Christian philosophy? You mentioned Christian ethics before in the people you appoint as your Trustees, but what happened to the Christian philosophy of looking after the lost sheep and is it not a case of suffer little Welsh children? If you carry on this philosophy, you are in danger of divesting yourself of your responsibilities in the poorest communities of England because those are the areas that cannot raise many funds because they are poor. Those are the areas of greatest need which means you will need to spend more in those and if you carry on, it will be like a salami slicer with Liverpool and then Sheffield, the Objective 1 areas of England, until you are left as the Children's Society of the Home Counties and Virginia Water.
  (Mr Nall) Well, that may sound somewhat antagonistic. Let's be clear, income is growing, we are righting a financial problem. There are other Objective 1 areas outside Wales. There is a particular concentration of them in Wales and you mentioned the South Valleys.

  101. The South Wales Valleys.
  (Mr Nall) I was referring to it in the context of Wales. We will be able to sustain our work in the future. I am confident of that. We have sufficient reserves. We have a growing profile of income and we will reach break-even next year. We will not face inflation. We have management in place and a reduced workforce in place to deliver that work. In Wales, what we seek to secure is a smooth transfer of our work in whatever way will be helpful within the financial constraint we face to try and salvage work for children and young people in Wales. I heard the idea of an independent charity in Wales. I very much welcome it and will seek to work with all interested parties to try and bring that about.

  102. What message does your action send out to other England and Wales-wide charities? What message does your action send out to those charities?
  (Mr Nall) I think you have to draw your conclusions from that.


  103. I hope it does not send out the message that we seem to be getting. What do you think the effect on the wider Church will be of this decision?
  (Revd Mr Glover) Well, certainly the effect in Wales has been enormous. My telephone has been ringing constantly from supporters feeling very, very let down. I think that the Anglican Communion will feel that this is a Society that may not be able to be trusted.

Mr Wiggin

  104. It is one of the hallmarks of a well-run charity, according to the Charity Commission, that it is "open in the conduct of its affairs, except where there is a need to respect confidentiality". Do you think that the Trustees were sufficiently open in the conduct of their affairs in this particular case?
  (Lady Toulson) I am not in a position to answer that question, I am afraid.

  105. That is all right, it is a judgmental question.
  (Lady Toulson) Yes, I understand exactly what the question is, but I just do not feel qualified to answer it, I am afraid.

  106. Would anybody else like to make a judgmental comment? Perhaps Reverend Glover?
  (Revd Mr Glover) No.

  107. It is not actually a very nasty question if you say yes, but it is up to you to tell us what you think.
  (Mr Sparks) I think it is difficult because the Trustees did, if I may say, what they believed to be their duty as the Trustees of the organisation operating in what they considered to be the right way to operate.


  108. On advice from yourself and your colleagues.
  (Mr Sparks) Yes, but the process that they used seemed to be quite straightforward.

Mr Wiggin

  109. I am sorry that you have not answered this a little bit more openly because it struck me that if one project had been allowed to continue in Wales, you would not have been in the position you are in today. However, you have been very open about your decision, you have revisited the decision and you have told us what you think. I think perhaps you can detect from the sentiments of my colleagues that there is a great deal of anger as a result. It was quite clear from what you said earlier that there was a Welsh Board in place which I believe you, Reverend Glover, sat on.
  (Revd Mr Glover) It never sat.

  110. Okay, but you were due to, were you not, the point being that up until really quite recently there was a commitment to Wales which was entirely laudable. I think you touched, Mr Nall, on what was needed and perhaps this would be a good time to get on the record what the charity needs in order for it to continue in Wales.
  (Revd Mr Glover) Can I just take you back a little bit. There was a suggestion at the meeting in October that instead of pulling out of Wales totally, one project, say, in Newport could have stayed and that could have been managed from the Bristol office. I think that the Trustees felt that that would have been tokenism and would not have been acceptable to the people of Wales.
  (Mr Sparks) Your question was?

  111. What do you think you need to continue operating in Wales? I think there was a figure you said.
  (Mr Sparks) I think what Charles said earlier is that the voluntary income costs of staying in Wales are £1.3 million.

  112. So instead of being vilified, if that money was found, you would be able to continue?
  (Mr Sparks) That was the whole point about the paper that went to the Trustees about the financial situation.

Mr Price

  113. How long did the Trustee Board spend considering the decision to pull out of Wales?
  (Revd Mr Glover) Two or three hours.
  (Mr Sparks) I think it was longer. The difficulty is that it is the one Trustee meeting which lasts for a day. This paper about the whole organisation was not the only paper, but it was the main paper and I think there is a difficulty about pulling out of that which was solely on Wales and which was about the whole issue which involved England as well, but it was the major item on that day-long agenda.

  114. Was the decision unanimous?
  (Lady Toulson) No.
  (Mr Sparks) No, because Mr Glover voted against it.
  (Lady Toulson) And there was an abstention.

  115. You were the sole opponent?
  (Lady Toulson) There was one abstention.

  116. Five of the 23 Trustees retired at the Annual General Meeting, the day after the meeting, if I am correct, including the then Chairman.
  (Mr Sparks) Yes, the then Chairman.

  117. Given clearly the magnitude of this decision and its implications, do you think it would have been desirable for the decision to have been taken at a time when there could have been a greater degree of continuity in the membership and in the chairmanship of the Trustee Board?
  (Mr Nall) I regret the implication you seem to be making there. If you had read our Council report, you would see that the Trustees do retire by rotation, so the Trustee body, and, Ian, you will have to correct me if I am wrong, is normally about 18 to 20 members strong, so you would expect a number of Trustees to step down at each year and that is what happened this year.

Mr Ruane

  118. How many Trustees came from Wales?
  (Mr Nall) One.

  119. Out of?
  (Mr Sparks) There were 23 at that meeting.

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