In order to keep everyone in the village informed about the plans of the new Trustees I gave updates in the Newsletter in November 2012 and June 2013.
In the earlier update I reported that the Charity Commission made an order dated 2nd July 2012 confirming the appointment of the new Trustees and transferring the title of the three sites from Steep Parish Council to the Official Custodian for Trustees on behalf of the new Trustees.
In June 2013 I reported that we were in discussion with the Commission on the basis that the original objects of the charity as set out in the Steep Inclosure Act 1866 to use the three sites as allotments for the labouring poor in the Parish of Steep were outdated and that it was appropriate to update them. This point was accepted by the Commission and the ensuing discussions have focused on the detailed wording of the new aims and objects.
The new Trustees are very aware of the clear wishes of the village of Steep for the Church Road site since these were set out in the Steep Parish Plan. We are also aware from our discussions with local groups such as the Almshouse association, the CAB and Steep school amongst others that ‘need’ is not necessarily restricted to financial need but can also include social and /or emotional need.
We therefore sought to agree with the Commission a wide definition for our new objects and proposed that they should be “to help those in need in the Parish of Steep and the adjoining area”. We felt that this would give us flexibility to provide help in respect of a wide range of need not limited solely to financial need and could include the provision of recreational and educational facilities on the Church Road site.
The Commission have however taken a much narrower view. Their view is that updated objects are required to be as close as possible to the original objects. Since our original objects were to help the labouring poor the Commission are insisting that our new objects must be limited to helping those in financial poverty.
They have stated that “although they accept that relieving or preventing poverty may involve addressing social and emotional need in addition to financial need they would still expect beneficiaries who were in social or emotional need to also have some degree of financial need”.
This outcome will limit our flexibility but it is clear that the Commission will not accept a wider definition. It is likely therefore that the new objects will be “The prevention and relief of poverty for the public benefit among persons who are in need, hardship or distress in the Parish of Steep and the adjoining area”.
The Commission has also asked why we wish to extend the area of benefit beyond the Parish of Steep to include the adjoining area. Our main reason is to avoid uncertainty. The original definition is now ambiguous since boundaries have changed since the original Inclosure Act. For example parish councils did not exist in 1866. Although the church parish of Steep continues to include Stroud the current civil parish of Steep does not. Stroud has its own parish council. The slightly wider definition will also give the Trustees greater flexibility and will avoid potential unfairness if we are unable to help someone because their house is five yards on the wrong side of a particular boundary which might not have existed in 1866.
In the light of the likely new objects the new Trustees are now considering options for the three sites. We are also still in discussion with the Commission about local consultation and the fact that the scheme made by the Commission setting out the new objects will also need to include a power of sale.
I hope that this article is helpful in letting everyone know the current position. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to make any comments. The Commission have agreed that the name of the charity will be “The Steep in Need Charity” and I will use this title in future updates.
Geoffrey Dale, Chair of Trustees,