In March 2019, the Management Committee agreed subject to a full business case, that the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum would be best served by moving to full trust status, allowing the museum to better fulfil its long-term strategic and charitable objectives with good governance and financial transparency.
The Committee recognised the complexities of achieving full trust status required further examination before a commitment can be made and that the final decision should lie with BCP Council Cabinet.
At its request, further work has been done by Council officers, museum staff and external consultants, funded by core budget and ACE CRF Fund to fully develop the business plan.
At their meeting on 8 January 2021, the Management Committee supported a draft proposal for the financial arrangements for an independent charity based on BCP Council support for transition costs, an initial contribution towards the backlog maintenance issues of the building and a 10 year funding arrangement.
On that basis a Business Plan has been fully articulated and circulated to Council officers for their input and due diligence.
The Museum governance is complex because the charity was established with the Council as sole trustee and is subject to the Bournemouth Borough Council Act 1985. It is not clear whether governance changes can be made by the Charity Commission under its normal jurisdiction or whether changes will require a Statutory Instrument.
On the advice of specialist lawyers, Bates Wells the Management Committee agreed that the best option was for a new sole corporate trustee of the existing charity which would essentially slip into the shoes of the Council. Bates Wells submitted a request to the Charity Commission in March asking if they would be minded to grant such a Scheme.
There has been an ongoing exchange of views with the Charity Commission which has said that the decision is finely balanced. The recommendation of Bates Wells is that the Management Committee seeks further independent and specialist legal support to push home the legal argument, supported with evidence of the benefits of externalization and of stakeholder and public support.
The Museum Manager presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.
The Committee received an update on the progress towards externalisation of the museum and art gallery.
The Committee was advised that the Management of the Museum had received advice from Dates Wells Solicitors that the witness case should be strengthened and additionally, a summary should be made of the reasons why the change was being sought. This is the main point that needs to be confirmed with the Charity Commission. This would be reported to Cabinet and then full Council, who would make the final decision formally to progress.
a) The Management Committee noted the progress made with Business Planning and Governance Discussions; and
b) The Management Committee approved the continued progress of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum to externalisation as a fully independent charity, subject to a full business case.