A call has been made for the reorganisation of Shetland Charitable Trust to be delayed after it was found a public consultation document was no longer available to view online.
Jonathan Wills says the proposed changes should be put on hold until the “defect” is sorted out.
It comes as The Shetland Times prepares to send off hundreds of coupons sent to it in response to its Trust Democracy campaign, which is calling on Shetland Charitable Trust to reconsider its controversial plans to cut democratic control by reducing the number of councillor-trustees from seven to four.
There is still time – just – for readers to sign up to the campaign and send coupons to our Gremista offices. A final tally of the level of support will be taken at the beginning of next week before the coupons are sent by post.
Dr Wills, who serves as vice chairman on the trust, spoke out after he realised public consultation documents for the planned changes no longer featured on Oscr’s website.
He insisted the regulator should make the information available.
In a letter to the Oscr’s Dundee-based senior management, Dr Wills said: “I now find that the public consultation documents for the proposed reorganisation of Shetland Charitable Trust are no longer on the OSCR website.
“Nor does there appear to be anything on the Shetland Charitable Trust website where an interested member of the public might find out the details of what is proposed before the closing date for representations which, it seems necessary to remind you, is 23rd February.
“Why does Oscr not make the information available online up to and including the closing date for representations?
“In the circumstances, I suggest it may be necessary to delay consideration of the proposed reorganisation until this defect in the public consultation process is remedied.”
Head of engagement at Oscr, Judith Turbyne, responded to his concerns.
“The Shetland Charitable Trust reorganisation application summary was published on our website on 13th January 2017.
“Our ‘Charity Reorganisation Guidance’ states, on page 13, that ‘(this) summary of the application will be published on our website for between 28 and 42 days, depending on the nature of the proposed reorganisation scheme.
“‘The majority of summaries are published for 28 days only.’
“As per this guidance, the reorganisation summary was published until 9th February 2017, 28 days after it was first published. When the reorganisation summary was published, the trust’s entry on the Scottish Charity Register reflected this date.
“The ‘Charity Reorganisation Guidance’ also states on page 13 that the ‘deadline for receipt of representations must be at least 14 days after the application summary is removed from our website.’
“There is no legislative requirement for a charity seeking reorganisation to publish details on its website. However, the ‘Charity Reorganisation Guidance’ states that ‘If your charity had a gross annual income of £250,000 or more in the last financial year, you must place a notice in a newspaper, journal or magazine relevant to the purposes of the charity.
“‘This advert need appear only once. The advert must appear during the first 14 days of the publication period.’
“Our records show that Shetland Charitable Trust published this notice on Page 33 of the Shetland Times on 20th January 2017.
“This is the process for any Scottish charity wishing to reorganise and therefore no defect has occurred.
“Anyone wishing to make a representation still has until 23rd February 2017.”
Meanwhile, chairman of the trust, Bobby Hunter, has paid tribute to the “enormous contribution” made to the organisation by councillor-trustees.
“As you know, council elections will take place in May and our current councillor-trustees will continue serving the trust until then, but this is our last formal public meeting before those elections.
“I therefore feel it is important to put on record my own and the trust’s gratitude for the devotion shown not only by the current group of councillor-trustees but by their predecessors.
“They have brought to this trust a wealth of knowledge and understanding that is, frankly, going to be missed.
“Whether we see a new group of four councillor-trustees after May is now up to the new council. The trust would welcome that.
“But to our departing colleagues, thank you. Your commitment to the trust and to Shetland has been absolute. You have given freely of large amounts of your time, and you have shown both insight and passion.”