The Daily Telegraph

National Trust to vote on whether Pride is a ‘divisive waste’ of money

- By Hayley Dixon SPECIAL CORRESPOND­ENT

THE National Trust is facing a vote on if it should be banned from “wasting” money participat­ing in gay Pride.

During this year’s Annual General Meeting, members will be asked if they “deplore” the charity participat­ing in the events as a “divisive and an unaccounta­ble waste” of their subscripti­ons.

At what is expected to be another stormy meeting, the trust also faces a vote on whether the chairman should be able to cast proxy votes amid accusation­s the process is being used to “distort” outcomes and is not democratic.

Restore Trust put forward the proposal after their demands last year that the charity restore curatorial experi- ence and respect volunteers were defeated after tens of thousands of proxy votes were cast by the chairman.

The AGM in November will also stage a vote on whether it should appoint an independen­t watchdog to ensure it is accountabl­e and if it should be re-wilding its land or focusing on farming.

The votes are not legally binding, but it would be unusual for trustees to ignore the views of the membership.

The resolution on Pride notes that after the charity paraded in Birmingham in 2019, the director-general was unable to provide an account of “the expenditur­e nor of any resulting subscripti­on revenue”. The proposal in the AGM booklet adds: “The participat­ion was unaccounta­ble, divisive and an exercise in virtue signalling. It was unbecoming in a body which should be dedicated to preserving the nation’s heritage for all and being a faithful steward of its members’ subscripti­ons.”

It is understood it was proposed by Stephen Green, head of a Christian fundamenta­list lobbying group who is running for a spot on the trust’s council, and four other members. As is required under the trust’s rules, a further 45 members backed the resolution.

The charity is calling on supporters to vote it down, saying it “runs counter to our ethos”. The board of trustees said that the trust is “for everyone” and “like many employers we want to foster a culture of understand­ing and respect”.

They said they have participat­ed in Pride for “many years” and they “strongly reject” the idea that participat­ion makes them “unaccounta­ble”.

Under its rules, members who opt not to attend the AGM can give their “discretion­ary” vote to the chairman to use as they “think fit” and last year 149,086 such votes were cast.

Last year, Restore Trust proposed two measures, and both were rejected after Orna Nichionna Turner, then interim chairman, cast more than 20,000 proxy votes against each.

Rene Olivieri, the new chairman, faces calls from Restore Trust for the system to be “abolished”, saying if members do not feel they can vote they should abstain and that the use of the proxy vote “distorts the outcome”.

The trustees have said the system is “in line with best practice for general meetings of membership organisati­ons” and not unique to the trust. The board also “categorica­lly rejects the suggestion that this is unfair when it is common good practice”.

The AGM will be held at the Bath Assembly Rooms on Nov 5.

 ?? ?? Rene Olivieri, the National Trust chairman, faces claims that the use of proxy votes is undemocrat­ic
Rene Olivieri, the National Trust chairman, faces claims that the use of proxy votes is undemocrat­ic

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