The Daily Telegraph
How the National Trust overrules its members
SIR – It is disingenuous for Jan Lasik, General Counsel and Secretary of the National Trust (Letters, September 8), to object to Lord Moore’s observation (Notebook, September 6) that concerted efforts are being made at the top of the National Trust to subvert democracy.
Contrary to Mr Lasik’s suggestion, casting a discretionary proxy vote is not always a conscious decision taken by members. Whereas one might imagine that leaving the boxes on a resolution blank would result in an automatic abstention, in fact it results in the often unwitting gift of that vote to the chairman to cast as he pleases.
Nor are National Trust members fooled by the new “quick voting” option, which is surely a deliberate trap for the unsuspecting and will make this year’s supposedly democratic AGM a stitch-up. Why were members not consulted about this sudden decision beforehand?
It is false to imply that attempts at reform from members are not quashed. Last year alone, two critical and reformative members’ resolutions, which would have passed by an overwhelming majority – by about 18,000 votes each – were defeated because Tim Parker, the then chairman, cast more than 20,000 discretionary proxy votes against each.
Restore Trust holds hope that René Olivieri, the new chairman, will not suppress dissent in this way, and will let members make up their own minds, even if this results in the popular governance reform so feared by the National Trust’s current executive.
We urge all National Trust members to vote in favour of Restore Trust’s members’ resolution to abolish the chairman’s discretionary proxy vote. Zewditu Gebreyohanes
Director, Restore Trust
SIR – One reason the National Trust has fewer volunteers than before the pandemic is that, during lulls in the lockdown and even when it ended, Green Team volunteers like myself were not allowed to return to outside projects such as maintaining woods.
Complicated e-learning modules that seemed to have little relevance to our “field work” had to be completed before we could be accepted on to work parties. Some of our team found that volunteering opportunities elsewhere were available sooner, or were not prepared to complete these modules. Either way, they gave up. Andrew Bassett
Newcastle upon Tyne