Checking who's the trustee

You're a councillor or a council employee. You attend a charity's trustee meetings or deal with the charity's day-to-day administration.

  • Are you there because you are a trustee?
  • Or are you carrying out the charity's business on behalf of the council because it is the trustee of the charity?
  • Or is there some other reason for your involvement, perhaps representing the council in another capacity, eg as a major funder of the charity?

It's important to understand your role and what its responsibilities and liabilities might be. These questions can help you to check.

1. Has the Council the right to appoint one or more trustees to the charity's board?

If the Council has appointed you as a trustee:

  • you, rather than the Council, have responsibility for the administration of the charity
  • you will be personally liable for the decisions you make
  • you must act in the interests of the charity, not those of the Council

2. Does the charity's governing document specify that the Council is the trustee?

If the Council is itself the charity trustee:

  • you are not a trustee and do not have the responsibilities or liabilities of a trustee
  • you may be managing the charity's affairs on the Council's behalf

If the Council is only the custodian trustee, then

  • it does not have the responsibilities of a charity trustee
  • it must act only on the directions of the managing trustees (eg the management committee of a village hall) unless to do so would create a breach of trust

3. Has the charity voluntarily invited you as a representative of the Council to inform/observe its meetings?

You have no legal responsibility for the charity. You cannot make decisions relating to its administration nor vote at its meetings.

See also:

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