Charity to sell five adventure centres to ‘stay financially sustainable’

Charity

Girlguiding plans to sell its five activity centres in an attempt to save millions of pounds.

The charity said the move would help secure its financial future and admitted that the centres had been losing money for “some years”.

Girlguiding said it would cost more than £20m to restore the sites, adding: “We cannot afford this level of investment.”

One group leader said the decision had left them and the girls they work with “stunned, sad and angry”.

Managers are consulting with staff on the plans. Net proceeds from the sales would be committed to a “designated investment fund” set up to back the charity’s future activities.

The five centres, which host outdoor pursuits for the charity’s groups as well as being rented to other visitors, will operate as normal until the end of this year before being sold in 2024, Girlguiding said.

The charity said in a statement: “The activity centres have been used by less than 10 per cent of our membership over the past decade.

“We know most of our members are choosing to have adventures within their units, near their home, and in other locations and facilities.

“There has been historic underinvestment in the activity centres, and they have been running at an overall loss for some years, despite successful efforts to generate more business from different markets.

“The centres would need significant funding of over £20m in the coming years to be fit for future use. We cannot afford this level of investment.”

Girlguiding added that trustees were recommending the sale “to help financially secure the organisation”.

A spokesperson for the charity declined to say how many members of staff would be affected or how much Girlguiding hoped to raise from the sales.

The charity’s annual accounts show that income from “training and activity centres” was £1.6m in the year ending in December 2021 and £487,000 in 2020, both periods affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

This is substantially below the £3.5m generated by the activity centres in both 2018 and 2019.

The accounts do not break down spending on the centres.

The charity’s spokesperson told Third Sector: “For over 100 years, Girlguiding has changed as the lives of girls change.

“Girlguiding’s board of trustees regularly reviews strategy, risk and resources in order to focus on the organisation’s core mission for all girls and to ensure it is financially sustainable for the future.

“Following a comprehensive review, the board of trustees has made the recommendation to sell the five activity centres Girlguiding owns: Blackland Farm, Foxlease, Glenbrook, Waddow Hall and Ynysgain.”

They added: “We remain committed to giving all girls opportunities to experience adventure within their units, near their home and in other locations and facilities.

“The consultation period has now started and concludes in early July. Affected staff will find out the outcome of the consultation in August 2023.”

But one Girlguiding group leader, who asked to remain anonymous, told Third Sector: “This decision has left myself and the girls in my units totally stunned, sad and angry.

“Not only do the trustees seem to be denying future girls the amazing opportunities these centres provide but they’re also cutting ties with the heritage, history and traditions of the movement that used to mean so much. “As Guides we promise to do our best. Is this their best?”

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