The Charity Commission has opened a regulatory compliance case into Girlguiding, following concerns about the charity’s decision to sell its activity centres and end the operations of British Girlguiding Overseas.
The regulator said it was “engaging with the trustees” to assess the concerns, after the charity’s decisions came under fire from Conservative MPs during a debate in parliament this week.
During the debate Julian Lewis called for the Charity Commission’s involvement in the matter.
Girlguiding’s Foxlease activity centre, one of five earmarked for sale by the charity, is in Lewis’ New Forest East constituency.
Stuart Andrew, the charities minister, responded: “Anybody can raise any case with the Charity Commission, and colleagues may feel that they want to take that step.”
In April, Girlguiding announced plans to scrap all British Girlguiding Overseas operations, which offered guiding opportunities to members living abroad.
This was closely followed by a decision to sell its five activity centres – Lackland Farm, Foxlease, Glenbrook, Waddow Hall and Ynysgain – due to concerns about financial viability.
The Charity Commission said it was aware of the concerns surrounding the two decisions, but added that it had made no finding of wrongdoing at this time.
A spokesperson for the regulator said: “Strategic decisions like this are for trustees to make, but we have a role in ensuring that trustees have complied with their legal duties and responsibilities in the way they made decisions.
“We are therefore engaging with trustees on the concerns raised with us, to ensure that they understand what the law, and our guidance, expect of them.”
Girlguiding declined to comment on the compliance case.
Since the decision to sell the activity centres was made, a number of campaign groups have been launched to prevent the centres from closing. One of them, Save Our Centres, is led by Girlguiding leaders across the country.
Elizabeth Lash and Kirsty Patterson, members of the SOC steering committee, said: “SOC has raised a number of concerns with Girlguiding about the way that they are run and have repeatedly asked them to undertake a governance review.
“SOC believes that Girlguiding needs to improve openness, accountability and member involvement around decision-making in order to bring Girlguiding in line with Charity Commission guidance.”
The steering committee noted that Girlguiding was asked to respond to this governance review request before 6 October, and has yet to do so.
Lash and Patterson said that in light of the commission’s open case, the committee intended to accelerate its plans to engage with the regulator and will take concerns to it directly.
Foxie’s Future, a charitable incorporated organisation founded by Girlguiding leaders, is crowdfunding with the goal of buying the Foxlease centre.
Hazel Warwick, a trustee at Foxie’s Future, said: “Once centres like Foxlease are lost, they will be gone forever.
“We respect the decision that Girlguiding has made; however, Foxie’s Future would ask for more time to be able to secure funds to ensure that we are able to purchase when the site comes to the market.”