Walsham le Willows Play Council [Charity number 293364] Update on current position from the Parish Council
A fantastic group of volunteers from the village, with the agreement of the Parish Council, has completed valuable work consulting with residents on ideas for the development of the Play Area on Townhouse Road. They also took on the formidable task of removing the skate ramp which had become unsafe.
Their excellent volunteer consultation exercise has resulted in a plan of phased development ready to be used for fundraising and then implemented. They continue their work behind the scenes on further consultations, on fundraising from local organisations and on getting the support of the school and sports club for future fundraising efforts. The Parish Council is extremely grateful for this work whilst the legalities of the situation with the governance of the charity were investigated and worked through.
Efforts have been made to get a new Play Council Executive Committee formally established without success. The last AGM of the Play Council was held on 23rd May 2018.
The Parish Council assumed direct responsibility (rather than grant funding the Play Council) for the day to day maintenance of the Play Area in 2018 and, having identified the route to resolving governance and funding issues, recently resolved to take on the development of the Play Area as well.
The Play Council constitution states that assets can only be passed to another ‘charitable institution or institutions having objects similar to some or all of the objects of the Play Council but only with the approval of the Charity Commissioners’. Assets include the bank account balance of £7937.75 as at 25th June 2018. This amount covers the first of five planned phases of development. The Parish Council believes that there has been no significant financial activity since then. This balance, as far as we can tell from accounts from 2015-2017, is comprised almost entirely of direct grants from the Parish Council for day to day maintenance.
The Parish Council believes that there are only two other suitable charities in the village who could formally take on the development and maintenance of the Play Area: The Old Town Trust and the Sports Club. Informal approaches by the Parish Council indicate that neither are likely to be willing to take on responsibility for the Play Area. Transfer of the assets to other charities in Suffolk would leave the children of the Parish worse-off and potentially leave a wasting asset (land and play equipment) at Townhouse Road that would need to be dismantled to comply with Health and Safety.
The Parish Council is not, and cannot be, a charity but has the same objective as the Play Council which is to continue to provide opportunities for play to the children of the village. Therefore, consent has been sought from the Charity Commission to change the constitution so that the remaining funds can be transferred and managed by the Parish Council for the benefit of the Play Area and to dissolve the Play Council charity. This will make administration much easier and allow our fantastic volunteers to focus on what they do best which is helping to improve the Play Area with the full support of the Parish Council.