New Forest MP Sir Julian Lewis suggests Charity Commission should investigate the proposed sale of Lyndhurst’s Girlguiding activity centre Foxlease
A NEW Forest MP has suggested the Charity Commission should investigate the proposed sale of Lyndhurst’s Girlguiding activity centre.
As reported in the A&T, campaigners are battling to save Foxlease on Clay Hill, which is among five across the country facing the axe in a cost-cutting drive by Girlguiding.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on the future of Girlguiding on Tuesday, New Forest East MP Sir Julian Lewis said had “been watching this developing disaster with increasing horror”.
The debate on the role and future of youth programmes and Girlguiding had been secured by Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, who is chair of the culture, media and sport select committee.
Sir Julian said people at the top of the organisation did not seem to be answerable to their own council – and still less their own mass membership – and were “determined to take steps that are bound to lead to the closure of the organisation”.
He added: “Given that the organisation seems to have a very undemocratic structure, does my Hon. Friend agree that we ought to look to the minister [Stuart Andrew, Parliamentary under secretary of state] for support for the idea of the Charity Commission investigating what has been going on in the organisation, which appears to have strayed far from its founding objectives?”
He said he wanted to stress that despite Girlguiding stating only 10% of the movement used the five centres, this was still “tens of thousands” of young people.
He said: “The response to the situation has been not ‘we have to close one centre in order to subsidise the others’... that has to be questioned.
“The reason for donating Foxlease to Girlguiding 101 years ago was not so that it could be used for commercial development, it was donated to be used by young people.”
Local support to retain the activity centre includes recently formed Foxie’s Future, a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) involving representatives from the Foxlease community including past and present volunteers.
Save Our Centres, a national campaign group attempting to secure the future of all five activity centres, has also launched a new petition asking Girlguiding to ensure that outdoor adventure remains at the heart of the organisation.
A spokesperson said: “The Save Our Centres Campaign Group is very disappointed that the trustees of Girlguiding have not altered their original proposal to close all five training and activity centres, despite receiving thousands of messages of protest from the charity’s members.
“We remain committed to helping members manage the practical and emotional impacts these decisions have had on all members of Girlguiding, we are committed to helping and supporting the groups attempting to set up charities to purchase [the sites] and maintain their Girlguiding ethos, and we are keen to engage positively with Girlguiding to address the issues that have been exposed by recent decisions by the trustees.”
A petition to save the centres has attracted nearly 40,000 signatures. Visit: bit.ly/3PpqPfN