The Charity Commission has asked the attorney general for permission to refer an ongoing issue with the Royal Albert Hall’s governance to the Charity Tribunal, in a step it says is "unprecedented".
In a statement issued by the Charity Commission, the regulator said the issue would be considered by the attorney general for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright QC.
The Commission has been trying for several years to persuade the Royal Albert Hall to alter its constitution, due to the regulator’s concerns about 19 of 25 its ruling council being seatholders at the hall. This means they can sell tickets privately at inflated prices, under the hall’s Royal Charter which dates back to the 1860s.
Hall has shown ‘minimal appetite’ to address issue, says Charity Commission
The regulator said these arrangements lead to questions as to whether the council “can be perceived as furthering the purposes of the charity for the public benefit”, and said that despite being “engaged with the Hall for some time”, the charity has shown “minimal appetite” to address the issue.
In its statement, the Charity Commission said it had recently blocked efforts by the Royal Albert Hall to address these issues by "spending charitable funds to bring parliamentary proceedings to alter its constitution”, which the regulator said “was not in the best interests of the charity”.
The regulator has since asked Attorney General for permission to refer the ongoing issue to the Charity Tribunal in order to “finally address the issue”.
Trustees ‘unwilling to deal’ with issues
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “The perception that charity trustees are in a position to benefit financially from their role is very damaging. We have been engaged with the charity for a number of years to address concerns about the charity’s governance, yet the trustees have been unwilling to deal with a number of the central issues to our satisfaction in a timely manner.
“Having considered the matter carefully, we have now refused permission for the Hall to spend charitable funds to promote a parliamentary bill to implement its governance review as we do not believe this to be in the best interests of the charity
“Further, because of the lack of progress addressing the central issue, along with its complexity, we have taken the unprecedented step of seeking the consent of the Attorney General to refer a number of questions to the Charity Tribunal relating to the charity and the exercise of the Commission’s regulatory powers.
"These will include, but are not limited to, the nature of the charity’s constitution, the Commission’s ability to issue a scheme in order to amend the constitution and the proposed content of such a scheme.”
The Royal Albert Hall has been contacted for a comment.