The Future of CHE
(Text of a letter sent to CHE members, October 2019)
CHE is at a crossroads. Founded 55 years ago, it played a key role in the decriminalisation of male gay sex from 1967, and went on to become the largest LGBT organisation the UK has ever seen. It campaigned for the rights of lesbian and gay men in all fields. It supported many of the campaigns for greater equality for LGBT people, and its network of local groups helped many people to come to terms with their own sexuality and in turn to give support to others.
But CHE’s days as a campaigning organisation are clearly past – the need has changed, the torch has been passed to other organisations, and it would be pointless to pretend that we still have the ability or the resources to continue as we have in the past. What we can and must do, however, is to use our financial resources (mainly the result of generous bequests by former members) to document and record the very important part that CHE has played in improving the lives of lesbian and gay people.
At last year’s AGM and Conference a motion was passed acknowledging that CHE will have to change. A dwindling and ailing membership, coupled with a reduced Executive Committee (EC) struggling with other commitments, forced the AGM to recognise our present position as a much smaller organisation with few resources other than money. The meeting agreed the current structure and ways of working could not go on. It was agreed that the EC should explore alternatives and added that we should consider becoming more like a ‘trust’ (see note) charged with safeguarding our remaining financial assets.
The EC therefore proposes the following series of stages, to evolve into a grant giving and administering ‘trust’ (or similar vehicle), to be timetabled with a view to full implementation by the end of 2020.
- The EC, in consultation with a solicitor, will draft an appropriate deed to administer CHE funds for the furthering of CHE aims. The primary aim will be to support the completion of its history, Amiable Warriors, although there may be other ancillary projects worthy of encouragement as well. This deed will be put to a meeting of CHE members or to a postal vote of members.
- CHE will solicit a minimum of three and a maximum of five Trustees to administer affairs according to the deed. It will do this by advertising in the LGBT Press, among existing LGBT Organisations, and in the wider Voluntary Sector. In the short term one or more of the Trustees may be persons nominated by CHE, to ensure continuity. It will aim to have these in place by the summer of 2020.
- CHE will prepare a transfer deed to transfer all assets to the new ‘trust’, and (if possible) to arrange for future donations and legacies to be transferred to the ‘trust’, as the organisation most closely fulfilling CHE’s aims and objectives; this will be put to a meeting of CHE members by the end of 2020. At the same meeting the members will afterwards be asked to dissolve CHE formally. At that point CHE will bow out at the end of a distinguished and honourable career.
This may seem somewhat brutal, but in the year since the resolution which acknowledged the problems, nothing has happened, and the situation has got more acute. The EC currently consists only of six people – Ross Burgess, Nettie Pollard, Mark Delacour, Mutiu Lawal, George Tregaskis and Peter Burman; in addition there are three Trustees – Nick Billingham, Michael Steed and Greg Ussher. Trustees do not have a specific role except in the event of CHE being wound up, but are always welcome to attend EC meetings, and are regularly consulted on issues to be discussed by the EC. There are three bank signatories: George, Nick and Ross.
The Constitution calls for the EC to nominate two of its members to be Secretary and Treasurer. Ross is currently Treasurer, but has other commitments, is dividing his time between London and Scotland, and would like to shed much of the administrative burden of this role We are in discussions with another organisation with a view to their taking over some of this burden.
The post of Secretary is currently vacant, and several of the other EC members and Trustees would like to stand down for reasons of age, ill-health (the average age of current EC and Trustees is over 70) or difficult personal circumstances.
Peter Burman, Ross’s husband, has recently agreed to be co-opted onto the EC, but otherwise there is no prospect of replenishing the committee for CHE as it stands now. It has done little for the last few years, as a reading of the Annual Reports shows, and expects to do less. It hasn’t even been able to organise a quarterly members’ meeting this year. Joining CHE’s executive is not an attractive prospect for anyone wanting to get involved in LGBT politics; the issues have moved on.
If things were allowed to drift, CHE would fall apart in any case for lack of any guidance, the legacies which have been given to us might be squandered. Better to make an orderly retreat into a very limited body with small objectives, which may yet prove attractive, because of the limited commitment it will require of trustees, to new people who can come from outside CHE if necessary, and will, most importantly, be younger.
Owing to other commitments, and the difficulties mentioned above, it has not been possible to organise an AGM/Annual Conference during the summer as usual but it will now take place at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 14 December at the London Friend office.
An annual Report and statement of accounts will be distributed before the AGM, but in round figures CHE currently has nearly £40,000 with the Co-op Bank and £35,000 with Santander.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or queries about these arrangements.
Note: the word 'trust' is used in its broadest sense and does not necessarily imply any specific legal structure.