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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Welsh Church Act Estate Committee - 14th  December 2015

 

Report of the Head of Legal Services

 

Welsh Church Act 1914 Scheme

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To advise in connection with the scope of the Welsh Church Act scheme made pursuant to Section 19 Welsh Church Act 1914 on 9th February 1976.

Recommendation

2.                That Committee notes and considers the advice herein.

Reason for the Recommendation

3.                To further the proper administration of the Scheme.

Background

4.                The Welsh Church Act Estate Committee has delegated authority to manage in accordance with the scheme the Welsh Church Act Estate which is currently vested in the Council.

5.                The current scheme applicable is that made on 9th February 1976.

6.                The full scheme is appended at Appendix A of the Report. At the last meeting [date] of the Committee an application was considered initially but deferred and that application was in relation to an application for assistance for building works at Llandow Village Hall in the sum of £5,487.

7.                Consideration was given to the scheme and the Committee decided to defer further consideration to await further legal advice in relation to the scope of the scheme.

8.                In essence, the scheme provides for a number of objects for charitable purposes to which the fund may be applied.

9.                There are thirteen objects in total which are set out in the first schedule of the Scheme.

10.                Firstly, paragraph 18 the "proposed application of the Fund" the Scheme requires that after defraying expenses and costs, the Council "shall apply the fund to such charitable purposes of the nature described in the First Schedule hereto as the Council may from time to time think fit". That gives it is believed a fairly wide discretion to the Committee to apply the fund to one or more of those objects. The Committee has apparently applied historically the Fund in relation to the maintenance/restoration of places of worship and burial grounds. (Object 11). Object 5 "Social and Recreational" covers "providing or assisting in the provision of facilities for recreation or other leisure time occupation being facilities which are available to the members of the public at large and which are provided in the interests of social welfare with a view to improving the conditions of life for the persons intended and in particular in furtherance of those purposes without prejudice to the generality thereof providing, or assisting in the provision of, playing fields, parks, open spaces and centres or halls for meetings, lectures or classes". That would appear to cover applications such as that by the Llandow Village Hall. However the wording actually is "provision of" which is distinct from the wording in Object 11 which refers to contributing towards the "restoration and maintenance …". It could be argued that provision from the outset, ie the construction of a hall rather than ongoing maintenance of a hall of this nature already erected is what is envisaged by paragraph 5. It may be that there is no real distinction but the wording is different in each Object and again it could conceivably be argued that the lack of the words "restoration and maintenance" might preclude a grant in relation to refurbishment of an existing village hall.

                Section 19 of the Welsh Church Act 1914 provides that if some funds can be traced to one particular Parish and that Parish is requesting funds then due regard must be given to their wants and circumstances and it would appear that in that case it would be strongly persuasive that the Committee should determine to support the application. However, it is not binding and the Council could nevertheless decide not to provide funds to that Parish.

11.                Because of the way the Scheme is worded it is considered to permit the selection of a number of categories or only one category. It is therefore advised that the Committee has potentially a discretion to consider a grant to the village hall subject to the caveat in relation to the wording of Object 5, outlined above, and moreover that it has no duty imposed on it not to discriminate or to favour one or more Objects over others.

Relevant Issues and Options

12.                The issues and options are set out in the background above.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.                None arising directly from this Report.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.                There are no sustainability and climate change implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.                These are set out in the body of this Report under the heading "Background".

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.                Funding of the voluntary sector should assist in increasing social inclusion and reducing crime. Otherwise no implications arising from this Report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.                There are no equal opportunities implications as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.                The sole concern of the Committee is to act in the best interest of the Trust and in accordance with the terms of the Scheme.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.                Not applicable.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.                Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.                None.

Background Papers

22.                Welsh Church Act scheme made pursuant to Section 19 Welsh Church Act 1914 on 9th February 1976.

Contact Officer

Mike Walsh

Officers Consulted

Gemma Jones and Lorna Cross

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Managing Director

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