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EXCLUSIVE: legal challenge halts CAS reform vote

This news post is almost 6 years old
 

Four Glasgow Citizens Advice Bureaux have put a stop to a vote on a new governance structure for Citizens Advice Scotland with a legal challenge

A vote to reform the governance of Scotland’s citizens advice bureau network following a damning independent report has been halted by a last-minute legal challenge.

The challenge is coming from four Glasgow bureaux, including Maryhill and Possilpark Citizens Advice Bureau, which is currently chaired by Dominic Notarangelo, whose former leadership of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) came in for extensive criticism earlier this year.

The move could jeopardise millions of pounds of government funding which was put on hold in March this year until the service sorted out the problems that has seen it lose a string of chief executives and have details of internal disputes leaked to the press.

Irrespective of the rightness of our position, we cannot in all conscience pursue a costly course of action which although it may vindicate our legal position risks irrevocable damage to relationships within the network - Agnes Robson

A report from independent auditors Deloitte into CAS governance carried out in spring this year slated Noterangelo and said the board under his leadership was characterised by “dysfunctional dynamics and inappropriate behaviours driven by cliques and personal interests”.

It recommended a complete overhaul of the CAS board, including the recruitment of an independent chair and a greater number of board members not currently linked to bureau members.

The existing 61 citizens advice bureau members were due to vote on changes to the structure at a general meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 23 November. Three quarters of all members need to vote in favour of the special resolution which lays out the changes in order for the new governance structure to be approved.

CAS, which in 2015 had an annual income of over £13m, some of which is distributed out as grants to its members, has been working closely with members over several months to explain the importance of the recommendations and the proposed changes.

However, in a letter to members sent on Tuesday, CAS acting chair Agnes Robson said that the meeting would now be put off until January because of the legal challenge to a “technicality” in the proceedings.

The challenge is over whether or not CAS should have sent out the proposed articles which are to be voted on at the same time as notifying members of the general meeting.

Robson said that CAS has followed legal advice throughout the process and doesn’t believe it has done anything wrong. However, despite expressing “frustration”, Robson said CAS had decided to delay the meeting rather than defend the challenge in court.

She said: “In an increasingly challenging financial, political and operational climate, we had hoped that this vote would send a clear message that the difficult period that we have faced is now behind us and that we are moving forward confidently and embracing good governance.

“We have considered whether this outcome can be achieved in circumstances in which CAS is forced to engage in a court dispute with member bureaux and we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it cannot.”

She added: “Irrespective of the rightness of our position, we cannot in all conscience pursue a costly course of action which although it may vindicate our legal position risks irrevocable damage to relationships within the network, risks further harm to the standing of the service, and raises issues about the proper use of CAS public funds.”

Robson has also written to CAS funders, which include the Westminster Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Scottish Government, to explain the delay and attempt to reassure them that the new structure will go ahead.

Dominic Notaranglo declined to give TFN an explanation for the legal challenge or explain how the bureaux are funding it. He said: “It would be entirely inappropriate for me to comment on this, it’s a matter for the courts.”

The other bureax invovled in the challenge are Bridgeton, Easterhouse and Greater Pollok.

 

Comments

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Robert McCall
almost 6 years ago
So last summer it is said that Robson is appointed as chair to quell the problems, reported in TFN. Now you announce that this chair has placed CAS in the position of being taken to court by its own members. Hardly a success in quelling!