Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry Published


WPCC Welcomes Publication of Charity Commission’s Inquiry Report and Reaffirms Progress Made in Strengthening its Governance Arrangements

Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) today welcomed the publication of the Charity Commission’s Statement of Results of the Inquiry (‘the Inquiry Report’) regarding the Putney Lower Common Easement.

Bringing the Charity Commission’s Statutory Inquiry, opened on the 18 August 2016, to a close has been WPCC’s highest priority and to that end the Conservators have worked with the Charity Commission to support the inquiry and have also put in place a number of measures to bolster governance of the charity. The statutory inquiry represents a challenging period in the charity’s long and distinguished history. The publication of the report closes an important chapter in these events, enabling the charity to move on and strengthen its focus on the critical work in the delivery of its charitable objectives.

In terms of strengthening governance arrangements, WPCC has identified areas for improvement and steps have already been taken by the current Board of Conservators to implement measures to deliver additional clarity, structure and rigour in a number of areas:

  • Access Framework – The Framework has been developed so that requests for access to the Commons are considered in a comprehensive, consistent and structured manner that respects the duties, powers and prohibitions that govern Wimbledon and Putney Commons. Conservators approved the draft Access Framework in February 2019 and following legal review, consultation with key external parties and final consideration by the Board at its April 2020 Board meeting, published the document, which may be downloaded here.
  • Enquiries and Complaints Handling Process – The Conservators established a new process to ensure that all enquiries and complaints are properly registered, fully investigated and resolved in accordance with published timescales and procedures. The process allows for escalation to Conservators when necessary, ensuring that all matters potentially affecting WPCC’s reputation are resolved as quickly as possible. (The Enquiries and Complaints Handling Process may be found here.)
  • Code of Conduct for Conservators – The Code, which establishes the conduct expected of Conservators when fulfilling their role in providing governance for the charity, was approved by the Board of Conservators in February 2019. Importantly, the Code provides a mechanism for involving external parties in matters concerning the conduct of Conservators. (The Code of Conduct has been published and may be found here.)
  • Election Guidelines – In response to complaints raised regarding WPCC’s triennial elections in February 2018 and recommendations made in the post-election review report written by the Returning Officer based on his experience, Conservators recognised the need to clarify election rules. Conservators have therefore prepared, in consultation with Civica Election Services (formerly known as Electoral Reform Services), new draft election guidelines. The guidelines are subject to final approval by the Conservators, incorporating comments raised in the Inquiry Report, and will be published once approved. As such, the guidelines will be in place before the next triennial elections, scheduled for February 2021.

The Inquiry Report identified the scope to further clarify certain provisions in WPCC’s governing document. Conservators initiated a review of the constitution in 2018 and, following 18 months of extensive exploratory work, announced in early December 2019 that they would be commencing a phased consultation during 2020 to understand the views of stakeholders on potential changes to the charity’s constitutional framework. The work in this area is supported by the charity’s Constitution Working Group. Some of these proposed changes will provide further resilience in a number of the above areas. The work has been suspended due to the pandemic but will continue when circumstances permit.

Commenting on the progress made in governance reform, the chairman on behalf of the Board of Conservators said:

“The Conservators are committed to putting in place a governance structure that reflects the best interests of the charity, allowing Conservators to fulfil their constitutional duty of protecting, preserving and enhancing Wimbledon and Putney Commons for the purposes of exercise and recreation. The past few months have highlighted the critical role of the Commons not only in allowing the pursuit of outdoor exercise but in meeting the mental and social needs of the community.

As Conservators, we believe that together we can build on the strengths of the organisation, reflecting the individual and collective commitment and dedication of many over the years. The 16 August 2021 marks 150 years since the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871 received Royal Assent and we look forward to celebrating this important milestone with the closure of the inquiry behind us.”


NOTES for Editors - Wimbledon and Putney Commons is a charity managed by the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC). It was established under the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871. The Commons comprise some 1,140 acres across Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common.

Contact: Mrs Diane Neil Mills, Chairman of the Board of Conservators
Tel: 020 8788 7655
Issued 2 July 2020