Changes to charity law

There are some changes that are made as a necessity. Others grow from great ideas. Unfortunately, the current YUSU governance review is an example of the former. If the structure of the Union doesn’t change by 2009 it will cease to exist, such is the impact of the Charities Act of 2006.

Put like that, students would be going down a pretty dangerous path if they voted to defeat the governance review. However, if other changes, beyond the essentials, are proposed, then the average York student will certainly have a right to turn it down when presented as a package.

By 2009, to stay compliant with the Charities Commission, the Union must appoint a trustee board. Currently, the YUSU Exec members – the union officers – act as trustees of the union. This is a less than perfect situation. For example, students elect the Environment and Ethics Officers on the basis of how much they care about global warming, rather than how good they are at steering the Union away from any potential legal battles.

YUSU would, as other unions have done, probably appoint trustees with specific expertise, such as a legal professional or a media consultant. While some may have reservations about non-elected professionals having such important roles in the union, this is essential for YUSU’s survival.

But what of splitting the Academic and Welfare Officer into two roles, and merging the Societies and Communications and Student Development and Charities roles as a result? Or the creation of a Student Activities Office, and moving the AU President upstairs? These ideas were proposed by the organisational review – which means they are suggestions, not requirements.

The consultation sessions and working groups will inevit­ably throw up more suggestions that YUSU must bear in mind when drawing up the final constitutional amendments. But this is key – if enough students are invol­ved, it should make for a review that both achieves the necessary objectives and satisfies the voters.