Update about Girlguiding's activity centres
Moving to the next phase of the process
This is an update on the process and next steps following the announcement on 18 May about the 5 activity centres we own and the statutory consultation with affected staff.
During the staff consultation, no significant new information has emerged that would change the overall sustainability of the activity centres, or affect the recommendation to sell them. So now we are moving on to the next phase of the process, which is to sell the 5 activity centres we own: Blackland Farm, Foxlease, Glenbrook, Waddow Hall and Ynysgain.
A number of proposals were suggested to mitigate the impact of staff redundancies, and we are now taking some of these proposals forward with staff.
We want to thank all activity centre staff and the staff consultation group representatives for the time they took to contribute to the staff consultation, and for their professionalism in continuing to provide fantastic experiences at our activity centres. Thank you to all volunteers who have supported the activity centres.
Response from members
Many members have written to our board of trustees about the activity centres. We understand how much the centres mean to everyone involved in Girlguiding. We want to thank members for taking the time to make their voices heard. We have met with members, read and responded to letters, read comments on social media and responded to the vigil and march around the time of our AGM.
Throughout the past few weeks, the dedication to and love for the activity centres from everyone has been clear. We understand and value the lasting and happy memories that have been made over so many years at the centres. We know they have an important place in Girlguiding’s history. This is a difficult decision that we wish we did not have to make. But it has been made because we have limited resources, we need to focus on our core purpose of supporting girls and volunteers, and we need to make sure Girlguiding is sustainable for the future.
We will keep our members informed about the sale of the activity centres through our essential update emails.
Our next steps
Our 5 activity centres are open until 31 December 2023 and we look forward to welcoming visitors. Bookings are being taken until the end of 2023, and we are planning for all events this year to go ahead.
The next phase is preparing to sell the activity centres. As a charity, we are bound by charity law. As part of this we will get a report from an independent chartered surveyor to confirm that the terms of sale are the best that can be reasonably gained for the charity.
Girlguiding’s trustees will make the final decision on the terms of sale for each activity centre and will look to provide the best outcome for the charity. Because we are at the start of the process of selling the activity centres, we have no further details to provide about who they will be sold to, or how.
We continue to be open to options on the sale of the properties, and we have been approached by several interested parties, including members. Anyone with a proposal should send it to [email protected].
Funds from the sale of the activity centres will be put into a designated investment fund to support Girlguiding activities, adventure for girls and for a range of purposes to invest in the future of Girlguiding.
Adventure at Girlguiding
As part of our commitment to adventure, we are developing further options for adventure at Girlguiding. To do this we will work together with girls, volunteers, staff, countries and regions and our adventure group (which includes volunteers and staff from the outdoor team and country and region outdoor activity advisers).
We will also work with these groups to explore the possibility of our much-loved flagship events continuing. Members who have ideas to support girls to access adventure, or great examples of adventure in a unit or area can share them by emailing [email protected].
For over 100 years, Girlguiding has been focused on what drives, challenges and excites girls. Although we will not own and operate the 5 activity centres in the future, adventure will continue to be central to our Girlguiding ethos. Together with members we will continue to build on our adventure offer to make sure all girls can experience adventures big and small.
We want to thank all members for all of the time taken to share your thoughts since the announcement, and for everything you do for girls in Girlguiding.
Support for Girlguiding members
We want to make sure everyone is supported during this period.
- Girlguiding has set up a 24/7 special support team to answer your questions. Get in touch on [email protected] or 020 3839 8466.
- All calls and emails will be confidential, and the service will be open 24hrs, 7 days a week.
- Find out more, including how this team will handle personal data.
- Please also direct any social media enquiries you receive to the special support team.
Our next adult member and volunteer call
Join our next adult member and volunteer call on 27 September 2023. This is an opportunity for us all to get together and discuss Girlguiding’s plans for the future and how we can all help girls know they can do anything.
Questions you may have
The video below is of a webinar hosted by chief guide Tracy Foster, chair of the board of trustees Catherine Irwin, and CEO Angela Salt on Wednesday 14 June to share more information about the announcements on British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) and the 5 Girlguiding-owned activity centres.
Since the announcement, we’ve been carefully reading and listening to all of your feedback. You have written letters and emails, contacted us through the designated support team, and on social media. These are your most asked questions about the announcement, and we hope you find the answers helpful.
We are moving onto the next phase of the process to sell the 5 activity centres Girlguiding owns. They are Blackland Farm (East Sussex), Foxlease (Hampshire), Glenbrook (Derbyshire), Waddow Hall (Lancashire), and Ynysgain (Gwynedd). No other local activity centres are affected by this announcement.
The plan is for all of our activity centres to remain open in 2023, and if you have a booking we’re looking forward to seeing you there. If you have any specific questions about your booking, please contact the activity centre where you made your booking.
The activity centres will remain open until 31 December 2023, but there will be no events or bookings in 2024. Any bookings that have been made for 2024 will be fully refunded, and the centre you booked at will get in touch with you in due course. If you have questions in the meantime, please contact the centre where you made the booking.
We have been asked lots why members haven’t been consulted on the decision to sell the activity centres. We want to be honest about what we can and cannot consult members about, and we want consultation to be meaningful. In this case, we could not consult meaningfully with members on this because of the scale of the financial challenge with the activity centres and the need to focus our resources on the overall organisation.
It is the job of trustees to manage the charity and its finances, in the interests of the organisation as a whole, and for the long term. Trustees make their decisions based on relevant information including member input, reports, statistics, financial information, and professional advice. We continuously involve members through our committees, volunteer structure, and various working groups to try and make sure their voice is always heard. The chief guide, deputy chief guide and at least half of trustees are members of Girlguiding and currently only 3 trustees have not previously been members.
When we make a recommendation like this, we are required to enter a statutory process (a process that’s required by law) with affected staff and with our employee representative group.
This is covered in Girlguiding’s constitution (the Royal Charter and bye-laws). Individual trustees are appointed by the board of trustees. The nominations and governance committee (which includes a member of Girlguiding’s council) is involved in the process, making sure consideration is given to succession planning and ensuring a balance of skills, knowledge and diversity, consistent with Girlguiding’s strategy. Open recruitment methods are used to recruit a balance of Girlguiding members and people independent of Girlguiding. Trustee roles are voluntary and unpaid.
The chief guide and deputy chief guide are also on the board of trustees, and Girlguiding’s council is involved in how they are appointed.
Many of our trustees are Girlguiding members, and we also have some independent trustees, a number of whom have previous involvement with Girlguiding. Read about how we recruit and work with our trustees.
Girlguiding’s board of trustees regularly reviews strategy, risk and resources, in order to focus on the organisation’s core mission to help all girls know they can do anything. The recommendation to sell the 5 activity centres owned by Girlguiding is something trustees believe is necessary to make sure Girlguiding is financially sustainable for the future and can continue our core mission.
Even if we were to consider one centre separately from the others, it would not solve the problem that they all require significant capital investment, have been running at an overall loss, and have been used by less than 10% of our membership each year for the past decade. So the outcome would be the same because we have limited resources, we need to focus on our core purpose of supporting girls and volunteering across the UK, and we need to make sure Girlguiding is sustainable for the future.
97 roles including both permanent (35) and contract staff (62) will be affected by this. All affected staff have been notified.
The cost of Girlguiding HQ subscription amounts was confirmed with members in November 2022, and this will not change in 2024:
- In February 2023 it was £28.
- It will rise a further £3, to £31 for subs in February 2024.
Subs have been carefully calculated so that Girlguiding can continue to support our volunteers to inspire girls to be their best. The subs increases in the past few years have been necessary to stabilise the charity's finances and they mean our charity can continue to be financially sustainable.
If the activity centres were to stay open, subs would have to increase sharply in the coming years. We continue to use our charity's limited resources to help all girls know they can do anything.
There is detail on our website as to what the subscriptions cover.
Financially, Girlguiding is in a stable place. In recent years Girlguiding has had a structural financial deficit in its annual budgets (meaning our annual income has not been enough to cover the core costs of the organisation). Girlguiding has already taken a number of steps to address this and is targeting a balanced budget by 2024 (meaning we’re projecting to no longer have a financial deficit after this date).
This announcement is not related to Girlguiding’s general finances. It is to do with the finances needed to be spent on the activity centres in the coming years. The centres would need significant funding of over £20m in the coming years to be fit for future use. We cannot afford this level of investment.
There has been misinformation circulating about Girlguiding's pension funds. Girlguiding has no pension liabilities.
No. There is misinformation circulating about our other properties. This announcement about the activity centres is entirely unrelated to other properties.
Trustees regularly review our assets and resources, and as part of this review were asked to consider all of the properties Girlguiding owns, including our Girlguiding HQ building in London. As part of the review and assessment it was recognised that the HQ building remains an asset for Girlguiding. Due to the investment required and number of members using the activity centres over the past decade, we are moving onto the next phase of this process, which is to sell the 5 activity centres.
Charities are not subject to freedom of information requests. The financial data for each centre is commercially sensitive and so the trustees are not able to release detail on that. Our most recent accounts are publicly available in our annual report.
The capital required to invest in the centres was a very significant consideration for the trustees, but there were other considerations too, including that the centres have run at an overall loss over the past decade, as well as the reality that they are used by less than 10% of our membership.
Even if we invested £20m or more now, that would not prevent the need for further significant investment in the future. The challenges of continuing to invest sufficiently in the sites (including the cost to run them, and the annual cost of upgrading the sites) would return in the coming years.
Any member of the general public may set up a crowdfunding page for a project or charity of their choosing. If an individual wishes to set up a crowdfunder or donate to a crowdfunder, this is conducted at the individual's own risk. Any activity must also follow crowdfunding policies and procedures.
We would not encourage setting up a crowdfunding campaign at this stage. The capital required to invest in the centres was a very significant consideration for the trustees, but there were other considerations too, including that the centres have run at an overall loss over the past decade, as well as the reality that they are used by less than 10% of our membership.
Some of the activity centres and their infrastructure have come about because of generous donations by Girlguiding members and the public over the many years. These donations were made to Girlguiding and as such, they became Girlguiding's board of trustees' responsibility. This was a decision for trustees to make, as they now hold that responsibility.
The proposal is that the net proceeds from the sale will go back into a designated investment fund to support Girlguiding activities, adventure for girls across the UK, and for a range of purposes to invest in the future of Girlguiding. The exact details of this proposed fund will be subject to trustees’ approval, and we want to make sure any new fund helps spread Girlguiding’s resources more evenly across the whole of our membership.
The plan is for our activity centres to remain open and operating until 31 December 2023.
To sustain and develop its adventure offer, Blackland Farm would need to have spent on it in the next 10 years at least £4.0m across a range of repairs and maintenance, activity equipment, other planned preventative maintenance, and capital investment.
A further £4.3m of capital investment would be required in the years that follow that.
In the past 8 years from 2015 to 2022 Blackland has made cumulative profits of £0.1m.
When allocated its share (£0.6m) of direct central costs, this results in a total loss of (£0.5m).
To sustain and develop its adventure offer, Foxlease would need to have spent on it in the next 10 years at least £4.0m across a range of repairs and maintenance, activity equipment, other planned preventative maintenance, and capital investment.
A further £4.9m of capital investment would be required in the years that follow that.
In the past 8 years from 2015 to 2022 Foxlease has made cumulative losses of (£1.1m).
When allocated its share (£0.6m) of direct central costs, this results in a total loss of (£1.7m).
To sustain and develop its adventure offer, Glenbrook would need to have spent on it in the next 10 years at least £1.3m across a range of repairs and maintenance, activity equipment, other planned preventative maintenance, and capital investment.
A further £0.8m of capital investment would be required in the years that follow that.
Last year was the first full year of the Guide Association operating the Glenbrook site, and the site made a loss of (£1k).
When allocated its share (£20k) of direct central costs, this results in a total loss for that year of (£21k)
To sustain and develop its adventure offer, Waddow would need to have spent on it in the next 10 years at least £4.2m across a range of repairs and maintenance, activity equipment, other planned preventative maintenance, and capital investment.
A further £4.7m of capital investment would be required in the years that follow that.
In the past 8 years from 2015 to 2022 Waddow has made cumulative losses of (£0.5m).
When allocated its share (£0.6m) of direct central costs, this results in a total loss of (£1.1m).
- Glenbrook revenue relates to just 2022 – the first full year of the Guide Association operating this site.
- Ynys Gain data is not available in the same format, as the site has been operated and run by Girlguiding Cymru (Wales).
- The combined total of investment of expenditure required in the next decade (£13.5m) and further capital expenditure needed in the years beyond the next decade (£14.7m) is £28.2m. This is the basis for the line in our main announcement which stated, "…The centres would need significant funding of over £20m in the coming years to be fit for future use.…"
- Direct central costs are costs incurred by the Guide Association directly for the benefit and running of the activity centres, and include a mixture of 'pay' and 'non-pay' costs covering property management, events, marketing, and operational support.
The Charity Commission has concluded their consideration of our regulatory compliance which they conducted following complaints they received concerning the decisions on BGO and the activity centres.
The Commission has closed the compliance case and confirmed that they identified no significant regulatory issues arising from the decisions. These were matters for the trustees and within the range of reasonable decisions for the trustee body to make. The board does, and will continue to, follow regulations and associated guidance.