CTC faces fight in bid for charitable status

Opponents say change would disenfranchise members

UK cyclists' organisation CTC is holding a historic vote at its AGM this weekend which will decide whether or not it becomes a full charity.

At present the group is part charity (the campaigning and cycling promotion side) and part members' club. Those in favour of the move to charitable status say it would make the organisation more efficient and let it exploit tax breaks worth as much as £100,000 a year.

But a group has been set up called Save the CTC which insists the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise members.

CTC head office insists that services for members will not change and that they will retain control of the organisation and its ruling council. It outlines seven main benefits of the proposed change: 

  • One CTC charitable body would become a powerful united organisation speaking for cyclists.
  • Members and CTC Council would regain full direct control of the whole of CTC.
  • Greater efficiency and ease of administration.
  • Tax benefits, including Gift Aid on donations.
  • Greater public goodwill and trust.
  • Reassurance of the charity regulations protecting members from the actions of a possible ‘maverick’ council.
  • Safeguards for members arising from the requirements of the Charity Commission.

CTC spokeswoman Victoria Hazael told BikeRadar: "It's an administration change rather than a fundamental change to what the club does or what it's about."

But the people behind Save the CTC aren't convinced, and complain about the "heavy pressure selling techniques" being used to convince members to back the move to charitable status. They say there is no need for structural change, and they claim that if the club becomes a charity:

  • Members will be disenfranchised because the new trustees will be obliged to act in the interests of the public and the charity, rather than the interests of the fee-paying members.
  • If Gift Aid is claimed on subscriptions, CTC will have to halve the value of member benefits. Even if it isn't, benefits will become purely discretionary.
  • Fundamental management and governance issues mean poor practice will become embedded in the new organisation.
  • CTC already gets most tax benefits that would be available as a charity. Gift Aid might only provide £35,000 a year, and that doesn’t take into account the administration costs. Tax exemptions can be easily scrapped by a government looking to reduce public debt.

BikeRadar tried to contact Save the CTC for comment but at time of publication had not received a response.

The issue will be put to the vote in Loughborough on Saturday. At least 75 percent of members must back the move to full charitable status in order for it to go ahead.

Victoria said people should look at all the information available on the CTC website and make up their own minds. "We're a democracy and want as many people as possible to get involved in the decision," she said.

Formerly known as the Bicycle Touring Club and then the Cyclists' Touring Club, CTC was founded in 1878 to protect and promote the rights of cyclists. It is a not-for-profit organisation funded through membership and donations.

Membership has reached record levels, with over 65,000 people signing up to support its campaigning and enjoy membership benefits including third party insurance, a bi-monthly magazine, discounts on cycling kit and free legal advice.

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