Any CBS is registered with, and regulated by, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under the regulations for Industrial and Provident Societies. Community Benefit Societies are organisations that conduct business for the benefit of their community. Profits are not distributed among members, or external shareholders, but returned to the community. AVEL’s registration number is 7085.
AVEL has stated that its objects shall be to carry on any business for the benefit of the Allen Valleys community, although any business must not conflict with the purposes of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership in relation to the Allen Valleys. Originally it was envisaged that this would be by the development of renewable energy resources of all types. However that vision has now grown to include other activities such as those described on “Our Projects” page.
By establishing a CBS, AVEL may borrow or raise funds for any purpose that is beneficial to the Society. It can also apply for grants to carry out projects that are unavailable to other groups working in the area such as the North Pennines AONB Partnership.
A CBS is set up to benefit the community rather than its members. In AVEL’s case the community is geographic rather than more specific, such as a particular interest group, for example. However, it is members who have the power to decide who runs the Society and therefore ultimately the direction it takes. Membership is the means by which the Society is owned by the community. Membership provides Members with access to information, a voice in the Society, and the opportunity to be elected to a representative role in its governance.
Membership is open to any individual over the age of 16 or corporate body who supports the objects of the Society and who has paid the subscription by “buying” shares in the Society.
Very importantly, it doesn’t matter how many shares any individual owns (and there is a limit of £20,000 each) each member only has one vote at the Annual Meeting (or any Special Meetings if needed). The Annual Meeting is also where members get to decide on how any profits are to be used.
Normally a Society might try and sell shares if it wanted to raise money to carry forward a particular project, such as building a small-scale hydro scheme. The only benefit in owning more shares is if, in future, the Society decided to pay interest on the shares (because effectively they are a loan to the Society) then the more shares, the more interest payable.
Encouraging membership of the Society is a way of developing community interest and involvement in its activities. Shares are “withdrawable” which means any member can ask for his or her money back if he or she chooses to leave the Society. Members are also bound by a set of conditions that allows them to resign or be expelled, for instance.
The Society is legally bound to carry on its business for the benefit of the whole community. In addition, any assets it holds can only be transferred to another community interest organisation if the Society is “wound up”. Therefore the Society is largely protected from being dominated by any particular vested interest.
Management Committee (Board of Directors)
Whilst the membership holds the ultimate authority on the Society’s future, it delegates the management of its activities to a Management Committee (or Board). The membership will have the power to elect and remove committee members. AVEL has established a Board structure that encourages participation across the Allen Valleys as a whole, but reflects the input from the North Pennines AONB Partnership in helping to establish AVEL as an initiative of the Landscape Partnership Scheme. Directors must be 18 years old and the composition of the Board is:
(a) Up to four Directors elected by and from the Society’s Members, at least one of which shall be a resident of Allendale civil parish and at least one of which shall be a resident of West Allen civil parish;
(b) Up to one Director as representative appointed by North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership but only for the duration of the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership scheme;
(c) Up to two Directors, who must be Members, appointed to the Board by co-option. Co-opted Directors are to be selected by the Board of Directors for their particular skills and/or experience shall serve a fixed period determined by the Board of Directors at the time of the co-option, subject to a review at least every 12 months.
Elected Directors retire in rotation (two every year) but can seek re-election at the Annual Meeting if they so wish. The Annual Meeting is currently planned to be in September.
The Board currently comprises a mixture of “founder members” from when AVEL was first set up acting as elected Directors, and co-opted Directors.
OUR RULES OF ASSOCIATION
Want to get involved?
We are a new organisation run by volunteers. If you love the Allen Valleys and have the energy and skills to contribute to community projects, then we'd love to hear from you