Dear Editor, There has been much media publicity about the council’s controversial management of the Highbury Estate which my great-grandfather, Joseph Chamberlain, bequeathed “for the benefit of the citizens of Birmingham.”
I hope this will continue to highlight the urgent need for change in governance of Highbury Trust, resulting in the establishment of a truly independent charity reflecting the spirit of Joseph’s legacy.
Thanks to the hard work and commitment of community groups and other concerned individuals, a new vision for Highbury now appears achievable. However, many obstacles must be overcome with the council before significant progress can be made.
I have corresponded extensively with the Charity Commission about the Chamberlain family’s concerns. Senior officers working closely with the Chief Executive have assured me they are now focused on addressing the council’s poor management of the estate so that it “is regularised as soon as possible”.
They have ordered the council that it must “take steps to ensure charitable activities are being undertaken on the estate” and submit long-overdue accounts and annual returns.
Acknowledging the council’s lack of engagement with the local community, the Charity Commission has stipulated that, before the end of September, it must hold “a public meeting for interested parties to identify a way forward for the property, such as identifying charitable uses for the property and identifying sources of income... priorities need to be identified in consultation with interested parties.”
As far as I am aware, the council has so far failed to organise or even publicise such a meeting. There are many people, both nationally and locally, who are interested in the future of Highbury and who would like to contribute to the debate. Anyone wishing to participate will, of course, need sufficient time to prepare.
I have asked Councillor Whitby, leader of the council, to keep me informed of progress with arrangements for the meeting and other issues, but have had no reply to my most recent letter of June 8. I am both surprised and disappointed by this. I had hoped for a constructive dialogue between the council and the Chamberlain family so we could work together to ensure Highbury is now used to honour my great-grandfather’s bequest. The council’s reluctance to maintain this communication is of great concern to Joseph’s descendants.
Mary de Vere Taylor,