Interested In Becoming A Conservator?

Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators hold second public meeting


Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators

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If you are interested in standing as a Conservator and would like to learn more about the role and what is involved, there is the second meeting to give you the opportunity to meet with the Returning Officer (one of the Appointed Conservators) and the Chief Executive, Simon Lee.

Wednesday 10th December, 7.00pm Cromwell Room, St Mary's Church, Putney SW15 1SN

What if I want to stand for election as a Conservator? To be eligible to stand as a Conservator, the election bye-laws require you to be named on the Council’s most recent Electoral Register, and to be proposed and seconded by two other electors.

Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators is a registered charity (Charity Number 303167) and to stand for election you must meet the legal requirements to become a Trustee of a charity. You will be ineligible if you have unspent convictions for any offence involving deception or dishonesty; you are an undischarged bankrupt; you are subject to a disqualification order under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986; or you have been removed from the trusteeship of a charity by a Court or Commission for Mismanagement or Misconduct.

Conservators receive no remuneration for their services.

Most importantly, you need to have a genuine interest in all aspects of the Commons, be prepared to attend regular Board meetings (currently held on the second Monday of every month at 17.00) and be committed to ensuring that the Commons remain a natural open space providing an important green lung for South West London. You will also have obligations to the Charity Commission with respect to the Charitable Objectives of the Commons which are “to preserve the Commons as open spaces for purposes of exercise and recreation and other purposes”.

Candidate packs and nomination forms are available from the Ranger’s Office by the Windmill. They contain information on the responsibilities of a Conservator and more detail on the history of the Commons and how it all began.

Candidates will be required to provide a completed nomination form, a biographical statement and a passport size photo by no later than Wednesday 7 January 2015.

Wimbledon and Putney Commons were created by an Act of Parliament in 1871. That Act provided for a Board of eight Conservators – what we would now call Trustees – to ensure that the area is kept “forever open and unenclosed and unbuilt on…[and preserved] for public and local use for purposes of exercise and recreation…”. Five Conservators were to be elected by those who contribute to the funding of the Commons, now through the payment of a “Levy” collected through their Council Tax. Three others are appointed by central government departments – currently the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence.

The Commons are managed by a Chief Executive, currently Mr Simon Lee, and a staff of around twenty, including Mounted Keepers who patrol the Commons, and a maintenance team. They are employed by the Conservators who are collectively responsible for the protection and preservation of Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common in accordance with the Act and for meeting their obligations as Trustees of the Charity, which was created in 1972.

What is the Election? Every three years there is a requirement to hold an election for the five elected Conservators. The date for the next election is Wednesday 25th February 2015.

Who is a Levy-payer? A Levy-payer is anyone who is responsible for paying the “special-levy” which is added to your main Council Tax and your place of residence is three-quarters of a mile from Wimbledon Common, measured by the most direct route to the entrance to your property along roads or footpaths, or anywhere within the old Parish of Putney. The proceeds of the Levy are used solely for the management of Wimbledon and Putney Commons.

Who is a voter/prospective Conservator? You are a voter (elector) for the purpose of electing Conservators, or entitled to stand for election as a prospective Conservator, if your place of residence (or place treated as your residence) is within three-quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common or anywhere within the old Parish of Putney and you must be registered on the Council’s most recent Electoral Register.

How do I know that I live within the Levy-paying area? If you live within three quarters of a mile of the perimeter of Wimbledon Common, measured by the most direct route along roads or footpaths, or within the old Parish of Putney as it was in 1871 (which now includes much of Roehampton), your household will be subject to an additional Levy on top of any Council Tax. This Levy is collected on behalf of the Conservators by the appropriate local authority – Kingston Upon Thames, Merton or Wandsworth. It is the responsibility of the Council concerned to decide whether to identify the Levy separately on its Council Tax bills.

A review of the Levy-paying boundary, based upon the above criteria, has recently been prepared by Ordnance Survey, using their digital mapping systems. This map of the boundary of the Levy-paying area is here.

Whilst we have published this new map, there may be some anomalies in respect of properties on the periphery of the Levy-paying area, some of which may no longer fall within the new boundary or have not been included previously. We are currently discussing with the relevant Councils how to resolve these anomalies and will publish a full list of properties that are included in the near future.

Do I have to be a Levy-payer to qualify to stand as an elected Conservator or be an elector of Conservators? No, to qualify to stand as an elected Conservator, or to elect Conservators, your place of residence (or place treated as your residence) must be within the three-quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common or anywhere within the old Parish of Putney and you must be registered on the Council’s most recent Electoral Register. To stand as a Conservator you must also be seconded by two other electors and be eligible to be a Trustee of a charity.

How is the Levy set? The total Levy is set by the Conservators. In 1990, when new arrangements were set in place following the introduction of the then Community Charge (since replaced by the Council Tax), the Levy was not allowed to exceed £500,000. Subsequently, the Conservators have had the authority to increase the Levy in each financial year in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), as published the previous September. They have not always increased it by as much as they are entitled to, but have been guided by their judgement on what was required to maintain the financial viability of the Commons. The current Levy for 2014/15 is £990,277, which is apportioned according to the council tax base, as notified to the Conservators by the three local authorities (the Levy for an average Band D property is approximately £27 per annum).

How do I know if I can vote in the 2015 Conservators Election? You will only be able to vote if your name appears against an address within the Levy paying area (as defined above) on the most recent Electoral Register. The February election will use the Register which is in the process of being updated through new on-line arrangements and will be published on 1 December 2014. If you do not know whether you are registered, you should enquire with your local authority electoral registration office.

How do I vote? The Election is by a postal ballot managed independently on behalf of the Conservators by Electoral Reform Services (ERS). The result will be determined by the numbers of votes cast as certified by ERS and will be announced by the appointed Returning Officer.

Why should I vote? Work and other commitments may prevent many of those who have a keen interest in the Commons from standing as a Conservator, but you still have the opportunity to vote. Fewer than 20% of you did so in 2012. This was a very disappointing turnout and I am determined that it should be improved next year.

The Commons are a diverse and unique place, the management of which is largely funded from its income from the Levy. You have an opportunity to have your say in who is elected to oversee the management of the Commons on your behalf for the next three years. If you are an eligible voter, look out for your ballot papers when they arrive in the post. Please take the time to read the Candidates’ Statements and use the next election to elect a body of local residents who you feel can best ensure that this site remains a unique natural open space.

How else can I become a Conservator? The three Conservators appointed by central government also serve for three years, but may subsequently be reappointed for up to a maximum of nine years. Periodically, these appointments will be advertised and the initial selection process is managed by the Conservators who recommend appointments to the government departments concerned.

If you would like to know more about any of the above, please contact the Chief Executive at The Ranger’s Office, Windmill Road, Wimbledon Common, SW19 5NR or Tel: 020 8788 7655.

December 11, 2014

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