The National Trust is one of the largest landowners and wealthiest charities in the UK. It is a unique organisation that was created by Parliament to be a custodian for the nation’s heritage and look after important historic monuments for everybody. The legislation is over 125 years old and therefore lacks many of the modern checks and balances that we take for granted with other organisations.
Pretty much every large UK institution benefits from an Ombudsman to oversee its work and to offer impartial, cost-effective help to individuals with grievances. Local authorities, universities, banks, insurance companies, the NHS and even Parliament itself have Ombudsman schemes yet the National Trust remains an exception.
While the Charity Commission does regulate charities, it has clearly stated that it is not an Ombudsman and does not have jurisdiction to investigate individual cases.
TANT thinks that the National Trust should not be an exception to the high standards of governance expected from other UK institutions and, therefore, would like to see an Ombudsman in place to help tenants, long leaseholders, farmers and landowners who have problems or grievances with the NT.
Far from being a threat to the NT, we think that an Ombudsman would help resolve problems at an early stage saving legal disputes from developing, reducing bad publicity and helping find cost effective solutions.
Some years back TANT worked with the NT for the introduction of a complaints procedure, but it lacks a final stage of referral to an independent body. This leaves complainants with the feeling that the NT can just assess cases from its own
perspective and will find in its own favour. The option of referral to an Ombudsman would give people confidence that the complaints procedure is fair and effective.