The Furness Railway Trust has been a Registered Charity since 1991. We were set up - like most charities were at the time - as what is called an unincorporated association. This is a membership body that has a constitution approved by, and is registered as a charity by, the Charity Commission.
But unincorporated bodies have their limitations. For example, the FRT needs to enter into a lease for our workshop building in Preston, with our hosts, the Ribble Steam Railway. An unincorporated association does not exist as a legal entity in its own right, and therefore cannot enter into any lease. Instead any such lease it entered into would have to be in the name of some or all of the Trustees. This might be acceptable to start with, but the lease would need to be renegotiated every time a Trustee changed.
The alternative used to be to set up a not-for-profit company, but the costs, and the time, needed to do this can be prohibitive for smaller charities.
In the last few years, another option has become available. A Charitable Incorporated Organisation is a legally constituted body, which can enter into contracts in its own right just as if it was an individual person entering into that contract. It is simpler to run than a company and while it does have some additional requirements placed on the Trustees, these are not too onerous and for a charity like the FRT there are no additional financial burdens, while there are a number of significant benefits.
In order to progress our lease agreement, the FRT set in motion the process of converting to a CIO.
This is done in four stages. The first hurdle, passed in October 2014, was for the FRT Committee to approve a new constitution for the CIO version of the Trust. This is a lengthy document that follows a "model" laid down by the Charity Commission to comply with the legislation that created CIOs. The nine members of the Committee are named in this constitution as the founding Trustees of the new FRT CIO.
This new constitution was submitted to the Charity Commission, who after some correspondence approved it, and formally registered the new Furness Railway Trust CIO on 10th August 2015, with a new charity number 1163073.
Here is the new FRT CIO constitution (NB this is a pdf document so you will need a pdf reader to download this).
The next step was for the unincorporated association to transfer its assets to the new CIO, a process that required a further round of approval from the Charity Commission. With approval granted, the assets were transferred on 1st December 2015, so from this date the FRT has been operating as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation under the new registration number.
The final stage is for the membership of the unincorporated association to approve its dissolution. We hope to undertake this at the 2016 AGM, after which the Charity Commission will be notified, to duly end the registration of the unincorporated association a charity.
İFurness Railway Trust