In the interests of balance, and of you being able to make up your own mind on the issues DBDUC recently raised with Dartington Hall Trust, we here print in full Interim DHT CEO Karen Williams’ response to our letter which appeared in our last post. While there is much here we disagree with, we are grateful for the thorough and thoughtful response.
Thank you for the statement you sent to Vaughan on 27th April, which I acknowledged last week. I am really grateful to you for expressing both yours and Don’t Bury Dartington Under Concrete’s (DBDUC) concerns on these three specific issues. I do understand that these issues have troubled you and can see how, given the recent past, you might want to raise these in this more formal way.
I would like to take this opportunity, as interim CEO, to reassure you that I, the leadership team and Trustees are committed to developing new ways of working with the community. We want these new ways of working to reflect our values and build on the extensive knowledge and experiences of all our communities. I know that we are all keen to adopt this change in approach and we are all looking forward to the opportunities that this will undoubtedly yield. Now really is the time to seize the opportunity, build bridges and create something amazing together.
I am sure you will agree that we are already starting to put in place key components f these new ways of working – our Annual Members Meeting planned for July and The Place-Making Advisory Group are good examples of this. However, given that significant change is needed, we do need time and space to shift our culture and style if we are to adapt and evolve. I do understand that larger organisations can appear to move slowly as they adjust the many moving parts needed to create substantial change. I therefore ask that you support us in this period by giving us time to work through the necessary steps.
With regard to the points in your statement about White Young Green, Simon Cronk and Tim Jones, we will always be prepared to listen to and examine legitimate concerns from members of the community about the policies, behaviours and actions of the Trust, including its staff and Trustees, and this situation is no exception. On the specific points about individuals we would like to say that whilst we may understand the rationale for your concerns, as a Trust, we do not agree with them, and are deeply worried about your personalisation of issues. We are uncomfortable that DBDUC has taken to targeting particular individuals within the Trust and holding them personally to account for past decisions. We do need to say unequivocally that it is not for DBDUC or any other group to call for the removal of trustees or members of staff, as these are decisions for the trustees and executive to make in accordance with our own internal procedures.
We are not suggesting the we have always made the right decisions – indeed David Green acknowledged and apologised for some of the Trust’s past decisions in his letter of 4th February – but it is inaccurate and unfair to seek to blame past or present decisions solely on particular individuals or to assume that one or two individuals will dominate future direction and decision making. This simply is not the case and does not reflect how decisions are made at The Trust.
On a personal level, I hope that as we work together with the community we can do so in a way that shows respect for the individuals in our community and their different backgrounds and views, even if we don’t agree with them. I believe it is right that Dartington welcomes a range of views and opinions and can reassure you that no one voice has undue influence in our decision making.
On the first of your specific points regarding White Young Green (WYG) we would like to suggest that DBDUC and perhaps Rob Hopkins meet with us and WYG’s CEO Tim Holden, to discuss your concerns. I believe this would provide us all with the opportunity to explore the issues you raise and jointly hear the answers. I am sure Tim Holden would welcome the chance to meet with you and answer your questions. If you are happy with this approach I will ask Charlotte Leach to organise this meeting.
With regard to your concerns about Tim Jones and Simon Cronk, you will appreciate that I have a duty to ensure that the Trust ensures its trustees and staff are treated with fairness and justice. We have considered the information provided in your statement and the Chair of Trustees has discussed these directly with Tim Jones. The Property Director equally has followed the same process with Simon Cronk. In both cases we believe your concerns are unfounded.
I would also like to invite you to meet with the Place and Community Committee Trustee members when they next come together on 4th June. The meeting will include Jo Williams, Steve Jones and Tim Jones, (unfortunately Sylvie Pierce, whom you recently met, will be abroad at that time) and should give you the opportunity to discuss freely with the Trustee Committee members any topics in advance of their meeting.
I hope that you will welcome the suggested approach in this letter and I look forward to working with you and DBDUC over the coming months as we develop and put in place a more collaborative and open approach to working with our communities and place-making.
Interim Chief Executive Officer.