Action 4 Botton

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Frequently asked questions

CVT claim that "Co-workers are breaking tax rules"

We can show that no co-worker has, but that CVT has been breaking tax rules, in fact for years. 

Let us explain. In 1998, a Queen’s Counsel’s Opinion (Peter Trevett) was obtained and an agreement with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (BIM22040) was made. These recognised that many aspects of Camphill community life are benefits that have no trade equivalent and are therefore not taxable. Instead of paying out a salary to community members for supporting the disabled people, co-workers pool all monies to the benefit of all in the community. Peter Trevett wrote that “the sole question is whether a co-worker can be said to be in employment whilst being a member of a Camphill Community”. As Camphill communities are self-managing and not defined by contract, co-workers were indeed not seen as employees or as holding an office. 

In 2010, however, CVT’s first Chief Executive began to dramatically change the charity’s relationship with its communities. Breaking with Camphill principles, instead of supporting them CVT now manages and controls them – a classical take over. CVT now behaves as an employer and has thereby threatened the basis for the Camphill tax agreement. CVT disclosed this to HMRC last year and was advised that co-workers would need to be taxed as employees from the following financial year, i.e. from April 2015.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, however wrote: “I would like to make it clear that there has been no recent change in legislation, nor changes in rules by HMRC, which affect the tax status of volunteer workers. It appears that changes being introduced by the CVT are as a result of independent advice received by the Trust, and not as a result of any direct or indirect action by HMRC.” HMRC confirmed “that HMRC’s status review is only relevant to the co-workers in CVT and their relationship with the Charity”. 

The impression that the HMRC tax agreement (BIM22040, Trevett) was no longer valid is therefore untrue; it was CVT that made changes and has been treating co-workers as employees for years. Instead of rectifying the situation and re-establishing the conditions described in the Camphill founding charter as well as the HMRC tax rule, in the way that many Camphill Communities that are not part of CVT do very successfully, CVT are now doing something even more unfair. They have been pressurising all co-workers to become employed under threat of eviction. Adding insult to injury, they are publicly blaming co-workers for braking tax law, which they have not done.

It could be argued that the Board of Trustees should have known that imposing a hierarchy of management on previously self-managing communities is not only against the charity’s founding document but also in breach of the HMRC tax rule and employment tax law. Instead it appears they have ignored this risk for years.

A possible solution: re-establish a situation on the ground that is in line with Camphill, Trevett and BIM22040. This is safe, tried an tested, it is what cooperatives and social enterprises do. Coworkers would continue to employ managers etc to run the community in a compliant, contemporaneous and Camphill way.

 

What are the likely consequences of a movement to employment on CVT’s terms?

CVT will choose which co-workers it will offer employment. Others will be expected to leave the community. Many of these will be individuals who have given decades of service to create Botton Village. Many continue to maintain the fabric of the community in manifold ways (often unseen or unvalued by the charity).

CVT is making very clear that it regards Residential Employment as very problematic. Consequently, they are not committing to the continuation of the live-in / ‘life-sharing’ model. Residents are likely to find themselves living alone in houses, with care staff coming in to provide strictly limited contractual hours of support.

CVT has made clear that offers of employment will be made strictly on the basis of its contractual social care obligations. This goes far beyond the tax issue given as a pretext for the changes, suggesting a more wide ranging agenda for Botton. The result will be that the other social / cultural aspects of village life are likely to wither and die. The Christian Community, Botton School, and the Eurythmy School  are unlikely to survive, and with them will go all the richness they bring.

The net effect of these changes is likely to be the exodus of the majority of co-workers: both those directly made redundant, and the others who feel the loss of Botton’s social and cultural vitality unbearable. At this point 80% of the Botton co-workers are indicating they will not accept employment in CVT. A vibrant and living village will be reduced to a sterile social care institution (however excellent the care provision).

This scenario may sound far-fetched, but a close study of the post co-worker CVT communities suggests a predictable trajectory. Furthermore, a  purely social care institution at the back of Danby Dale would be of doubtful viability. What is the logistical plan for transporting in the requisite number of care workers to such a remote location? What are the bad weather contingencies? Is it financially viable? Does a conventional care provider in such a location not begin to look like the ‘Victorian Institution’ the world is moving away from? Has CVT thought through and planned for any of this?

 

If employment exists in other Camphill centres, why not Botton?

It is true that employment has been introduced in other Camphill centre, with varying degrees of success, in terms of preserving ‘the essentials’. Many would feel that some of these centres have lost the Camphill element in the process. However, there are some more encouraging precedents. In the Norwegian Camphill centres, for instance, people are technically employed, but all the incomes are pooled to be used as a community resource.

We feel that the current proposal differs in important ways from the more positive employment models across the international movement:

  • Employment has worked well in communities that are self-managing, and where the Board is sympathetic to ‘the ‘Camphill ethos’. In our case, we see employment coming as an imposition from a Trust that appears to have lost its connection to its own founding philosophy, and that appears intent on top-down management of its communities.
  • CVT will offer employment to only those members of the co-working body that it sees fit. Many members who have given their lives to create Botton, and are integral to its functioning in the wider sense, can hope for no such offer.
  • Employment will mark the end of the equality that has always formed the basis of community life. Positions will be differentiated and remunerated accordingly. Recruitment will be fully controlled by the charity, and conducted on their terms.
  • CVT will take full charge of the management of a community that has been largely self-managing for 60 years (albeit in conjunction with a local manager since 2011).
  • Consequently, all important aspects of the running of the community will be under the firm control of the Charity hierarchy.
  • Crucially, the charity has made it clear that with employment, the life-sharing model can no longer be guaranteed.

We feel that this context differs entirely from other parts of the movement where employment has been made to work successfully by communities in control of their own destiny.

 

Are Botton co-workers fighting for a lost past?

No. For the last three years, Botton has been working very hard to overhaul systems to meet current social care requirements. Recent feedback from North Yorkshire and the CQC has been very positive. Despite the imposition of three successive General Managers by CVT, the co-workers have chosen to engage constructively with the latest appointee, to create a robust Three year plan.

For several years, the co-workers have been requesting that the charity explore alternative legal models for the future. Community Interest Companies and Co-operative enterprises have been mentioned as possible models that may allow the community to avoid the growing constraints of charity law, to evolve and flourish in new and exciting ways.

To date, the Board of CVT has refused to contemplate any future except the ‘one charity’ model they are publically committed to. The current impasse is a direct consequence of this failure of vision on the part of the Trustees.

From its inception, Camphill has been radical and innovative. Indeed, the ambition of its founders stretched far beyond the ‘over-compliant social care provider’ envisaged by CVT. Instead, it was an image of vibrant, many-faceted communities, in which the residents both thrive and contribute. The breadth of this vision is still evident in the charity’s own Memorandum & Articles of Association. [LINK]

We reject change imposed from above by a Board with vanishingly little grasp or sympathy for the ideals that inspire us. We embrace empowering, community-led change for a vibrant future!

 

Are the Botton Co-workers united?

While a number of Botton co-workers are considering employment, should there be no alternative, about three quarters of co-workers are saying categorically that they will not accept employment with CVT under any circumstances.

As a community of free-thinking individuals, we expect to have a spectrum of opinion on any question. On a question with such profound implications for each individual and their family, particularly strong and diverse reactions are to be expected.

The community is making considerable efforts to embrace all shades of opinion on this question with sensitivity and understanding. In this way, we hope to be able to maintain the social fabric of the community through this most difficult time.

 

What about Botton’s villagers?

Current social care legislation is driven by the principle of personalisation. Whilst this principle is rooted in a genuine idealism about empowering people with learning disabilities, it has a basic flaw. It views those it seeks to serve primarily as consumers, whose empowerment lies in being able to purchase what they need. We have always regarded Botton’s villagers as contributing citizens whose empowerment lies in living with and working alongside others whom they can truly call friends and colleagues. Were Botton co-workers to become employees, these relationships would become contractual – friendship, companionship and colleagueship will be purchased rather than developed in freedom. This is not to say that employees cannot provide high quality social care – they can and do – but for Botton’s villagers, co-worker employment will mean a corruption of existing freely-formed relationships, and the impossibility of forming new ones.