Action 4 Botton

ACTION FOR BOTTON REGRETS FAILURE OF MEDIATION INITIATIVE BUT VOWS THAT THE CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE

6 January 2015 

Campaign group Action for Botton regrets the failure of the recent mediation talks between Botton, Delrow and the Grange Communities and the Camphill Village Trust. Essential elements for mediation would not be committed to by CVT, and Action for Botton together with Alliance for Camphill have vowed that they will continue their campaign to fight drastic changes being implemented by CVT at the three communities.

Action for Botton chair Neil Davidson said: "Botton delegates went to the talks with an open mind and enthusiasm, committed to finding common ground with CVT over the changes that are being implemented. But progress has simply not been made and the reason for this is that The Charity has, even while we struggled to find a way forward, been continuing with its changes at Botton.  We asked for an assurance that these would cease but this has not been given, removing all chance of a successful mediation”

The recent talks were brokered by Marjatta van Boeschoten, general secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain and held under the guidance of Dr Fritz Glasl. Ms van Boeschoten originally proposed the mediation, (referred to by CVT as “discussion” only) with the ultimate aim being “to make a genuine attempt to find a solution that preserves, to the fullest extent possible, the Camphill ethos, values and guiding principles as well as being fully compliant with all current care, tax and legal requirements”

Neil Davidson added, “We are convinced that CVT’s intention is to dismantle the whole ethos of the Botton community and particularly the Co-workers’ valuable relationship with the learning disabled.  The fact remains the Co-worker model works very successfully, and also legally, in many other Camphill communities across the UK but CVT seem determined to tear down this system at Botton, in the same way that they have in most of their other communities.”

The essential elements were set out as an Addendum to the Emerson Declaration, as drafted by the three communities of Botton, Delrow and the Grange with CVT. The two conditions were:

1. “That Camphill Village Trust put in place a suspension of all current and proposed changes on the ground towards employment (subject to the HMRC deadline of April 5th 2015), shared living and new project development while mediation and post-mediation processes continue as set out in the Emerson Declaration

and

2. That CVT put in place in the first week of the New Year interim cooperative management arrangements agreed with ourselves (the Co-Workers of Botton) to include vocational Co-workers, with a voice given to Villagers, that will enable us to continue to work with CVT management on the day to day running of the community, as well as allow us to participate within mediation and post-mediation exercises.”

Action For Botton also claimed that leaked documents prove that Camphill Village Trust has continued to press ahead with its re-structuring plans for Botton while the mediation process was being proposed and continued whilst the mediation was underway.  These documents apparently show that 15 new appointments – including a Development Lead, Social Enterprise Lead, Training Co-coordinator and Café Supervisor - have been made recently by CVT with a further four current employees also securing roles within the new structure. 

In addition, Action for Botton maintains that the documents reveal the CVT’s unsustainable business model, as they show payments to support workers outside the South East as less than the NMW for budgeting purposes in accordance with the management structure being imposed by CVT. 

Recently, Action for Botton welcomed the decision taken by members of the Association of Camphill Communities (AoCC) to provide full support to the Botton Village community in its struggle to continue operating in line with the founding principles of Camphill. 

Action for Botton has also rebutted CVT’s recent claim that HMRC was scrapping the long-established tax arrangements for vocational Co-workers and that HMRC required these workers to become employees with effect from April 2015.

The AoCC reported that it had confirmation from both taxation experts and HM Treasury that the tax agreement negotiated back in 2002 was still valid.  In addition, a number of Co-workers at Botton have also now received confirmation from HMRC that it merely provided an ‘opinion’ to Camphill Village Trust based on evidence supplied solely by CVT and it is not a ‘ruling’.

Neil Davidson added: “CVT’s actions amount to a self-fulfilling prophesy as they are the ones who have steamrollered through drastic changes and imposed a hierarchical management structure against the wishes of the clear majority of the Co-workers, the learning disabled Villagers and their families. They then go to HMRC and then ask whether their changes mean that the previously agreed tax arrangements are no longer relevant.  

“I am delighted that HMRC have now strongly verified that the long-standing tax arrangements for vocational Co-workers remain valid.”

The Action for Botton campaign group was launched in the middle of last year to fight changes to the Botton community being implemented by CVT. It has since been joined by representatives of CVT’s Delrow and The Grange communities, forming the Alliance for Camphill.

The group believes the changes will destroy the community ethos of the communities by forcing the volunteer vocational Co-workers who work and live alongside the learning disabled to either become hourly paid, shift working employees or face eviction.  The changes will also mean that the learning-disabled villagers who have chosen to live in a family-like setting with the comfort and reassurance of Co-worker house-parents, will in future not be able to do so.