As we approach Bristol’s Mayoral election, we'll see an increasing tempo to political life in the city.  It’s public knowledge that Sandy Hore-Ruthven, Chief Executive of Creative Youth Network, is standing as the Green candidate for Mayor, and I wanted to take this opportunity to describe some of the thinking and discussion at Creative Youth Network’s Board as to how we plan to manage any issues that may arise for the charity as a result.

Firstly, it’s important to say that Sandy enjoys the Board and senior colleagues' complete support in his efforts to become Mayor. Not in any political way, but in a civic way. It seems entirely appropriate to us that we support a citizen of Bristol who wants to run for elected office since it’s crucial to our devolving democracy that we do.

It’s also important to acknowledge, and explore, some of the challenges that may arise when the citizen concerned is Chief Executive of a charity that, for example, bids for, and delivers, services on behalf of Bristol City Council. We need to be mindful of the many stakeholders that Creative Youth Network has, from our beneficiaries, volunteers and staff, to our funders, partners, commissioners and supporters. Creative Youth Network is an important part of the fabric of city life, and as Chief Executive Sandy is one of the most visible champions for our work and the many thousands of young people whom we serve.

We have considered the Charity Commission guidance on the legal and regulatory framework for charities wishing to engage in campaigning and political activity. This doesn’t entirely fit with our circumstances, but the guidance does stipulate that as Trustees we must not allow the charity to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the political views of any individual staff member. To that end Sandy has already agreed to scrupulously distinguish in what capacity he is attending meetings.

In addition, to avoid any muddying of the boundaries in the immediate run up to the election in May 2020, we have agreed that from mid-February 2020 Sandy will be taking unpaid leave from Creative Youth Network. This ensures that for the most intense part of the campaign, Sandy will not be involved in the day-to-day running of the charity which will pass to our Chief Operating Officer Jack Beech and Chief Financial Officer Mark Coates. Should Sandy be successful in his bid to become Mayor this structure will continue as we recruit a new CEO. If Sandy is unsuccessful, he will return to his full-time role as CEO.

We have established a sub-committee of the Board responsible for dealing with any issues arising from this situation, including reputational risk to the charity, our partners and funders, and will ensure they are referred immediately to this group. We believe that we have the procedures in place to cover any potential conflicts of interest and ensure Creative Youth Network continues to thrive. 

This blog is part of a range of ongoing activity to inform and engage colleagues, key stakeholders and supporters in our efforts to ensure we are as transparent as possible in our approach to fulfilling our responsibilities over the coming months. I want to reassure everyone that the Board of Trustees and Sandy have agreed a robust set of procedures to cover any potential conflicts of interest whilst allowing Creative Youth Network to continue to thrive, and Sandy to exercise his civic duty.

If you wish to highlight any concerns, or if you have any questions, please do contact me, Mike Lea, as Chair of the Board of Trustees at [email protected]

Editors note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness