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Meeting called to vote on Highgate Cemetery merger

PUBLISHED: 11:51 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 September 2010

THE Friends of Highgate Cemetery have called an extraordinary meeting to vote on a proposed merger of three charities responsible for the historic site. The Ham&High first revealed negotiations were underway between the Friends group (FOHC)

Susanna Wilkey

THE Friends of Highgate Cemetery have called an extraordinary meeting to vote on a proposed merger of three charities responsible for the historic site.

The Ham&High first revealed negotiations were underway between the Friends group (FOHC) and the two other charities - the Highgate Cemetery Charity and the Highgate Cemetery Trust - last July after new chairman Tom Richardson was appointed.

Talks were said to have been virtually impossible before former chairwoman Jean Pateman's shock resignation last May because she shunned the other two charities.

But now the Friends will vote on a series of resolutions to rationalise the organisation of the charities at a meeting at the cemetery on March 11.

Mr Richardson said: "It is the most logical thing to have one charity responsible for all of the charitable activities at the cemetery.

"It is something which those of us who have been involved in have worked hard to do and something the Charity Commission wants us to do.

"When I became chairman, the Highgate Cemetery Charity and the Highgate Cemetery Trust approached me and said would I come along to a meeting.

"At the meeting, they handed me a glass of champagne and that was the beginning of a series of negotiations which took place throughout the summer.

"It had been a rather illogical set-up that revolved around the personalities of the people involved which was a bit of baggage I did not want to pick up. So I left that behind.

"This will not change anything in the day to day at the cemetery but it will simplify the way we report to the Charity Commission and the management arrangements will be much more sensible."

The proposed amendments have the support of all the trustees on the Friends' board, including Mrs Pateman.

They would increase the number of trustees from nine to 12, limit the time a trustee could serve to six years, abolish the protectors who are now thought to be redundant and introduce a conflict of interest provision.

If the first resolution is passed, it will mean the Highgate Cemetery Trust would be dissolved and landowners the Highgate Cemetery Charity would have one trustee - the FOHC.

This would leave the Friends the sole charity responsible for all aspects of the cemetery.

The change has the support of the Charity Commission.

It has noted that "a single charity at Highgate Cemetery is more likely to deliver a coherent programme for the management of charitable activity consistent with the effective use of resources".

The resolutions need to be passed by a majority of three- quarters of those voting at the meeting.

The cemetery is one of the jewels of Highgate, where many notable people are buried, including Karl Marx and George Eliot. It is one of the "Magnificent Seven" cemeteries built in the 1800s.

For more information, visit www.highgate-cemetery.org.

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