The National Trust has shot down media reports that its chairman Tim Parker resigned in response to a planned vote of no confidence by disgruntled members.
The Daily Telegraph claimed earlier this week that Parker had announced his departure 24 hours after a rebel group of members set out plans to oust him at the conservation charity’s upcoming AGM.
The Restore Trust group said it was demanding that Parker step down in one of four resolutions it plans to table at the meeting because “the National Trust’s leadership has frequently been out of step with its members and supporters over recent years”.
The group later claimed victory for Parker’s resignation, saying “his position was clearly untenable given everything that has happened and the current crisis of confidence in the National Trust”.
News of Parker’s departure was covered extensively in the press and social media; the Brexit campaign group Leave.EU hailed it as a victory in the bid to “restore the woke National Trust to its former glory”, while commentator Toby Young said he hoped it would “send a message to the heads of other national institutions who pander to left-wing activists and ignore their patriotic, small c conservative members”.
But a National Trust spokesman said the claim that Parker had announced his resignation after the resolution was posted was inaccurate, and that he had formally told trustees of his intention to step down on 18 May, a week before Restore Trust announced the resolution.
Parker took on an additional term last year to provide continuity and stability during the pandemic and his tenure as chair was due to come to an end, said the spokesman.
Parker has presided over a difficult year for the trust; a major restructure saw it make more than 1,200 redundancies due to Covid, while it also faced intense criticism in Parliament and the press over its report on links to slavery and empire at its properties, which was published at a time of heated public debate over contested heritage. A Charity Commission inquiry found that the trust had not breached charity law in publishing the report.
He will step down in October after seven years as chairman. The appointment of his successor will be made by the National Trust Council.
Parker said in a statement: “The past 15 months, since the first Covid-19 lockdown, have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, including the National Trust. I thank everyone, not least the many thousands of volunteers, for their fantastic work during these difficult times and I am proud that, because of that work, we are now well on track for a full recovery and we can get on with our fundamental task, which is conservation work across our houses, landscapes and collections. It has been an immense privilege to serve the trust for seven years as chair and, as we emerge from the pandemic, the time is now right for the search to begin for my successor.
In a statement, the National Trust director Hilary McGrady said: “We are deeply grateful for the time, energy and passion Tim has brought to the role of chair. Under his guidance our charity has grown in strength and capability. Its membership has grown from 4.2 million in 2014 to nearly 6 million at the start of the pandemic, and we have managed more than £900m worth of conservation projects during Tim’s tenure. He leaves us in a strong position, despite the challenges the pandemic has brought. It is a matter of huge gratitude and pride that the places in our care are reopening to visitors.”
The Restore Trust group is planning to table three more resolutions at the AGM concerning the remuneration of senior staff, the loss of expert curators and the treatment of volunteers.
A date for the AGM has not yet been announced.