Cheshire Community Action provide capacity building support to village halls and community buildings funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This case study describes how one of our members (Guilden Sutton Community Association) has benefitted from our support.


Founded in 1980, Guilden Sutton Community Association (GSCA) is a registered charity that provides and supports opportunities for recreation and well-being in the local community of this Chester village. As well as owning and managing the village hall and the village car park, GCSA is involved in a wide range of social activities and community events extending from Guilden Sutton to Pipers Ash, including open gardens, the village fete, the village quiz, Christmas lights, Guilden Sutton 10K and Fun Run, and more.

GSCA has recently re-launched with a modern new constitution as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), with several new trustees joining its board.

The Challenge

GSCA’s constitution was impractical, largely out of date with the way the community association was run and did not provide sufficient protection for trustees. The original legal structure deterred people with fresh ideas from joining as trustees. It also hampered the volunteers willing to remain as trustees, who wanted to avoid personal liability. This understandable caution had a knock-on effect on GSCA members, who were becoming frustrated by the trustees’ reluctance to make decisions for the benefit of the community that might unreasonably expose them to personal liability. 

The Solution

Most village halls are registered charitable trusts, and their structure means trustees are personally liable for the organisation. Changing the village hall charity into an incorporated body such as a CIO means that the organisation, as a legal entity, takes the liability and protects the individual on the management committee or board. This structure helps break down barriers to volunteer recruitment and strengthens the governance structure by bringing it up-to-date and making it fit for purpose, making it more favourable to funders.

GSCA had superficially explored the possibility of becoming a CIO before meeting with Kevin Janes, Cheshire Community Action’s Community Development Manager, in July 2021. Kevin confirmed the benefits of moving to a CIO structure and provided legal advice and step-by-step guidance through the conversion process. He also calmly resolved differences of opinion between trustees and ensured that the group made progress without stalling. With Kevin’s guidance, the association completed the incorporation process and the CIO merger went through in June 2023.


The CIO has an expanded team of proactive trustees with fresh ideas and a wide range of talent and experience. Converting to a CIO has boosted the team of volunteer trustees and helped protect them from the liabilities of running a public building. It has also created the opportunity to update the existing constitution and policies, making them more relevant and bringing them in line with current practice and regulatory requirements. As a CIO, GSCA has broader powers to raise money and enter contracts for property, services and employment.

Becoming a CIO has benefited the trustees and helped generate an increasing number of volunteers to support community activities and village hall improvements. Originally, any village resident automatically became a member of GSCA, but members’ engagement and understanding was very low. Now, village residents can still join free of charge but actively apply for membership and agree to receive direct communications. As a result, although the CIO has fewer ‘members’, the membership is more engaged and informed. Membership currently stands at about 150 people and is increasing every month.

If your trustees would like support to review your organisation’s legal structure and governance, please get in touch with Kevin Janes, Community Development Manager