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Gaining legal status

Setting up a new legal body

This guidance is for those involved in a Big Local partnership that is thinking about becoming an incorporated organisation or setting up a separate legal body.

It is also for people who have been asked to provide support to Big Local partnerships so that they can understand how they will need to work within the Big Local ethos and values.

This guidance should be read alongside the core guidance on locally trusted organisationspartnerships and how to use the Big Local name and logo. In addition, three Big Local areas with experience of tackling incorporation share their highs and lows below.

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What is this guidance about?
Use of terms
Why set up a legal body?

Making the right decision

Take some time to ask the right questions. Why do you want to do this?

Setting up a legal body is a journey. It takes time and patience. Your first step is to carefully consider and discuss what you are trying to achieve and why setting up a legal body might help you with this.

Key questions to ask
Allow enough time for discussion
Hear all voices
Think about alternatives
Be aware of the practicalities
Draw on support
Getting the right support

How to make incorporation work

Once you have an understanding of why you might want to incorporate or set up a new legal body there are a number of activities that will influence the success of your new organisation. These include building understanding, managing conflicts of interest, setting up appropriate policies and financial planning.

Working through these will help ensure you get everything in order and think through your options. This section also includes more about governance, assets and financial planning as well as links to useful resources.

You’ll find a glossary of technical terms which you may find useful at the bottom of this page.

Community needs
Build understanding
Manage conflicts of interest
Understand relationships
Create a clear and straightforward governing document
Set up a governing body
Protect your assets
Develop a long-term business plan
Funding and organisational form
Set up clear policies and procedures

Choosing a structure

It is up to you to decide what structure (also called ‘legal form’) you want. For the more common structures, there are model governing documents that you can look at. These can make the process of setting up a new legal body and getting it registered easier and faster. If you choose a less common structure, it will be vital to get specialist advice. There are pros and cons to each structure. it is important to know why you have chosen your preferred form and what the alternatives are.

Registering with a Regulator
Charitable status
What structure (or legal form) is right for you?

And finally

  • Take your time. Don’t be rushed into a decision.
  • Make sure your Big Local ethos and values are central to all decisions.
  • Understand the requirements of the Charity Commission and/or Companies House.
  • Understand your legal and financial responsibilities.
  • Make sure that your chosen structure will support what you want to achieve for your community.
  • Make sure your board or committee reflects your local community and brings in the skills and experience you need for what you want to achieve.
  • Ask questions – ask, ask and ask again!


Introduction to four structures or legal forms that are common to the Big Local programme

Case studies

Hear first-hand from other Big Local partnerships about the peaks and pitfalls they experienced.

Fratton: why incorporation is not always necessary
Leigh West: charitable status grants independence
Tang Hall: becoming a charity helps decision making
Whitley: choosing charitable status