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Village Hall Trust meeting - July 2013



SADDLEBACK ROOM, BLENCATHRA CENTER (by courtesy of the Field Studies Council)


Present (Trustees): Donald Angus, Sarah Corri, Carolyn Cripps, Sue Dunn, Adrian Eddleston, Steven Oldfield, Trevor Roberts.

Also present: Neil Beresford (Treasurer), Phil Sturgess (Coordinator, Marketing Action Group)

Not present (Trustee): Roger Bragg

  1. Apologies

      Barbara Lowesmith (Monitoring Officer)

  1. Minutes of the last Ordinary Meeting held on 10 April 2013 (previously circulated)

These were approved as a correct record.

  1. Matters arising from the Minutes not on the agenda


  1. Resignation

Gill Winter has resigned as a Parish Council appointed member of the Committee. The Parish Council has been informed, and has been invited to appoint a replacement. Any replacement will take effect as soon as the Secretary is officially informed  of the Parish Council's choice and the necessary formalities have been completed. The Committee noted the position.

  1. Revitalisation scheme

An oral update on progress was presented. Basically the scheme is proceeding steadily, the contractors and consultancy teams all working well. There have been some problems, especially with the stability of the rear wall of the Hall; these have been resolved, but have caused some cost and some delay. As things stand the contractors are hoping to catch up on time lost so far and a reopening in January is still predicted. Quite separately, the Coffee Shop has decided to defer its opening for about a month on commercial grounds, even if the Hall is reopened in January. The Committee noted this report.

Visit by Steve Dunn of the Big Lottery

Steve Dunn, the Big Lottery Technical Adviser, had visited earlier in the day - a routine visit half way through a project.

He went to the site, attended the Site Progress Meeting, and then went to a buffet lunch at the Horse and Farrier attended by about a dozen of our local "activists", to get an impression of the non-technical elements of the project.

He reported that there is clearly a positive and enthusiastic feel to the project; given the problems and the constraints of the site we have made very good progress; it was good to see for himself and appreciate the hard work we are putting in; he hopes to get the opportunity to visit at completion; and expressed confidence in a fantastic outcome.

This report was noted.

  1. Financial reports

Neil Beresford had circulated a financial report prior to the meeting and this was considered.

He reported that the General Account contained £8,253. There is relatively little income or expenditure on this account at the moment.

The Project Account contains £117,733, mainly from previous grants and fundraising, as ongoing building costs are largely covered by the Big Lottery and other grant claims. As the project nears completion, the amount in this account will of course be much reduced and will need to be managed carefully. VAT reclamation is rapid and like clockwork, so we are avoiding any cash flow problems as a result of VAT payments; similarly claims to the BL are being processed within a few days, which helps enormously.

The Building Contract included a contingency which has now been modified as a result of additional savings and additional expenses, the net effect being an erosion of the contingency amount available. The additional costs have been due to the poor condition of the original building and complexities in the underground works.  The position is monitored very closely but we must assume that there will be no "spare" cash from the building contract.

Projections of the Village Hall "normal" expenditure are based on the various business plans produced last year, which involve targets for bookings in all categories being met. It was emphasised that as well as the Coffee Shop being a "start up business", so really was the Village Hall itself, and we need to approach it in this light from now on and be very proactive to ensure our financial targets are met.

This report was noted. 

  1. Funding of the Threlkeld Coffee Shop CIC

A report on this by the Chairman and Treasurer had been circulated prior to the meeting and was referred to in discussion. The discussion also overlapped with discussion in connection with the next item.

Trevor Roberts, Neil Beresford and Adrian Eddleston are all Directors of the Coffee Shop CIC. This potential conflict of interest was declared but no unconflicted members regarded this as relevant to the discussion or decisions. Trevor Roberts and Adrian Eddleston refrained from voting.

The modified approach of the CIC to "business build up" was outlined, with a switch from "gradual build up in the light of demand" being replaced by a "start as we mean to go on" approach. This had created a possible cash flow problem during the first18 months of operation, something which the earlier approach had not involved. The CIC has explored the possibility of a short term loan. This is potentially available, but (a) it is expensive and (b) it involves the VHT because lenders insist on putting a charge on the Village Hall as security, something the CIC saw as being awkward in many ways, even though the VHT is the owner of the CIC.

The CIC has modified its financial projections to some extent without altering its fundamental business start up approach. On this basis it can survive with a smaller loan than had been proposed, and this is available without the security on the Hall itself referred to. However, the potential lender will require a written undertaking from the VHT that in the event of the CIC defaulting on the loan repayments, then it will be willing and able to cover any outstanding amount itself. Neil Beresford confirmed it will be able to afford this on the basis of its own financial projections, especially since it will be collecting about £9000 per year in license fee charges from the CIC, in itself enough to cover any liability. Indications are that the loan application will be approved subject to this condition (a decision is now expected on 16 August).

However, in the event of the loan application being unsuccessful, it will still be possible for the CIC to avoid a cash flow problem if the cash balances of the VHT and the CIC are considered together. An alternative approach was outlined in which the VHT deferred collection of the license fee until July 2015, after which the amount which would have been paid is recovered by an increased quarterly payment over a three year period. This short term, virtually risk free investment in the VHT's own business is both sensible and acceptable to the Charity Commission, provided it is not an outright grant (which it would not be).

After discussion, the Committee agreed:

  • to provide a written undertaking to a lender that in the event of default by the CIC on loan repayments as outlined in the report given, it would step in and cover any outstanding amount Action: Steven Oldfield in due course
  • in the event of the CIC's loan application being refused, the VHT would defer collection of the initial license fee payments until after July 2015, after which the deferred amounts would be recouped by increased quarterly payments. Action: Neil Beresford in due course.

This decision allows the CIC to continue with its plans to open the Coffee Shop with confidence in its financial base.

  1. Funding for furniture, equipment etc

Grant applications

An oral update on the outcome of grant applications was given. Although to date there has not been any success, there are still applications outstanding and several options to try - and new options appear quite frequently. Applications can be made in the name of the VHT or of another organisation if more appropriate, which helps a lot. This report was noted.

Application to the Charity Bank

The Charity Bank was approached as agreed at the last meeting but it does not do loans for less than  £50,000. There are other possible lenders but they have not been approached as yet, the interest rates and general terms do seem to be somewhat onerous. (The CIC loan application referred to above is a separate issue. If it proceeded the repayments of a loan would be covered by the CIC itself, and would only impact on the VHT relatively slightly).

After consideration, the Committee decided that for the moment at least we will not pursue the option of seeking a loan to finance equipment and furniture by the time the Hall reopens.

Possible funding generated via capital/loans subscribed by individuals

Neil Beresford reported that it appears reasonably straightforward for the Trust to issue bonds whereby individuals would lodge sums of money with the Trust to be repaid at some time in the future, with or without interest. Various decisions have to be made regarding time periods, interest levels and payment arrangements etc Specific advice will be needed regarding the wording of the bond issue, and it will need to be promoted properly in terms of what it is for. It will be necessary to consult the Charity Commission to ensure there are no objections from that quarter. We will need to have financial forecasts and arrangements in place to ensure the Trust has sufficient funds available to repay the bonds at the relevant point in future (unlikely to be less than five years).

For us to have the money in place in time for us to purchase furniture/equipment prior to the Hall reopening, we will have to move quickly on this. Assuming that the "technical" matters can be resolved, the crucial point is whether this is something the VHT wishes to do in principle, and whether we believe there will be a sufficient response to justify the effort. The balance of view on the Committee was that there seems nothing to lose by this approach and that there could be the level of interest required.

It was agreed to authorise Neil Beresford to make the necessary detailed investigations and consultations, and to report back to the Committee with specific proposals; then, in view of the significance of this step, to make a decision on the basis of his report to be ratified at the next meeting or if necessary by a specially convened meeting.  Action: Neil Bersford

  1. Marketing and promotion

Phil Sturgess, convenor of the Marketing Action Group, reported on various marketing/promotion activities.

Bookings and Marketing Secretary

An advert for this part time post will appear in the next edition of Beneath Bencathra, even though a start date will not be before October/November. This post can if necessary be partly financed from the Big Lottery publicity grant.

The website and associated developments

The Village Hall website is well established and being well used, managed by Helen O'Brien. Steve Dunn from the Big Lottery specifically complimented us on this. The blog of photos of the revitalisation scheme progress is being updated once or twice a week by Ursula Pool. Rachael Kelly has just established Facebook pages for the Village Hall generally and for the Coffee Shop; Twitter accounts will be set up very soon along with these. These social media are critical to promoting the Village Hall and its use among younger people and will be managed eventually by the Bookings and Management Secretary and by the Coffee Shop Manager.

An official "launch"

It has now been decided to focus on a single "launch" in the February/April period, with a celebrity doing an official opening - arrangements are in hand but it will not be possible to have any definite news on this until November. Funds for this will be a combination of the Big Lottery publicity grant and sponsorship.

Publicity leaflets

Events and activities planned in the Hall will be publicised by leaflets circulated locally and in the Keswick area (via Kesmail), three or four times per year; advance planning is already well under way, but to use this approach events will need to be fixed 3-4 months in advance. The first year of this system will cost £2000 and can be financed partly from the Big Lottery grant.

Keswick Reminder

It is planned to put a monthly advert in the Reminder, with funds generated by ticket sales and booking fees.

Promotion generally.

The Support Group will be arranging for systematic publicity through posters and placing of promotional material in relevant spots.

Big Lottery publicity grant

The BL has offered £3000 towards publicity and promotion for the Hall relaunch. Currently, it is assumed that this will be spent roughly as follows: £1000 in support of the launch event; £1000 in support of publicity leaflets; and £1000 in support of the BAMS post. However, it is hoped to get some additional grant aid in support of publicity generally, and also the situation as regards publicity is still flexible, so some changes are probable in how this money is allocated.

The Committee

  • noted the report
  • emphasised the importance of promoting advance Hall bookings in all categories from now on, in advance of the BAMS appointment, and encouraged the Marketing Action Group to get on with this
  • authorised the officers and Phil Sturgess to agree a detailed budget for publicity..

Action: mainly Phil Sturgess

  1. Village Hall Draw

Arrangements regarding the draw were considered, including the option of holding a draw associated with the Hall opening instead of the annual Christmas Draw. The VHT is licensed to run a lottery, which covers such draws.

After discussion it was resolved to

  • run the usual Grand Christmas Draw with donated prizes, the draw to take place on the date of the Christmas Whist Drive, for which plans are in hand Action: Carolyn Cripps/Roger Bragg
  • run an additional "Grand Opening Draw" quite separately, to be drawn on the date of an "opening bash" when the Hall is opened, with larger prizes than the Christmas Draw if possible - this will be organised by members of the Support Group Action: Sarah Corri
  1. Message in a bottle/Time Capsule

After discussing some options, it was agreed that

  • the "message in a bottle" dating from 1933 which was found under the floor should be added to the planned Time Capsule
  • arrangements for the Capsule should be made with Elaine Airey (who kindly volunteered to coordinate this), the contractors and any possible sponsors.  

Action: Steven Oldfield

  1. Village Hall Equal Opportunities Policy and Procedures

The Committee reviewed these on the basis of a previously circulated draft. The revised policy was approved.

  1. Village Hall Environmental Policy

The Committee reviewed these on the basis of a previously circulated draft. The revised policy was approved.

Additionally it was agreed to consider and adopt a programme of action based on this policy when it is next reviewed, in about a year's time, when we will have more experience of how the revitalised Hall is being managed.

  1. Village Hall Health and Safety Policy

A slightly revised and updated Health and Safety Policy had been circulated. Although ideally it needs quite substantial revision, it was felt this is not the point to do this. It was agreed

  • to approve the document as an interim statement pending the conduct of professional risk assessments prior to the revitalised Hall opening (arrangements for this are in hand)
  • to review and amend it alongside the risk assessments referred to, and a clearer distinction made between the broad policy and specific procedures to be followed in relation to health and safety
  • our future arrangements with respect to health and safety can be determined then (late 2013 or early 2014). 

Action: Steven Oldfield, Trevor Roberts

  1. Village Hall Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy

This policy and various associated procedures were adopted in August 2011 and have not been properly reviewed since.  The intention was to reconsider them after the Board undertook some training which in the event did not take place.

The officers have looked into the matter of Disclosure and Barring Service checks (the modern equivalent of CRB checking) and concluded that because of the nature of the VHT as an organisation and what it does, these checks are not required for either staff or direct volunteers. It was agreed that this part of our current procedures can be regarded as non-applicable.

Other aspects of the current policy and procedures still  need to be updated/revised before the Hall comes back into use. It was agreed

  • to arrange a short training session on these issues for both the VHT and other affected organisations prior to this being done.
  • review our own policy/procedures later this year following this session.

Action: Trevor Roberts

It is necessary to maintain our existing system of seeking signed acceptances from organisations which use the Hall that where relevant they have appropriate policies/procedures on this issue and will ensure they are observed. Several organisations which use the Hall will need to have such policies/procedures, and we remain committed to assisting them observe their procedures as much as we reasonably can. 

  1. Any other business

Proposed Coffee Shop advertising sign on the gable end of the Village Hall

On behalf of the Coffee Shop CIC, Trevor Roberts sought permission from the VHT for the CIC to display an advertisement on the Keswick end gable wall of the Village Hall, in order to attract custom from walkers, cyclists and others entering the village from that side. Such a display will require planning consent from the LDNPA but before any further progress can be made the permission of the VHT as owner of the building is required. A photomontage of the proposed sign was presented so that Committee could see exactly what is involved.

The proposed wording was "Threlkeld Coffee Shop". The Committee took the view that a display should include the words "Village Hall" as well. It therefore refused the CIC's application for permission.

It was noted at the start of discussion on this item that Trevor Roberts, Adrian Eddleston and Neil Beresford are Directors of the CIC and have an interest in the outcome. A vote was taken in which Adrian Eddleston and Trevor Roberts did not take part.

 It was additionally agreed that:

  • the CIC would be informed of this decision so that it can modify its plans accordingly Action: Trevor Roberts
  • a dialogue with the CIC should be opened regarding any possible changes to the wording Action: Steven Oldfield
  • the item be put on the agenda of the next meeting of the TMC.
  1. Dates of future meetings

The following previously agreed dates were confirmed, with meetings at the Blencathra Centre (courtesy of the Field Studies Council). . 

  • Wednesday 30 October 2013
  • Wednesday 11 December 2013

It was agreed to retain the scheduled date for the next AGM as Wednesday 22 January 2014, in the new Hall. It is possible we might have to push this date back a bit if the handover of the Hall is delayed, but for the moment no change is suggested.

The meeting finished at 9.30pm. The Chairman thanked everyone for their attendance and contributions. 

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