This has been a momentous year. The site that we are on is owned by the Pangbourne Parish Council and the building we are in is leased by the District Council from the Parish Council.
The District Council, along with most other local authorities, are in severe financial difficulties and they tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to run the Centre on a break-even basis. They then looked to the private sector to take over the running of the building but there were no takers. One Company would have taken the building but they wanted to install a gym on the first floor and subsequent testing showed that the floor was not strong enough to take the weight of the equipment and potential users.
So the Council then offered our Charity the opportunity to take over the running of the Centre. We then prepared a Business Plan which showed that we had sufficient reserves to ensure that come what may we could run the Centre for at least 3 years. The Business Plan was a joint effort by all Trustees but thanks are especially due to David Appleton for undertaking most of the spadework and to Sarah Westall for giving the Plan a presentation polish.
So we took the plunge and told the Council that we would be prepared to go ahead and since April 2018 we have been running the Centre. The Council, who will need the approval of the Parish Council, have promised us a lease for an initial three years, which will be extended indefinitely if we make a financial success of running the Centre.
I did see and commented on a draft Lease in June but unfortunately have heard nothing since. I would add that the Parish Council have been 100% in favour of the charity taking over the running of the Centre, so no problem there. And just for the record can I say that I have a 30 year background in local government and I know where the bodies are buried but I can assure you that no deep-seated skulduggery is afoot. I don’t see the delay as a cunning ploy by the Council to see if we make a success of running it and to then flog it off. We will get our Lease eventually.
The figures that we were given by the Council showed that they were spending over £50K a year running the Centre. Here I want to pay the warmest of tributes to Trustee Steve Ellis, who heads up our Facilities team, comprising Nick Hatchett, Chris Whitehead, Bill Whitaker, plus Jonnie London and Robin Tilbury. Thanks to their heroic efforts the cost of running the building has been greatly reduced – one can not be precise because until we get a lease the Council are still picking up the utility bills, and the cost of some of the work that is needed on the structure should in our view be picked up by the Council rather than ourselves. But in very broad terms we appear to have reduced expenditure by as much as 35-40%.
Turning to income we have our membership income of around £5K and again a warm thank you to all those Club members who run our evening courses, which bring in £10K. We have discovered that letting income – thank you again Sarah Westall this time for handling the bookings, generates an income of £16K, so with an existing income of around £31K we are close to break=even. That is an incredible result in such a short timescale and it would not have been possible without your efforts .
However at the moment the Centre is inactive during the day as regards outdoor activities. We did not rush into filling this void because of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings) legislation. If TUPE had applied to our takeover we would have had to take over existing paid staff. We are past that potential problem now and I am pleased to say that we have reached agreement with Dave Hopper of the Outdoor Academy who from this April will hire the downstairs of the Centre and our equipment on weekdays and holidays to run a schools programme of activities.
The additional income will of course secure us financially and if Dave Hopper makes a success of his new venture, as I am sure he will, that will benefit us even more. Dave will now be approaching schools who formerly used the Activities Team, West Berkshire and will also be recruiting instructors. So if any Club members know of schools who might be interested or are personally interested in becoming an Instructor could they get in touch with Kevin in the first place.
The upstairs office is much larger than we need and another proposal, which is being investigated, is the possibility of Pangbourne Physio Centre paying us to use part of the office area as an exercise Centre.
I mentioned how supportive Pangbourne Parish Council have been. I chanced to meet their Chairman Rob Holden in the street two days ago and he told me that the Pangbourne Business Forum had raised over £500 at the Xmas festivities and that sum, generously topped up to £1000 by local MP Alok Sharma was being donated to us.
In addition Pangbourne Rotary Club have made us their nominated charity for receiving the proceeds of the Pangbourne Art Exhibition – April 12-14th. This is held in the Village Hall, as the Centre is not big enough, but I hope you will support the event as the more support there is the larger the donation to us. We expect that donation to also be around the £1000 mark.
It has always been one of my maxims in life that buildings don’t make organizations, people do. Ensuring our Charity is successful is very much a team effort. It is no point having a magnificent Centre if it is not being used.
Just by becoming a member you contribute to that success but as this Charity is entirely run by volunteers, there are some among us whom I want to mention by name. You probably know the famous saying by Napoleon, the pig in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ – all animals are equal but some are more equal than others – I have already mentioned Nick, Chris and Bill on the Facilities Team. They have done tremendous work. Step up for a small liquid recognition.
Communication with the membership as well is vitally important in any organisation and particularly in one such as ours with no paid staff. So step up Donna Hatchett and Corinna Baillie with grateful thanks for all that you do.
Of the Trustees I have already mentioned David Appleton, Steve Ellis and Sarah Westall. I have not so far said anything about our Treasurer, Tony Fitzgerald, but we would be lost without him. He has a full-time job and really busts a gut for us. Ed Edwards, Bob Feuillade, Alan Brown and Kevin Dennis are our activity squad – liaising with our many leaders – ensuring that we are an active charity and all our activities are safe.
Sadly we are losing two of them, who are stepping down. David Appleton has been a tower of strength to me as regards the business side of running the Trust. He came with detailed knowledge of the inner workings of West Berks Council and that too has been tremendously helpful. Tim Metcalfe is also going as he is standing down from the West Berks Council after many years. To be honest, with David and Tim on our side I sometimes almost felt sorry for those on the other side trying to argue the West Berks case! Tim it was who organized the very successful Race night on September 7th, which raised £1100 for the Trust. Step up David and Tim for some more liquid refreshment.
When David Appleton steps down at the end of this meeting I shall be losing both a friend and a Vice-Chairman. It is a matter for the Trustees rather than this meeting but I just wanted you to know that I shall be nominating Steve Ellis to succeed David as Vice-Chairman. He has done a magnificent job heading up the maintenance team, and I am sure he will be a worthy successor to David .
I am also very pleased that Joy Jamieson has volunteered to become a Trustee – that makes two lady Trustees and as Joy has agreed to act as our Secretary that is another load off my mind.
I will finish by mentioning the Adam Vaughan fund. Adam used to be a member of Adventure Dolphin. When he was at Cardiff University and Vice-Chairman of the University kayaking club, he went on an expedition to the Andes and was accidentally drowned. His parents then donated £1600 to us to set up a fund in his memory to fund either white water safety and rescue training and/or kayak coaching training- aimed at young people who would both benefit from but would find it difficult to fund it themselves .
Thank you all for your support.
10th January 2019