Tireless Cllr Charles Burke may be happy at last with the announcement this week that the Village Hall Trust will hold its first AGM in as long as anybody can remember (or is prepared to admit!).
The announcement came on Tuesday, via the Parish Council website, in a Public Notice to all Residents of the Parish from Trust treasurer Cllr Bill Jeeves. The agenda will include a report of the business and activities of the Hall and the presentation of the Annual Accounts for the year ending 30th April 2012. Under Charities Commission rules, it must also include an election of trustees.
As far back as August 2010 over 28% of respondents to a village-wide survey cited lack of use of the Village Hall an issue, with residents saying they were denied access on frivolous grounds – something always denied by the Village Hall Trust. In 2011 Parish chair Peter Hood seemed to agree, with “reinvigoration of the Village Hall” added to his “parish plan”.
Cllr Burke has been campaigning against mismanagement of the Hall since 2010, insisting that it be opened up to village groups and residents as stipulated in its founding constitution. CVHT refused to enter into dialogue.
Village Hall Trust: “difficulties experienced in the management and administration of the Charity”
The spat escalated in April last year with the submission of a formal petition and complaint to the Charities Commission. Trustees asked for leniency from the Commission in view of difficulties experienced in the “management and administration of the charity”. The Commission offered help through ACRE, Action for Communities in Rural England, which specialises in helping village hall charities who experience management problems.
Nevertheless trustees did admit to having problems, writing to the Charities Commission to explain that their issues were due to “the difficulty in attracting new trustees”, a claim countered as “disingenuous” by complainants who forwarded copies of correspondence to ACRE.
In May last year Cllr Burke took the unusual step of leaving the “Council Chamber” and taking a seat with the residents to demand answers from fellow Councillors Underhill and Jones after a promised AGM in April never materialised.
The current trustees of CVHT, according to the Charities Commission, are: serving parish councillors Bill Jeeves, Barbara Underhill and Howard Jones, ex-councillor Mike Rayner, wives Joan Rayner and Sylvia Jeeves, Keith Ayres and Margaret Putnam.
Rayner: I’ve given up over 7,000 hours for the Village Hall
Cllr Burke accused Village Hall trustees of negligence in not holding an AGM “in as long as any serving trustee can remember”, late filings, breaking Charities Commission rules, and illegal appointments. He went as far as suggesting that trustees were personally liable for running the Hall at a loss given the breaches.
Fellow councillors retaliated, threatening Burke with their legal action. In September last year CVHT trustee Mike Rayner, no stranger to these pages, hit back at claims of intransigence:
I’m happy enough to talk/write about what I’ve done. I’d reckon that at the very least it’s been, on average , at least 5 hours a week for the Village Hall alone, since fund raising and planning started in 1984. That’s over 7000 hours; only thing about that is I often do much more than 5 hours.
In November, Rayner refused to answer specific points from Colnbrook Views in an attempt to get beyond the emotive and put the record straight publicly:
|Have any bookings for the Hall been rejected even though the Hall was available?||What is the current utilisation of the Hall, and how does this compare to previous years?|
|Is CVHT short of volunteers today?||Is there a more up to date constitution for CVHT than the one from 1990?|
|If not, why has the constitution never been updated – despite the name change, setting up of the Parish Council, or the move to Slough?||Are you the current Chairman, and who are the other currently active Trustees?|
|When was the last AGM?||Have Trustees been re-elected annually?|
|Were the accounts repeatedly submitted late to the Charities Commission and, if so, why?||What is the reason for the losses reported in the submissions to the Charities Commission?|
|Is the information held by the Charities Commission accurate and up to date with regard to current trustees?||How many of the 24 possible Trustee positions specified by the governing document currently filled?|
|Have offers of help been received and, if so, have they been taken up?||Is it true that nominations from three organisations included in the governing document in May 2011 were ignored?|
|Have other village groups not listed in the governing document been invited to nominate a Trustee?||Has any village group attempted to nominate a Trustee and had their nomination rejected?|
|Is it true that stringent licensing restrictions have been imposed that have reduced the ability of the Hall to be used for social events?||Is it true that residents have been unable to book the Hall for family functions?|
|Why is the CVH website unreachable, despite being publicised in last year’s parish newsletter?||Has ACRE (Action for Communities in Rural England) been engaged as apparently suggested by the Charities Commission?|
The response was typically colourful and evasive:
The most boring and sad thing that I have found on what has been a very lovely, rewarding, tiring (for old blokes) and productive ‘community’ weekend, is that Andy M., after appearing to have taken one step posititively forward has, today, managed to take a number of things at least two and a half steps backwards. I mustn’t say much, it’s impolite to speak about people behind their backs, but I guess that he’d be around half my age. Now I’m sure that my memory is deteriorating but his seems to be way worse than mine. He doesn’t seem able to remember correctly quite a lot of things he writes about. Life is too short for having to spend time correcting other people’s errors and hazy, lazy recalls so frequently.
May the Farce go with you
Victory in forcing the election of a new committee may be short lived however.
The Trust committee consists of ten elected members and the appointed representatives of approximately fourteen “specified eligible locally involved organisations”. Eligible local organisations are asked to ensure their representatives are appointed in time for approval at the Annual General Meeting.
However, in an almost farcical twist, many of the “eligible” organisations are older than the Village Hall itself, defunct, or were transferred with the County Order in 1994. It is far from clear yet whether newer organisations such as the Colnbrook Community Association, the largest residents group in the parish, will be denied a vote without a change to the constitution.
The fourteen eligible organisations from the 1990 constitution believed still to be the only governing document are: Bucks County Council, South Bucks District Council, Iver Parish Council, The Brookside Players (now CAST), the Colnbrook Baptist Chapel, Colnbrook Church Wives Group, Colnbrook Floral Arts Group, Colnbrook Over Sixties Club, Colnbrook Residents Association, Colnbrook Youth Club Management Committee, First Colnbrook Scout Group, the Methodist Church Ladies Fellowship, the Poyle Residents Association, and St. Thomas’ Church!
And don’t expect too much debate about the problems of the last few years. According to the Notice:
The Chairman may, at his discretion, permit those attending the AGM to put to the meeting positive points or questions which may be considered of benefit to the trust and its objectives.
Nominations may be submitted for elected members in advance to Cllr Howard Jones, 19 Coleridge Crescent, Colnbrook, Berkshire, SL3 0PY, or may be made at the meeting.
Make a date for your diary. The meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 28th February 2013, at the Colnbrook Village Hall, Vicarage Way.
“You didn’t do it alone, Mike, don’t forgot those Old Hands who made the Village Hall!” – November 2012
Village Hall Update: Burke explains actions during AGM clash with fellow councillors – May 2012
Village Hall claim “disingenuous” say residents behind Charities Commission complaint - May 2012
Colnbrook Village Hall – AGM at last? – April 2012
Village Hall: Community Association to demand action – November 2011
Village Hall tops Issues list in Community Survey - December 2010