Charity Number: 301765
Bramley Village Hall
Bringing People Together
Bramley Village Hall Trustees: Annual Report for 2021-2022
Summary: This has been a challenging year but helpful advice and financial support from the Government has brought the Village Hall through the pandemic, and we were able to resume some activities in line with Government guidance in April 2021. Most of our users had returned to the Hall by the end of September 2021 and the second half of the year was ‘business as usual’. The financial position is good, but we face significant challenges in meeting rising costs especially for utilities; a review of our charging regime is inevitable during the year ahead. We completed a major project to improve drainage and resurface the car park. Planning to improve the Hall’s resilience and reduce utility costs continued and new projects will be delivered in the year ahead.
The objectives of the Village Hall and its Trustees as set out in the Deed of Trust remain unchanged.
The Trustees Committee
Gareth Jones – Chairman
Richard Beale – Treasurer
Jo Whatley – Secretary
Tony Walton – Maintenance
Jane Matthews – Health and Safety and the link with our Caretaker
Keith Oborn – Trustee nominated by the Parish Council
Mrs Samantha Webber resigned as a Trustee in September 2021, and we currently carry a vacancy for this post.
Mrs Catriona Hayward continues to be employed as our Business and Events Coordinator. The Trustees are very grateful to Mrs Hayward for her strenuous efforts to achieve a return to ‘business as usual’ in the wake of the pandemic.
Mrs Emelia Rutt continues as our Caretaker, and we wish to place on record our appreciation of her continued commitment and support despite the disruption to operations caused by the pandemic and closure of the Hall for long periods.
We have policy documents covering all of the key areas of the Hall’s functions, including finance, Health and Safety, bookings, maintenance and safeguarding; these were updated in March 2022. We have a Business Plan which is updated annually and a Strategy Document for the 5 Year period, 2020-2025. All of these documents have been published on our website. Throughout the past year we have fulfilled Government requirements to produce and publish Covid-19 Risk Assessments for the Village Hall when open for use, alongside specific guidance for our users. We are grateful to Action Hampshire and the Association of Communities in Rural England (ACRE) for the advice and guidance they provided in these matters.
Due to Covid 19 regulations we could not hold our Annual General Meeting(AGM) in the late Spring of 2021 but did convene a delayed AGM on 1 November 2021. The Trustees Committee was reappointed.
The Village Hall reopened to the public from 12 April but only to accept bookings from those who were teaching children, including exercise and dance. Full access for the public resumed in July 2021 but the Hall saw very little activity during the summer, partly because many users decided to defer their return until September and partly because the Hall closed from the end of July while work was underway to install new drainage and resurface the car park. Our contractor, S & C Slatter of Newbury did not complete these works until early September, but the tarmac was ready in time for a resumption of activities after the August Bank Holiday. The total cost of the project was £124,000, funded by s.106 payments from developers granted to us by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.
September saw the return of many of our users and the arrival of some new businesses. During the year, 18 regular users of the Hall clocked up an average of 240 hours per month (not quite close to the average for 2019 at 303 hours per month) but given that much of this activity occurred after September, it suggests that the second half of the year was quite busy! In addition we saw a resumption of one-off hirings for children’s parties, meetings and other events. In the wake of the pandemic we seem to have bounced back very well!
During the periods of ‘lockdown’ we reduced all but essential expenditure to minimize our outgoings, but since April 2021 we have increased expenditure to deal with maintenance issues and make some changes necessitated by the failure of some aging fixtures and fittings in the Hall, such as the installation of new LED type lights in the main hall. We have started planning for a major refurbishment of the floor in the main hall and committee room, but a dominant feature of the past six months has been the significant increase in our utility bills. We have been monitoring usage closely and taking advice about measures to reduce costs (see below) but, like everyone else, our gas and electricity costs have soared. We had hoped to be able to hold our hiring charges unchanged for this year but a review later this summer appears inevitable.
For some time we have been considering the installation of a solar panel and battery system at the Hall as a means of reducing our energy costs and the recent surge in utility bills has spurred this work forwards. We received very helpful advice from Basingstoke Energy Services Cooperative in the early stages of this planning work. This is not about going ‘off grid’ to achieve self-sufficiency but a case of investing a modest capital sum to reduce our electricity costs by a target of 75% with a battery system enabling us to store energy from our solar panels as well as drawdown electricity at cheaper rates overnight. We have received generous financial support from National Grid with a grant of £10k from their Community Grant Programme towards the cost of our solar panels project. At the end of March we received a grant of £4,019 (yet to be paid) from Hampshire County Council’s Parish and Town Council Investment Fund to complete the bulk of the funding required for the project. Three companies tendered quotes for the proposed work, and we have appointed JEM energy of Fleet, Hants to undertake the work. This will take place in late summer, during late July/early August when the Hall is less busy; much of the work will be external, on the roof of the Frith Room and disruption to users will be kept to a minimum.
One additional project got underway early in 2022, the replacement of the existing Village Hall sign overlooking The Street. The sign is badly rusted and during the summer is obscured by hedging. We have obtained costings for a replacement, using a similar font and style to the signage over our main entrance; the new sign will be positioned at the roadside on The Street and illuminated with solar powered down-lighters. We have applied for planning permission to reposition the sign and hope to complete the work in the next few months.
During the second half of the year we had meetings with representative of Wates Developments concerning their plans for land to the rear of the Village Hall. As Trustees for the Hall we could neither support or condemn their proposals for the land but made clear our concerns about the impact any development might have on shared infrastructure, especially drainage, and on traffic flows on The Street. Our later discussions focussed on the land adjacent to the Hall which Wates propose to utilise as a footpath to the new development. The Trustees sought legal advice on the issue of a right of way on this land and we are grateful to Lamb Brooks, Solicitors for their pro bono advice on this matter. Once Wates submitted their planning application we declined to engage further until the application has been resolved.
- Our year-end figures have yet to be audited but Income from hirings during 2021-22 amounted to £38,612, more than double the income we received from hirers in 2020-21 and comparable to the level achieved pre-pandemic (£35,823 in 2019-20).
- Expenditure in 2021-22 was £40,603 (excluding the payment to S&C Slatter as mentioned above). This sum is slightly higher than the expenditure for the last full year pre-pandemic (£37,221 in 2019-2020) but it includes payments for the new Village Hall sign and increased expenditure on maintenance and electricity.
- Without Government support we would have ended the year with a more serious loss, but we received a further £8,000 in the form of a Government Business Disruption Grant (paid via Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council) to support community facilities dealing with pandemic issues.
- We currently hold £10,000 from National Grid for the solar panels projects and anticipate payment of £4,019 from Hampshire County Council shortly.
- In addition we currently hold a reserve of £17,000, some of which will be committed in due course to the cost of refurbishing the floor in the main hall and committee room.
- Pending audit and taking into account the Business Disruption Grant, we reached year end with income exceeding expenditure by £4,082.
The Year Ahead
We anticipate that by September 2022 the solar panels project will be completed, and the Hall’s new sign will be in place on The Street. We hope that a technical survey of the hall flooring will be completed by the end of May, and we will have a better understanding of the issues we need to deal with and the costs involved. As work on the hall floor will take the room out of use for up to two weeks, we may be unable to complete this project until July 2023. We hope to resume our ‘Kick Start’ scheme as part of our strategy to encourage use of our facilities, offering partners in the community the space to develop ideas, to experiment and trial events or new groups without worrying about room hire costs, while we accept a degree of risk in the loss of potential hiring income while a new group gets established.
The Trustees remain committed to supporting the Charity Commission’s desire to encourage people under the age of 25 to become more involved in the governance of charities, large and small. We remain keen to recruit at least one Young Trustee and seek additional volunteers to support the work of the Trustees and to eventually join the Committee. A successor to Mrs Webber is still sought and new volunteers would be warmly welcomed!
There are no significant issues, complaints or disputes to report.
Bramley Village Hall Trustees
30 April 2022