JOINT ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF
HARPERS LANE ALLOTMENTS SOCIETY
HARPERS LANE ALLOTMENTS LIMITED (HLA Ltd.)
17th February 2014 – The Finishers – commencing 7.30 p.m.
- Opening of the Meeting by the Chair
In the absence of Mr R Hellyer who had given notice of his resignation as Chair, Mr G Platt was asked to chair the meeting.
- Explanation as to why a joint AGM by the Treasurer
The Treasurer explained that in September 2012, we started Harpers Lane Allotments Ltd – a co-operative established as an Industrial and Provident Society. The intention at the time was to close the existing Harpers Lane Allotments Society (an unincorporated association). However for a number of reasons (including delays in opening suitable bank accounts for the co-operative) we had to keep the society going. Then the society was awarded a grant by CVS so we had to keep it going until that grant was spent (we’ve still a way to go). Finally we were advised by a CVS-appointed consultant to retain both organisations – so that’s what we are doing. We didn’t want to drag everyone out twice on cold winter nights so we had a joint meeting.
- Chair’s Report
The Chair, Rob Hellyer having indicated his wish to resign from the Management Committee of the society and from the Board of the Co-operative, did not attend the meeting and therefore there was no Chair’s Report – the content of that item being divided between the Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Reports. The Secretary wished to record the Society’s thanks to Mr Hellyer for his past service to the Society.
The Minutes of the AGM of 14.10.2012 were accepted, subject to the insertion of the amendment set out below to remedy an omission pointed out previously by the Secretary and Treasurer.
The Committee proposed that we inserted the following into the minutes.
That Christine Hargraves was invited, and agreed, to act as the Society’s Reporter / Auditor for the period of the financial year ending 30/09/2014.
That the Treasurer referred to Clause 129 – Audit of the Co-operative’s model rules and advised that the Co-operative should claim the exemption from Audit (in the technical professional sense) under the Acts referred to. The Co-operative’s advisor has informed us that under the FCA guidance the submitted (unaudited accounts) must be signed by the Secretary and two other members of the Board of Directors / Management Committee.
This was agreed by the meeting.
The consultant also advised that we should reconfirm at each AGM that the members wish this practice to continue.
The Committee proposed that we reconfirm our decision to claim exemption. This again was agreed by the meeting.
- Report by the Secretary of the Society and the Secretary / Chief Executive of HLA Ltd
The Secretary’s Report covered the following areas:
Dealings with Bolton MBC
The Borough no longer has a dedicated Allotments Officer – Alan Crook having been redeployed. Communication is now primarily through email to firstname.lastname@example.org
New Management Processes and Operational Management Agreements (OMAs)
The Directors of HLA Ltd. have met with Malcolm Russell (Head of Neighbourhood Services). Mr Russell has used Harpers Lane as a pilot for the system of Operational Management Agreements which he wants to introduce. Copies of Mr Russell’s handouts on the new processes and procedures as provided at the ABAS meeting on February 12th were made available to members.
Under the OMA the Co-operative would be responsible for grass cutting on the site. The Co-operative has a lawn-mower which needs servicing before use.
Under the OMA the Council propose that the Co-operative would be responsible for treating the Japanese Knot-weed at the bottom of the site. This is an area of concern.
Mr Russell has agreed to investigate whether the Council might be able to supply a ‘container / cabin’ to store tools and equipment.
Mr Russell is now in a position to discuss a lease giving security of tenure on the site to the Co-operative. Initially it may be that the lease will just cover the Amenities Hut and the communal areas of the site. If such a lease is obtained then we can apply for grants to improve building security e.g. shutters for the windows etc. The lease would also cover any new community plots which we can create – these will be free of rent.
One important aspect of the pilot scheme has been the introduction of Community Plots.
With Mr Russell’s assistance we were able to retake possession of Plot 70 and its poly-tunnel and shed. This then became a ‘training plot’ where some 8 people from the waiting list were able to gain some experience of running a plot. At the end of these ‘induction’ sessions four people were placed onto vacant plots, two are now sharing plot 70 and two dropped out. Based on these outcomes we believe that community plots and induction sessions reduce the number of early drop-outs on newly rented plots, thus reducing the time plots stand uncultivated.
Plot 1 has now been designated as the new Community Plot.
Drainage on Plots 40/41, above the Brew Room and plots 1-4
The Secretary has raised the problems of flooding on plots 40 and 41 with Mr Russell. He has promised action but any attempts seem to disappear somewhere between the Council bureaucracy and United Utilities. Mr Platt has attempted to find out through contacts at UU what approaches have been made by the Council but to no avail. However we now have some plans as to where UU pipes run across the site. Similarly Mr Russell can’t find out where within Bolton MBC the matter is at present. In the meantime plots 40 and 41 are unusable and the situation is deteriorating as neighbouring plots become affected. A proposal to install a drainage ditch, holding tanks and piping has been outlined but neither the Council nor the Co-operative has the funds. To enable this to happen it might be necessary for the Council to declare plots 40 and 41 as community plots, provide a long lease and then we could apply for a drainage grant. It has been agreed (as a second best solution) that Mr Taylor (plot 40) has first refusal on any full-sized plot that comes vacant, but we have as yet no agreement with Mr Bimpson (plot 41).
Since the AGM a United Utilities engineer has visited the site. After testing, he tells us that the water is spring or stream water. He believes either an old drain or a culvert has become diverted sending the water down a new course. He suggests that the best remedy is to capture water in channels and tanks and use it to reduce water consumption on the plots. We intend to pursue this remedy – Mr Taylor is seeking to source some recycled water tanks and Mr Russell is trying to find a source of suitable piping.
There was a proposal to insert new drains to protect the Brew Room and Shop, which would be funded by the £260 allocated for Harpers Lane for 2013-14 under the OMA which we have not yet accessed. An engineer from the Council’s Landscaping Section came and surveyed the site and proposed a solution just before Christmas. It looks like this initiative was likely to cost more than the sum available. We’ll pursue this as well.
Finally, the new owner of the horse paddock / stables (David Whipp) has employed contractors to lay new drains on his land. Our understanding was that these drains would join up with the drain installed by the Council between plots 1 and 2 last winter, and then flow away down the large drain that runs along the site road. Mr Whipp’s drains however seem to end at the gate to his property, they do not join with the site drains and water is flooding onto plot 2. The Secretary will take this up with Mr Whipp.
Concern was expressed by members about the fact that Mr Whipp has effectively destroyed the hedge that ran between his land and the top field. The Secretary stated that it had been her understanding that Mr Whipp was going to install a security fence along the lane boundary and a secure fence between his field and the allotments. He has installed a fence at the bottom of his field. In conversation Mr Whipp had stated that (rather than have the land for stabling horses) it was now his intention to seek planning permission to build a house on the plot. To this end he was seeking the grant of a 5 metre strip at the top of the Allotment Site to create an access road into his property. The Society would oppose such a proposal and the Secretary had contacted Malcolm Russell who confirmed that such an approach had been made but that the Council saw no merit in it and it had been refused. It was proposed that the Co-operative undertake the building of a fence / hedge between the top field and Mr Whipp’s property.
Members also expressed concern that a number of non-plot holders seemed to have keys to the site. The Secretary promised to review the situation.
The Society received a grant (from the Big Bolton Fund) of £1384 to establish the Community Plot on Plot 1. We have erected a poly-tunnel (the Secretary thanked all those who helped) and are now building a set of raised beds. When the beds are completed and the Council provide an updated waiting list, we will run another induction course. The grant will also enable us to buy tools / wheelbarrows.
The management of the poly-tunnel will be by a sub-committee of Barry Savage, Tom Liptrott and Richard Isted. Under the terms of the grant, the poly-tunnel’s primary use is to provide plants which can be sold to plot-holders / members through the Allotment Store. Any monies raised will go to Society Funds. Other uses will be developed by the sub-committee over time.
In later discussion it was recognised that most produce from the raised beds will obviously go to the people on the induction course who are cultivating them. However it was agreed that surplus produce from both the raised beds and the poly-tunnel could either be sold for Society funds or distributed to good causes (the Diggers’ Kitchen being an example).
Other projects (future)
The Secretary reported support from Council officers for the Society / Co-operative to use the woodland areas on the site. She is particularly keen to see a Bee Keeping group established with an apiary in one of the woodland areas. She invited volunteers.
The Treasurer also pointed out that the Society has the frame of another poly-tunnel and permission to erect it on a piece of unused ground. He invited anyone interested in this project to get in touch once the weather improves.
A more substantial project is the recovery of former allotments below the bottom road many of which were swallowed up by the Tree Nursery. The Treasurer had been discussing with the Bolton Together group at Bolton CVS the possibility of getting private sector firms involved but this initiative seems to have faltered.
The issue of the Site Road was raised. The Treasurer pointed out that (unless and until the Co-operative have control of / responsibility for the site), the site road is the Council’s responsibility and they have declined (citing lack of funds) to undertake any repair / improvement. It is also unlikely that Area Forum funds could be used to cover this work since the site road is not a highway. The Secretary informed members that the Council is hoping to reintroduce its self-help scheme. Under that scheme the Council might be able to supply us with road planings which we could use to fill in holes etc. Whilst this would help there was a feeling that something more substantial (involving road drains, compacting etc.) was needed.
A party from the Society went to the Harrogate Autumn Show. There was some member support for a further trip to the Spring Show especially to renew contact with the Yorkshire Regional Societies. The secretary will post details in the Brew Room.
Following the break-in in November the Treasurer applied for a £100 grant from Bolton CVS to replace the cooker and microwave etc. that had been stolen. £100 was received from Barclays Bank following this application. We have also been given a ‘built-in’ double oven and hob. The aim is to acquire a housing into which that can be fitted and a new microwave. We are proposing not to install the microwave until the Brew Room has been made more secure.
ABAS is the Association of Bolton Allotment Societies. The Association has been much weakened in recent years, at recent meetings only 5 out of the 37 sites in Bolton have been represented. However there has been a revitalisation in recent months and the last two meetings have been very well attended (over 60 people at each, with something like 75% of plot-holders represented).
ABAS is to a degree on trial. It can provide both the body which will run the Borough-wide allotments competitions and a channel of communication between plots and the Council.
If ABAS proves itself it will need funds. The proposal is that each site should contribute 50p per plot to the ABAS fund. The meeting agreed that subject to ABAS demonstrating its relevance this sum should be paid from Society funds.
The Secretary and Treasurer attended a meeting of the North West Counties Allotment Association – the regional group of the National Allotments Society (NSALG). It is proposed that the Society continue to be represented at such meetings.
NSALG / NAS
The Society is a member of the ‘National’ – we have received quite a bit of support from both the National’s legal officer and the new North Western Area representative. The subscription at £146 represents a substantial part of the monies raised as membership subscriptions but is felt to be essential. It is proposed that the Society continue in membership of the NSALG/NAS.
- Presentation of the Accounts of the Society
Essentially the Society continued as it had previously between 01/07/2012 and 19/9/2012 –then all non-grant related activities switched to the co-operative. The balance of assets held by the society was transferred (in the form of an interest-free, unsecured loan) to the co-operative. Simplified summaries covering the balance sheet and the trading activities of the co-operative were circulated at the meeting.
The members agreed the acceptance of the accounts.
- Statement by the Reporter / Auditor of the Society
The auditor (Christine Hargraves) has signed off the society’s accounts. She had concerns that at the time the accounts closed (30/9/2013) the monies of both society and co-operative were kept in the same account at Lloyds Bank. This is now remedied and the society and co-operative bank accounts are separated (two in Lloyds for the society and two in the Co-operative Bank for the co-operative).
Christine has expressed her willingness to continue as the Reporter / Auditor for the society. The meeting agreed that Mrs Hargraves continue as reporter / auditor.
- Presentation of the Accounts of HLA Ltd.
HLA Ltd is treated as a limited company by HMRC – this means that we need to submit formal statutory statements of accounts – unlike the society. These statements have been produced in house, and will be submitted along with all other required returns to both the HMRC and the Financial Conduct Authority. Given an overall loss of around £520 over the period there will be no liability for corporation tax falling on the co-operative this year.
Simplified summaries covering the balance sheet and the trading activities of the co-operative were circulated at the meeting.
The members agreed the acceptance of the accounts.
- Statement by the reporting directors of HLA Ltd. on the HLA Accounts
The Directors have examined the draft statutory accounts of the co-operative and as the Board of the Co-operative will submit those accounts to both the FCA and HMRC.
- Report by the Treasurer of the Society and the Financial Director of HLA Ltd.
There will be changes to the financial management policies for 2013-2014 and beyond.
We have been advised by a consultant provided by the CVS:-
a) To use the society to receive all membership subscriptions
b) To use the society accounts to pay insurance and membership of national, regional and local bodies
c) To receive small grants which do not involve capital work
d) To pay the costs of the brew-room facility
The Treasurer’s opinion was the membership subscriptions will only just cover items b) and d) and there is unlikely to be sufficient spare money to fully cover administration. Therefore it is essential that activities such as Open Day continue and that they make a positive contribution to the finances of the society.
We have been advised that the co-operative should:-
a) Take on any leases or agreements with third parties
b) Carry out the requirements of the Operational Management Agreement with the Council
c) Receive any grants that involve contractors or capital work
d) Undertake any works on site
e) Undertake any trading activities (including running the shop on behalf of the Society – the shop is properly referred to as the ‘store’, since it is essentially a means of distributing, and recovering the costs of, goods bought in bulk collectively to individual members, rather than a commercial enterprise.)
The Treasurer stated that as with the Society funds are tight – the original business plan was based on the Council rebating a proportion of rents to the Co-operative which could be used to cover the costs of maintenance and management activities – this the Council claims it is unable to do since the rents from some sites are used to subsidise the costs of providing facilities at others – thus balancing income and costs across the Borough. It is vital therefore that members support services such as the store so that we do not incur losses.
- Vote on proposed change to the Constitution of Harpers Lane Allotment Society
Amendment to the Constitution of Harpers Lane Allotments Society
It is the recommendation of the Secretary that the following item be added to the standing orders of the Co-operative:that any expenditure exceeding £50.00 (with the exception listed below) must be explicitly authorised by a vote of Management Committee.
The exception will be where expenditure is fully covered by monies received as a grant and where the expenditure is specified as part of that grant.
The motion was agreed by the meeting.
- Vote on proposed changes to standing orders of HLA Ltd.
Addition to the Standing Orders of Harpers Lane Allotments Limited
It is the recommendation of the Secretary that the following item be added to the standing orders of the Co-operative: that any expenditure exceeding £100.00 must be explicitly authorised by a vote of the Board of Directors.
The motion was passed by the meeting.
- Setting of the rate of membership subscriptions to Harpers Lane Allotments Society
The Management Committee recommended that the subscription be kept at £9.00 per member and £7.00 concessionary.
The motion was passed by the meeting.
- Report by the Open Day Committee
Sue Jones reported on the Open Day 2013. The event had been successful both in terms of raising monies for the Society and for our nominated charity (Derian House). The event had also been a great success as a community event. Mrs Jones stated however that more help is needed – the event is growing and there are more tasks to be done each year. She asked that members both sign up for jobs and also actually turn up when work needs to be done.
Members asked whether the marquees could be erected the week previous to the event rather than on the evening before. It was felt this change might mean moving the site of the flower show away from the top field and onto the ‘D’ as the top field might attract vandals. The Committee will discuss this with the Open Day Committee when formed.
Members asked whether (given the Society’s need to generate funds) it might be possible to stage a Spring event (which would also improve cash-flow and give us money when we need it.) The Committee will discuss the form of such an event. The Secretary has previously informed members that there will be no theatre presentation this year, but we hope it can return in 2015.
14. Election of Officers
· Chair – Gillian Chamberlain was elected Chair of the Society and Chair of the Board of Directors of Harpers Lane Allotments Ltd.
· Secretary – Margaret Jackson was elected Secretary of the Society and Chief Executive / Secretary of Harpers Lane Allotments Limited.
· Treasurer – David Jackson was elected Treasurer of the Society and Finance Director of Harpers Lane Allotments Limited.
· Committee Members – Glyn Platt and Barry Savage were re-elected as members of the Committee of the Society and as Director of Harpers Lane Allotments Ltd. The following were elected as members of the Committee of the Society and will be invited to become Directors of Harpers Lane Allotments Ltd. – Tom Liptrott, Pev Evans, Kath Worsley and Keith Worsley.
- Setting of the Date of Open Day – Open Day (subject to reviewing other events on that day) will be 17th August 2014.
- Announcement of the Vegetable for the Maher Trophy - COURGETTE
- Any other Business –
Health and Safety Issues relating to dangerous structures – it was reported that a structure on one allotment is in a dangerous condition and is a threat to health and safety. The Treasurer advised that such matters were covered by the new rules on the reporting of a ‘breach of tenancy’. Representatives of HLA will therefore take photographs of the structure and contact the plot-holder. If the matter is not remedied then the relevant report supported by photographs will be submitted to the Council.
Trespassing and theft of produce – it was reported that there have been incidents of people trespassing on the plots of other members and that in some instances produce has been taken. Such behaviour is again a ‘breach of tenancy’ and if it is reported to the Committee and evidence can be gathered, the procedures as stated above will be followed.
Choice of Charity
Prostatecanceruk is the Society’s chosen charity this year having gained the most votes (8) above
Urban Outreach (6)
Guide Dogs (6)
Crones’ Disease Awareness (1)
18. Close of Meeting – the meeting closed at 10.15 p.m.
There were 21 members present at the AGM