26 October 2014
First I want to note the sad death earlier in the year of our cleaner Glenn who served us well. I think some club members were able to get to the funeral. I do not know of any other sadnesses of note this past year.
Thank you to our captains and to Isabelle and John for their reports on what has happened in the last year and thanks to George in absentia for preparing the script for our financial update and for the annual financial report.
A special thanks to outgoing post holders, George after 4 years’ service as treasurer and Luke for his work as men’s captain.
Thanks to all committee members and other volunteers without whom the club could not function and a huge welcome and thanks in anticipation to those who will be taking over some of the vacant roles, whoever they might be.
I want to talk a little about our attempt to buy the site, and where we are in that respect today. I will talk about volunteering, money, investment opportunities and communications.
When we started this saga I said to the Council that we only wanted to start talking if there was a realistic chance of reaching a conclusion. We started. After a couple of years during which we had to jump through hoops and prepared a detailed statement showing how our development plans contributed to the council, community and club, the Council said we could buy a lease of £125 years for £140,000. Whilst we marshalled our resources and devised a plan to raise the money by borrowing from members, we negotiated with the Council to get to a sensible price. After another age the matter eventually went to their asset board which decided that we were not going to be able to buy. The reasons they gave were that there did not want to fetter their ability to cease the lease in order to put the land to other use, and that case law, dating back to 2006, said that covenants preventing the club from selling on the site for development might not be enforceable. We complained, saying that the reasons for refusal where known to the Council at the outset and that the club’s time and money had been wasted. We got an apology from the Council along with a statement saying that the officers had been instructed to do things differently in the future. This reply did not offer any compensation so the complaint was then referred to the Local Government Ombudsman with whom it now lies. I have spoken to the investigating officer at the Ombusdman’s office who is now talking to Barnet Council.
This final stage will run its course but the club needs to move on. To that end I have taken the burden of the complaint process and will see it through so that the Committee need not divert its energy from future planning which must be its main focus.
Our four sandtex courts are now in good condition with a decent life left. A great deal of work has been done to the boundary behind what we might call the club lawn. We have some sparkling benches in distinctive colours. And we have a 20 year financial plan which allows the club to reserve an appropriate amount to keep courts and buildings in good condition and know what we have to invest in improvements. Behind these things is Steve Bird, so thank you very much Steve – keep up the good work.
We need more volunteers. This club wants to be run by volunteers rather than move to a different kind of club in which management is professionalised. By which I mean that we pay someone to run the social and catering side of things, and by definition we cease to have free food at events and this is not attractive to members.
There are too few volunteers; there are many who want the benefits of a volunteer club but are too few willing to offer to make a contribution to the job of making the club work. We cannot have it both ways for ever. Often it is people like me who are best able to make the biggest contribution – recently retired, still with some energy and a desire to do something purposeful with their time. Are you recently retired, or about to retire? Can you help? Please talk to the next chairman.
This year we introduced the use of gift aid. This opportunity became apparent as part of our preparation for site purchase and it will add about £3,000 a year to our income with no cost to any member. When the invitation to re-join comes out next year the gift aid forms will be included again. By far the best box to tick is the one saying you will carry on doing it. It does not commit you to remaining a member but it does allow our membership secretary to manage gift aid without an annual sign up.
We have also introduced a restructuring of membership fees to reflect the changing age profile of membership, and for which this AGM has made a decision today.
Our 20 year plan shows that the income the club has is sufficient to maintain courts grounds and clubhouse, with a surplus left at the end of the year. That means the club is able to consider what improvement it wants. The Council may or may not grab the land back; I suspect that this is unlikely to happen but any investment decision needs to be tempered by that possibility. The committee has been considering three things.
1) Construction of mini-tennis courts and a practice wall on our lawn. This would be accompanied by more paving so that we have more comfortable viewing of courts 3 and 4.
2) Refurbishment of the toilets and showers, together with redecoration of the changing rooms.
3) Extending this main room as far as possible to the boundary and moving the kitchen and bar into the new corner, alongside an internal store replacing the existing metal drinks store. This would allow a coffee corner to be created, improved natural lighting overhead from the new section of roof and putting in glazed doors to the end wall with some café seating outside. This would free up the current kitchen which may provide a toilet suitable for people with a disability and/or an office. In effect, stage 1 of our original club development plan.
We have a brand new website which has greater flexibility for uploading content and has the potential in the future to take on line payments and court bookings. A special thanks to Geoff Arnett for his patient guidance of the development of the site and for steering the initial content loading.
We have introduced a weekly newsletter. The purpose of the newsletter is to inform, entertain and provide a forum for members to express views. Although it is an internal document it goes on the website and is therefore available for non-members to read. The overall style of the newsletter is intended to showcase our club. We want non-members to read it and to be motivated to join such an exciting and welcoming club. Baseline Briefs, which is Colin’s name for the newsletter, has been running for a number of months now and it is time to review. The new committee will be doing this at its first meeting of the new regime, so if you have views you want them to consider, please let a committee member know, or use a new, little used suggestions box.
And it is goodbye from me. I had expressed a willingness to serve as chairman for 4 years, if that is what the club wanted. In the event I have served 3. Events have conspired to make the commitment required of a chairman increasingly difficult, so I gave notice of the need to find a replacement. It looks like we have been successful in our search. Thank you all for your support and best wishes to our new leader.