Thursday 11thth November 2021
Committee Attendees: Alan Dixon, Suzanne Trigg , Alison Goudge, Bev Dipper, Richard Roberts, Gill Powell, Dave Clements
Apologies received: Stewart Richardson, Shirley Warner
The meeting reported that we now have a full team of committee members following the arrival of Bev Dipper as Membership Secretary. We have continued to produce and distribute 4 editions of the Newsletter despite the Covid challenges. Membership payments have recovered to 2019 levels. More people are paying by Direct Debit and we have maintained the £2 subscription charge. Social activities have started again and we are hopeful that we can maintain this in the next 12 months. We have improved our in house website with additional data capture and reporting functions. Development Watch continues to highlight local issues. It is well used and appreciated by the community. Finally our accounts have been audited and signed off and we continue to have a healthy financial position.
The editor (Suzanne Trigg) reported that she has managed to collect a few new contributors keeping the focus on local features but also expanding to the slightly wider area when it provides information or services to the local community. We continue to look for new features and articles which may be of interest to all members of a Barkham residency.
We have had a few changes in the advertisers, and we have highlighted these local advertisers with larger articles to help them through the slow period where many businesses are suffering. We will continue to do this and will also mention any new businesses opening in Wokingham town centre.
With Covid restrictions now relaxing the editor has received emails from some clubs who have tentatively restarted face to face meetings so the diary will be resurrected in the next newsletter.
We continue to welcome any suggestions for topics which are of interest to Barkham and surrounding areas.
We continue to use Solopress printers as they provide a good service and it’s easy to order online and they will now allow us to use a bank transfer though this has not been taken up yet.
Despite the challenges of the first half of the financial year all four editions of the newsletters have been delivered. Covid restrictions limited the collection of the annual subs in March so we attempted to collect as many subs as possible in summer delivery this year. We currently have a full and committed frontline team of 6 wholesalers and 31 distributors covering 35 rounds. A huge thanks to each and everyone of this team who continue to support the BVRA. A special thanks to Steve Young Chief Wholesaler who does a tremendous job in collating and distributing the newsletters and accompanying round sheets
Thanks to the sterling efforts of the distribution team, we are back to 2019 payment levels 610 (76%) vs 604 (75%) out of the total of all interested residents. Conversely there has been a small increase in the number of residents not interested in membership 9% in 2019 to 13% in 2021.
Encouragingly the number of members paying by direct debit has also increased since it was introduced in 2020 more than doubling from 13% to 29%. We need to continue to encourage members to pay by direct debit rather than cash and this will be a key focus over the next six months. There remains around one quarter of residents who persistently do not pay their subs. We need to ascertain whether they are not interested and flag accordingly or encourage them to pay – preferably by direct debit.
We have maintained the £2 subscription level as we agreed the middle of the pandemic was not the right moment to increase this. We will address this subject in the committee at the appropriate time in 2022.
Since the last AGM in November 2020, and following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, we have re-started our social program. The first organised event was the Distributors BBQ at the end of July. This is an annual event designed to thank the distributors for all their hard work during the year, but was not held in 2020. There was a very good turnout, with around 50 residents present. It was clear everyone was pleased to be able to socialise again. This was followed a skittles evening on Saturday 2nd October, Numbers were again very high with 53 attendees. Government advice permitting we will move forward with our regular set of social activities and continue to look for new ideas.
The accounts have been audited by Steve Deveson and may be viewed on request. The overall balance remains healthy but HSBC has introduced bank charges of £60 per annum, 40p per cheque transaction and 0.04% per cash transactions. Direct Debits and Internet Banking are therefore the best option for keeping costs down. Investigations into moving the account from HSBC indicates there would be little advantage and from past experience, involve administration delays and difficulties. Banks which still offer free banking for societies, other than registered charities, are generally not accepting new clients and it seems are considering charging in future as they are not cost effective.
The key activity this year has been to continue to enhance the BVRA website administration system. The system will now automatically issue receipts for membership payments where we have an email contact address. Additionally, our distributors have been capturing resident email addresses to enable us to keep in contact. As of October 2021, the number of residents signed up for direct debit stands at 232. This is a 75% increase from numbers this time last year.
The direct debit scheme is fully protected, and we encourage all members to sign up. It provides a safe way of paying and simplifies the distribution task for our volunteer distributors. To sign up please go the BVRA website https://www.barkham.org.uk/bvra/bvra-membership
As usual the website has supported the mailing of development watch, social and general information emails. To sign-up please provide your email to your distributor or sign up at: https://www.barkham.org.uk/barkham/keep-in-touch-with-bvra
From a technical perspective the website the new server has proved exceptionally reliable, Our thanks go to Bob Bishop for providing the server at no cost to the BVRA and for his technical assistance throughout the year
This year (since the 2020 AGM report), up to 28 October, 12 development watch alerts have been emailed out. This is the lowest for some time and reflects a reduced activity in the number of (undesirable) planning applications. We pleased to say that we do get positive feedback from residents about the work of the development watch.
The prime source of alerts this year has been the Barkham Solar Farm and The Coombes, although The Coombes issues have related to continuing enforcement problems on 2 plots. The latest alert (October) announced good news over a High Court win for WBC over the long running enforcement issues with the Jules’ White Heart Grove plot. Another concern for residents has been the Instalcom site at Woodlands Farm. Although this is in Arborfield, the heavy traffic using Wood Lane exits onto School Road and then Langley Common Road. There is an outstanding appeal by Instalcom which has not started yet, probably due to Covid building a backlog.