This report, the AGM and the submission of accounts to the Charity Commission is delayed due to the pandemic restrictions and is with the Commission’s permission. It is therefore retrospective and in certain areas contain references to 2021 as things have changed that might impact the commentary.
The Covid-19 pandemic was to have an unexpected but significant impact throughout 2020 and the national restrictions imposed by central government, created a massive bureaucratic burden that produced various containment, hygiene and safety protocols that were introduced it seemed, every few weeks. As a very small operating committee of voluntary Managing Trustees, we took the decision to follow the templates produced by ACRE, where much of the responsibility of disease prevention and contamination, was passed to any User of the facility; we had to make sure that potential liabilities would not be passed to any of our volunteers and Trustees. This was in addition to following the general advice of ACRE and implementing our own safety protocols. This met the criteria laid down by our insurers under the personal liability waiver and Health & Safety legislation, where the latter reminded us to make sure other areas of H&S were adhered to, including Risk Assessments where third parties provided services.
Had 2019 not been such a successful year in respect of fundraising, enabling reserves and available working capital to be carried forward, 2020 could have been very different and much more difficult. Fortunately, we managed to end 2020 in a healthy financial position.
Hire revenue was impacted due to the pandemic and the forced closure of the Hall for virtually the entire year. Compared with the same period in 2019, 2020 hire revenue dropped by just over £15,000 in line with the then treasurer’s year end predictions provided in August 2020. The net result in the P&L was an operating loss a little over £6,000.
Only Pre-school, who produce an important revenue stream, were eventually allowed to continue in isolation, but with a reduced headcount and the consequential knock-on effect of their own declining income that ultimately threatened their existence. Pre-school is an important asset to the community and so, as their landlords, we offered financial assistance as and when it became necessary. In December 2020, we provided free marketing assistance that took the form of producing and booking regular advertising in local media; the campaign commenced in January 2021. As we write this in August 2021, we can report that Pre-school’s future has been secured.
Sadly, the annual Le Mans bike ride fund raising had to be cancelled which was not only a loss for the participants, but also produced a significant shortfall of contribution to the Hall’s account. Based on the previous year’s (2019) receipts, this loss of fund raising in 2020 was close to £6,000. In some ways, it was a reminder that we cannot continue to rely exclusively on this type of fund raising and more needs to be done to identify a variety of sources of funding investment and overheads.
We were fortunate and extremely grateful to have received a significant donation via a bequest from a local resident who left £20,000 to the Hall, in 2019. This became important as 2020 progressed and helped fund the complete refit and refurbishment of the toilet facilities. At some time in the near future, a fitting memorial to this benefactor will be erected.
The government’s national financial support scheme for village Halls (Local Restrictions Support Grants and Restart Grants) were explored and applied for that resulted in a grant of £10,000 being given during the year. Other such grants were successfully pursued into 2021.
CRAG also managed to retain their cash reserves (>£14,000) intact at virtually the same level as the year closed in 2019. Revenue was up by £165 and expenses were lower at £1,800 against the previous year that carried the significant costs of replacements and repairs.
Planned maintenance continued throughout the year, which included the complete refit and refurbishment of all toilet facilities. The roof was cleaned, broken tiles replaced and repointed where necessary. Other minor repairs and replacement of equipment were carried out as usual on an as-and-when basis.
Investment in a new web site that accommodated an online booking and payment system that integrated with automated accounts was agreed by the Trustees. The project is due to be completed in early 2021 and will assist efficiency and save a considerable amount of time devoted to financial administration.
The Future – Proposed extension to the Hall
In 2018, the Parish Council produced a survey that sought the views of local residents as to what they wanted for their village. The main items included a café, a shop and enhanced post office facilities. Their initial solution was to consider a new design and build of a village ‘Hub’ but so far, we are not aware of any further progress.
Naturally, the Trustees believed that all needs and wishes of the residents derived from the survey, could be provided by the Hall. We have the land, the parking, the recreational facilities and ease of access. But first the management committee considered the current usage of the Hall and whether it was serving the whole community, across all age groups and interests. It was felt and agreed that we should look at how we can engage a broader demographic and identify more opportunities that would attract all-commers by increasing capacity and to free up more time slots.
It seemed clear that in the past, the youth of Crudwell who weren’t already otherwise occupied, might have been in danger of being overlooked. Increasing access and interest would mean that we could perhaps, offer classes in more contemporary interests as well as music, photography, PC games, art and so on. The young are the future of the village, and we need to engage with them.
Coincidentally, and following a meeting with Pre-school in November 2020 that aimed to identify and examine issues that would secure their future, it became obvious that it needed to change its current service offering. By creating an independent unit for Pre-school, it would be able to operate on a five-day week, enhance its business model and incorporate new services for Mother and Baby classes for example. The view was that the Hall should expand. Naturally, Pre-school are extremely enthusiastic for the concept and outline design ideas. For the wider community, it would immediately provide an additional 3 days a week capacity and reduce the amount of storage needed by Pre-school in two areas of the Hall.
The construction of a contemporary coffee lounge overlooking the fields and playground, would suit all age groups and fits the survey findings. We are confident that it would become a regular and relaxed meeting place.
The proposed project was approved in principle, and work commenced to brief a local architect with a view to identifying the likely costs and viability, and to put us in a position where we could consider and approach sources of funding in the Autumn of 2021.
We ended 2020 looking back at what was a unique and terrible year for the Country. We began 2021 with hope and determination.
Richard A Fox
Crudwell Village Hall and Recreation Ground