Chairman’s report to the AGM

12th APRIL 2017

The last twelve months have been a time of change and challenge for the charity and specifically the Barlow. I would like to thank my follow trustees for all their hard work and support while we implemented the changes. More importantly I would like to thank the volunteers who have embraced these changes and have understood what we are trying to achieve and while no-one is saying that these changes are easy to understand or even implement it is testament to our volunteers and that includes the trustee board that we find ourselves in the strong position we are now in.

In every group meeting I have been involved in over the past twelve months I have emphasised that everything we do is driven by our up-coming Heritage Lottery bid. I know there are mixed feelings about that bid and the further changes and pressures that it will put upon on us all, but believe me when I say that the funding and support that a successful bid will bring will secure this building and the whole site for the foreseeable future.  Our bid comes in three parts starting with a Resilience bid, Brian Gorski and Helen Smith have been working on the Resilience bid following the many workshops at the Barlow and in March submitted an application to cover various preparation and planning pieces of work.  Normally it takes 6-8 weeks for an answer but I am very pleased to confirm that three and half weeks after the application, on the 31 Mar, we were given the formal go ahead and approval and allocated a HLF lead officer.

The package totalling nearly £35K covers a number of areas as follows:

• A Program Manager who is Brian Gorski

• A Conservation/Heritage Building survey will review the state of the current Barlow building and recommend where it needs conserving and protecting. A full inspection of the roof and foundations will take place. This will feed into the Business Case.

• An Architectural Planning Package including quantity surveyor report and outline costings: this will be done in parallel with the conservation study and will also feed into the business case.

• A woodland conservation consultant will investigate what work needs to be done to preserve and improve the woodland and make recommendations including costings. This will not include any plans to regenerate the old boating lake.

• A Business Case and Options study will provide the primary information to feed into the stage 1 HLF application and will look 10 years forward reviewing the potential for increased services, how we need to manage the Barlow in the future and develop a business plan.

• A Skills Audit will take place on the Board and lead volunteers and recommend what changes we need to make in order to manage the Barlow in the future.

• And a Training package for the board and lead volunteers will be the first phase of a training program that will be continued in stage 1 and Stage 2 so that the skills for the future are progressively developed. In this phase it will develop the knowledge of the Board in running and managing a trust and prepare the lead volunteers for their role in the future.

It is hoped that the entire resilience program will be complete by mid-July to enable us to submit our stage 1 application in October of this year. The importance of the success in obtaining this Resilience bid lies with the fact that if we had not received this approval it would have been an indication that HLF would have not been prepared to support the Stage 1 application so this is an incredibly important milestone on the road to improving our very valuable community facility.

Edgworth is designated as being part of rural Lancashire and importantly rural Lancashire is one of HLFs priorities until 2019 and therefore it is important that we ensure our bid goes forward in a timely manner. Brian will be continuing to manage the application and bid as well as assisting in the development of the recreational facilities which is being done in unison to ensure synchronisation and efficiency. The stage 1 bid will need commitment and support from the volunteers and community as a whole which I know will be forthcoming and readily given. If there are any questions of detail Brian and Helen would be pleased to answer them.

This is fantastic news for not only the charity but for the community as a whole and if we can all get behind the bid and be involved as and when necessary this will help us secure the funding that I am sure is available to us.

During the summer we introduced a new structure to everyone which was, on the whole, welcomed and this has been further enhanced by the work that John Harwood our General Manager and Carole Redhead our Volunteer Manager have done to create the teams that now work together to deliver the services we offer in this building.Tremendous focus has been given to operations over the past 12 months. Based on input from HLF and other organisations. We were advised to implement a governance structure that would allow us to manage the day to day running of The Barlow, the organisation and recruitment of volunteers and the development of the Barlow moving forward.  These include:

• General Manager
• Volunteer Manager
• Bar Manager
• Reading Room Manager
• Marketing Manager
• Office Team Leader
• Customer Service Manager

The above posts have been appointed and consist of paid and volunteer individuals.

While I fully understand that some might find these processes unnecessary they are essential to the smooth running of the building and charity and as I have already said it is the formof structure that HLF will look for as we are assessed for further funding going forward. I hope, no expect, everyone to embrace these procedures and try to understand that given the chance they will work well and improve the lines of communication. John and Carole need your support to make this a success. They have the full backing of the board and I am sure we can all work together to achieve the goals we have set.

Specific focus this year has been on producing a title deed for the Estate as a whole as currently we do not have one with the Land Registry. This is paramount to achieve successful funding and also for ongoing insurance.  Unfortunately the original deeds have not been able to be sourced leading to a statutory declaration having to be completed by a number of individuals and a non-certified copy of the deeds being submitted.  The title deed is currently in the final stages of being completed with the Land Registry pending a valuation for the Estate.

With the historical issue relating to VAT we have been advised to submit a back dated report on inputs and outputs dating back to 2012. This may incur a significant payment to HMRC. However for us to move forward we have to rectify the issues from the past. For one reason or another VAT hadn’t been submitted on previous purchases and sales however this can’t continue and we have to submit full returns.

One of the key issues last year was account access and accounting procedures, moving forward we have rectified this issue with limiting the number who have access to the account and giving access to those that need it. A number of issues were identified with the accounts reporting last year. We are now converting to a new accountancy package and look into incorporating our banking feeds directly into the package thus making reconcile far easier, less margin for error and easier to run off departmental or cost code reporting. A new book keeper has been appointed and is in place helping John Harwood implement the new system.

The board have been in negotiations with both the cricket club and the bowling club regarding the updating of the leases and introducing a collaborative working agreement to stand alongside the lease agreements. These discussions continue and I hope will be resolved soon.

The Health and Safety policy is now in place. This will be reviewed on an annual basis. The policy has been shared throughout the Barlow including our employees. Training has been delivered covering first aid, food hygiene level 2 and display screen equipment. 3 staff have achieved level 2 food hygiene with 1 moving on to level 3.

The roof continues to be a problem and emergency repairs were carried out reducing the water ingress. Weekly visual inspections will continue.

New policies and procedures regarding safeguarding have been completed including the safeguarding risk assessment. We have also strengthened the links with the school so giving opportunities for our young people to get involved in and around the building.

All these developments along with the structures introduced within the Barlow building will put the governance of the charity on a much better foundation so giving the Charity the stability it needs as we negotiate the next few years through the development of the site. The overall governance of the charity has been the focus of the trustees and we are now very close to achieving the objectives we set some eighteen months ago. It has not been an easy road and I thank everyone involved in delivering this.

In April 2016 we ran a charity conference. We plan to hold another conference during late spring/summer. This will have a different focus but we hope that everyone will attend and make the event a success.

We would like to thank all our volunteers for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Without your efforts we would not be in the encouraging position we find ourselves.

Finally I would like to thank my fellow trustees for their hard work and support that includes Glenys of course.