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Minutes from the 2019/20 & 2020/21 AGMs

The two AGMs were held on the same day (23rd September 2021) as it had not been possible to hold the 2019/2020 meeting at the usual date or time, due to Covid restrictions.

 

Minutes of the Sight Support Worthing AGM for the Year 2019/2020

Held on 23rd September 2021 at 48 Rowlands Road, Worthing

Present: 25 Members of  SSW 

5 Trustees 

Staff and volunteers 

 

Item 1 – Welcome and Introductions

The AGM was opened by Barry Ward, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who welcomed everyone to the AGM. 

The Meeting then held a Minutes Silence to respect members, friends and family who had passed away during the period since the last AGM.

This AGM should have been held 12 months previously but due to the Government restrictions relating to the Covid Pandemic, it had not been possible to hold this AGM until now.

The Chairman reminded the meeting that only the Members present had the right to vote where a vote was sought.

 

Item 2 – Re-election of Trustees

The Constitution required one-third of the Trustees to stand down (in turn) by the date of an AGM, opting to seek re-election if they chose. 

Dawn O’Donnell and Cherry Ward were standing down: both sought re-election. 

Dawn O’Donnell was Proposed by Ron Colbourne and Seconded by Madeline Hastwell; Cherry Ward was Proposed by David Martill and Seconded by Pat Martill. 

The Meeting voted in favour of both being re-elected.


Item 3 – Approval of the 2019 AGM Minutes

Jean Knight Proposed that the Minutes should be adopted and Sandra Mann Seconded that motion. The Meeting voted in favour of adopting the Minutes with no votes against.

 

Item 4 – Matters Arising

There were no Matters Arising.

 

Item 5 – Accounts and Annual Report for the Year to 31st March 2020

5.1 Financials

A one-page Summary of the overall Accounts had been given to all attendees.

This showed an operating deficit of £74 000 – ignoring the figure for asset depreciation. That figure exceeded the planned deficit by £54 000. That additional deficit was due entirely to a drop in Legacy/Donations of £47 000 and a reduction in Dividend Income of £7 000 (the latter being a result of the World Financial Market being impacted by the Covid Pandemic).

The Board could not have predicted either of the above at the start of the Financial Year. However, the level of financial reserves available to SSW means that this additional loss can be covered without any risk to the Charity’s financial position. 

Due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on the World Financial Market, the “paper value” of the Charity’s Investment Portfolio suffered a 14% downturn in the last quarter of this financial year. However, at the time of this AGM (some 18 months later) the “paper value” has more than fully recovered. The financial position is therefore sound.

Full copies of the Accounts are available to members. 

The following questions were raised:

5.1a Dorothy Hicks (member) asked why the Christmas and Summer Fayres had stopped, both of which raised funds. In response, Cherry Ward (Trustee) said that the changes were introduced in order to vary what had happened before. The Chairman added that those events had not been targeted as fund raisers – they were mainly social events with the fund raising being a bonus. However, the staff are actively looking at holding further such functions.

On that point, the Chairman emphasised the value of members putting forward their ideas for new activities and events.

5.1b Madeline Hastwell (member) asked whether members should pay an annual subscription.

In response, the Chairman said that the Board’s preference was that membership should be free, thus ensuring that nobody would be put off joining the Charity.

SSW operated a monthly “draw” for members who wanted to buy tickets. Half the money received was paid out monthly to those tickets that were drawn from the ballot; the other half being retained by SSW to support the costs of running the Charity. This was deemed to be a more equitable way of raising funds from members as it gave individual members the choice of whether or not to participate. 

5.2 General Activities

In addition to the regular Activities and Events, a free Christmas Lunch (at an outside venue) had proved a great success with 65 members attending.

The Board had decided to sponsor a Council owned garden at Steyne Gardens to create a sensory garden (colour, aroma and touch) – a proposal that the Council readily supported.

Additional changes were made to the Charity’s web site to ensure that it provided a full coverage of the services SSW offers.

A pantomime was put on, with the cast being drawn from members, staff, volunteers and Trustees. This was held as a one-off show at a local school.

Over the year, we attracted 50 new members.

All paper records and some digital files are now stored in the West Sussex Archives Office in Chichester. This ensures their long-term safety and also makes them nore readily available for research by interested parties.  

5.3 Staffing

In November 2019, Frances Pritchard (Manager) asked if she could move to a three-day week, ideally Monday to Wednesday starting at the end of March 2020. The Board agreed subject to the recruitment of a Manager to cover Wednesday to Friday (allowing the Wednesday as a hand-over day). In effect, both acting as Joint Managers.

The recruitment was successful with Sonia Baker taking up the joint role on 23rd March. Later that same day, the Board took the decision to close the Centre as a result of the Covid pandemic and all the staff were sent home, on full pay.  

5.4 Impact of Government Covid Restrictions

Following the decision to close the Centre on 23rd March, staff were asked to establish a phone rota so that until the situation changed, they could remain in contact with members and maintain a degree of interaction.

At that point, nobody had any idea how long the “lock down” would last.


Item 6 – Adoption of the Accounts 

Pat Giles Proposed the adoption of the Accounts which was Seconded by Jean Knight. The Meeting voted in favour.


Item 7 – Appointment of Auditors

Normally, at an AGM the members are asked to vote on the Board’s recommendation re appointing Auditors. Given that this particular AGM should have taken place 12 months ago, the Board made the decision at that time to re-appoint Kreston Reeves..


Item 8 – Resolutions

There were no Resolutions notified in advance.


Item 9 – Close of Meeting

The Chairman thanked everyone for coming and for their participation.

The formal element of the AGM was closed at 11.50.

 

——————–

Minutes of the AGM for the Year 2020/2021
Held on 23rd September 2021
at 48 Rowlands Road, Worthing

Present: 26 Members of SSW
5 Trustees
Staff and volunteers

Item 1 – Welcome and Introductions

The AGM was opened by Barry Ward, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who welcomed everyone to the AGM.

The Chairman reminded the meeting that only the Members present had the right to vote where a vote was sought.

Following the formalities of the AGM there would be an Open Forum where members can raise any matters of interest and/or concern.

 

Item 2 – Re-election of Trustees

The Constitution required one-third of the Trustees to stand down (in turn) by the date of an AGM, opting to seek re-election if they chose.

However, as Martin Bloomfield had stood down in December and Frances Jacobs had stood down at the September Board Meeting, that covered the situation.
The Chairman thanked Frances for all her support and was pleased that she is continuing her work as a volunteer. Martin Bloomfield had indicated when he started that due to business commitments, he would probably only serve as a Trustee for two years – he stayed for over four years which was fully appreciated.

The Board had co-opted Brian Butcher as a Trustee in January – he was now being put forward for formal election by the members: Proposed by David Martill and Seconded by Madeline Hastwell. The Meeting voted in favour of Brian being elected.

 

Item 3 – Approval of the 2020 AGM Minutes

Due to the Government Covid restrictions, the 2020 AGM had to be postponed – that AGM took place earlier in this day so clearly there are no Minutes to approve.
That process of Approval will be carried forward to next year’s AGM.

 

Item 4 – Accounts and Annual Report for the Year to 31st March 2021

4.1 Financials

A one-page Summary of the overall Accounts had been given to all attendees.

This showed an operating deficit of £74 000 (ignoring the figure for asset depreciation) which is very similar to the previous year. However, the reasons for the deficit are different from those that resulted in the previous year’s deficit.

For most of the year, due to the Government “lock down” restrictions (aimed at reducing the impact of the Covid Pandemic) the Centre was closed with only very limited opportunities for staff to work at the Centre – in the main, staff worked from home. The impact on finances compared with the previous year meant that HQ running costs were down £20 000 – we also received an additional £ 24 000 in Legacies. However, our Investment Income was down £20 000 (due to the Covid impact on the World Financial Market) and the need to fund Redundancy payments (see 4.3 below) in effect matched the reductions in expenses. Hence a similar deficit to the previous year.

On the positive side, the level of financial reserves available to SSW means that this additional loss can be covered without any risk to the Charity’s financial position. In fact by the end of this Financial year, in spite of the Covid impact on the Financial Market the “paper value” of SSW’s reserves had increased, more than covering the deficit recorded above. The financial position is therefore sound.

Full copies of the Accounts are available to members.


4.2 General Activities

From the start of this AGM year (ie 1st April 2020), the Centre was closed and all staff were working from home, on full pay. The main task of the staff involved phoning all the members on a regular basis, providing a degree of communication and also identifying any areas where SSW could provide more direct support.

The SSW Board “met”, using Zoom technology, on a fortnightly basis for several months while the staff continued their regular contacts with members. It was impossible to make any definite plans as nobody knew how long the “lock down” arrangements would continue. A partial lifting of restrictions during the Summer enabled some staff to come to the Centre to work – but no Activities or outings were possible.

4.3 Staffing

By September 2020, it became clear that there would not be any significant lifting of the “lock down” arrangements until the Spring of 2021 at the earliest. The Board therefore had to review the situation and in particular make decisions regarding continuing to employ and pay all the staff in post.

At this point, the Government introduced a new furlough scheme. Under that scheme, if an employer could demonstrate that an employee could genuinely fulfil 33% of their role, the Government would provide a significant “top up” of their full-time salary.

So, the Board met with all the staff, explained the position and asked if any staff would want to seek voluntary redundancy, At the same time, the Joint Managers (Sonia Baker and Frances Pritchard) were asked to review all the roles and determine those that could meet the new furlough conditions. Based on that review, it was clear that the Receptionist role did not meet the new furlough conditions (nobody was visiting the Centre). The Board therefore determined that the role was redundant and Sue Collier was given Redundancy terms. At that same time, Frances Pritchard asked the Board to consider her application for Voluntary Redundancy. Given the circumstances, the Board agreed to Frances’s request.

At the end of the AGM year (ie 31st March 2021) Steve Deane decided to retire, further reducing our staffing level.

4.4 Impact of Government Covid Restrictions

In effect, the full “lock down” Covid restrictions continued up to the very end of this AGM year.


4.5 Board Objectives

The uncertainty over the longer-term levels of Covid Restrictions made any form of planning extremely difficult. However, in January 2021 the Board met to review its Objectives and set out their priorities for the future. The main points were as follows:

4.5.a Establish an in-house technical capability that could offer support to existing members, support for future members and provide advice to anyone with a visual impairment in their use of phones, tablets, computers etc.

4.5.b Start planning for the re-opening of the Centre so that when restrictions are lifted, SSW is ready to re-establish Activities and outings.

4.5.c Further improve the support and communication with SSW’s team of volunteers.

4.5.d Ensure that the communication with members is meeting their needs.

4.5.e Increase the level of collaboration with other related organisations.

4.5.f Continue to seek how best to further raise SSW’s profile in the community.

4.5.g Promote the needs of the Visually Impaired across Local Authorities and businesses.


Item 5 – Adoption of the Accounts

David Nicholls Proposed the adoption of the Accounts which was Seconded by Roy Beynon. The Meeting voted in favour.

 

Item 6 – Appointment of Auditors

Jean Knight Proposed and Pat Giles Seconded the Board’s recommendation to re-appoint Kreston Reeves as Auditors. The Meeting voted in favour.

 

Item 7 – Resolutions

There were no Resolutions notified in advance.

 

Item 8 – Close of Meeting

The Chairman thanked everyone for coming and for their participation. A vote of thanks was also expressed for all the staff and volunteers for their commitment and enthusiasm during the unprecedented events of this past year.

The formal element of the AGM was closed.

Open Forum

This session does not form part of the official AGM but has been Minuted to record the points raised.

Everyone had clearly enjoyed the lunch that preceded this AGM and a round of applause was the way everyone thanked Jacqui Matten who had arranged the provision of lunch.

Prior to lunch, Sonia Baker (Manager) had outlined the current staffing responsibilities. Alison Bates (Technical Support) gave a more detailed overview of her background and her aspirations for her role, encouraging members to approach her for help and support.

Brian Butcher (member and Trustee) outlined his background and in particular his specific interest in ensuring that local Government and business understood and fully met their legal obligations regarding measures that help the visually impaired. The current emphasis is directed at improving access in Warwick Street. He has also involved SSW in working with the local Council on their plans for pedestrianising other parts of Worthing.

Cherry Ward (Trustee) outlined in more detail the work that is being done in the walled gardens at the southern end of Steyne Gardens to create a sensory garden that can be enjoyed by SSW members and the general public. The Covid “lock down” has delayed progress but it is planned to start buying plants later this month with a view to planting in October. Those members who would like to get involved should contact the SSW Office. In addition to gardening activities, SSW will also be looking to paint the benches and railings that form part of this garden area. In response to a question from Dorothy Hicks, if members wish to contribute to the cost of plants etc then any contributions would be welcome. Regarding the risks of vandalism, to date there have been no such incidents.

David Martill (member) asked if someone could look into the viability/reliability of “Ellis” spectacles. Brian Butcher took that as an Action.

Dorothy Knowles (member) raised a number of concerns regarding Utility Companies charging for the provision of paper bills and/or large print bills. In response, both Brian Butcher (Trustee and member) and Alison Bates (staff) explained the legal obligations that Utility Companies (and others) had in regard to the provision of bills for the visually impaired. So, if any member is having difficulties in this context, both Brian and Alison would like to be informed so that they can offer help and advice.

Roy Beynon (member) asked if the Monday “Knit & Natter” session would be re-introduced. In response, Sonia Baker (Manager) said this depended on the level of demand but if there were sufficient members interested, then she would make arrangements for sessions to be started (although that might not now be possible for Mondays). Sonia also asked that if members wanted to set up new activities to let her know and every effort will be made to meet such requests.

Dawn O’Donnell (Trustee) reminded members that with the likely introduction of Covid booster vaccinations, transport could be arranged using SSW’s 1:1 volunteer driver service.