SWALLOWFIELD PARISH ALLOTMENT ASSOCIATION
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON THURSDAY 21ST JULY 2022 AT 8PM
IN THE ROSE ROOM, SWALLOWFIELD PARISH HALL
Committee Members in attendance:
Nick Kolpin (Chair)
Harminder Kandohla (Treasurer)
Claire Hamilton (Secretary)
John Poole (Site Manager)
Sue Dormer (Website)
Plot Holders in Attendance:
Plot 1 Lucinda and Linda, Plot 7 Duncan; Plot 9A Jane, Plot 10 Helen, Plot 19 Bill, Plot 20 Brian, Plot 21 Alison, Plot 25 Amy.
- Apologies: Plot 3 Neil, Plot 4A Liz, Plot 5 Caroline, Plot 8 Mark, Plot 9B Tina, Plot 11 Peter, Plot 14 Bev,
- Minutes and Matters Arising from Thursday 8th July 2021:
The minutes were agreed as correct and approved (Proposed by Amy Plot 25, seconded by Sue).
There were no matters arising.
- Annual Report by the Chair:
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and started by saying that 2021/22 had been a successful one for SPAA. All plots have been occupied and there has been a short waiting list. This has provided financial security. To accommodate as many new members as possible, we have split an existing plot into two half plots and rehabilitated plot 1 to create a new half plot.
The Chair said that, as a privately funded allotment, we rely on members’ efforts to maintain the overall site. Working parties are an enjoyable way of doing this as well as an effective way of keeping on top of the maintenance required. The Chair wished to encourage as many people as possible to attend every year and thanked those who had contributed in however small a way.
The Annual Open Morning was held in May, the first since the pandemic began. The Chair wished to thank all plot holders for their support in donating plants, raffle and tombola prizes, baking cakes, and setting up and striking the event. There was a similar level of attendance and funds generated as in previous years.
During this year, our bank started to introduce charges so the committee held an EGM to be able to open an account at another bank. This has enabled SPAA to make electronic payments whilst still requiring 2 committee members to approve transactions. He thanked Harminder and Claire for the enormous effort that this had taken.
This year, it has become clear that the members’ fees no longer cover the costs of operating the site and that funds raised from events etc have had to top up these payments instead of being put towards equipment or projects designed to improve the site. Combined with an increase in rent from the Parish Council, the committee will be suggesting that members’ rental fees are increased. This should maintain a balanced operational budget over the coming years and allow us to deploy our raised funds for site improvements.
With the successful fund raising from manure sales and the Open Morning, the committee would welcome any suggestions for site improvements. Following the donation of a large water butt, the committee is considering how best it can be deployed to collect and provide an additional water supply for plots. In the near future, the sheds are likely to need repairs or improvements. Following enquiries from potential allotmenteers, the committee is also considering building a few raised beds to let individually to people unable to take on a whole plot.
Finally, the Chair thanked all of the committee members for their efforts and hoped that all plotters have a bountiful harvest.
- Financial Report:
The Treasurer displayed the accounts on screen. These have yet to be approved by John Anderson. She started by saying that these accounts run from April 2021 to 31st March 2022.
In comparison with last year, the profit generated (£171) is less than last year (£336) because the internal plant sales during the pandemic generated greater income. Manure sales this year (£258) generated less income than last year (£314), probably for the same reason.
The expenditure showed £17 bank charges, the PC rent showed an increase of 6%, the annual water bill was more stable (£214) and the grass cutting had gone up by £2.40 per month which is the equivalent of 6%. The carpark scalpings had cost £155 and we had spent £266 on equipment including 2 gazebos, 2 new wheelbarrows and some bolt cutters.
The Current account held £1,231.91, the Deposit account (project fund) held £1,084.77 and Petty cash £72.18.
The total funds equated to £2,388.86.
The Accounts were approved, (Proposed by Nick, seconded by Duncan).
The issue of increased plot rentals was proposed: full plots up from £55 to £65 (+18% increase) and half plots up from £35 to £40 (+14% increase).
Helen queried whether the increase was necessary. The Chair explained that the Parish rent had gone up by 6% and that the rental from plots generated £1565.00 but our expenses (on rent, insurance, grass cutting, water, servicing of equipment, repairs to the site and the costs of the website management) totalled £1,749.20. Monies raised from plants and manure sales should be for improving the site, not for covering the basic running costs.
It was pointed out that, though our plots cost more than a council -run site, councils usually had a far greater number of plots which generate a much greater income.
Proposal: to increase the rental for full plots to £65 and half plots to £40.
This was put to a vote. It was passed by 14 votes with 1 abstention.
- Election of committee members and officers:
The Chair invited members to join the committee to gain some experience before eventually taking on a position. He said he was willing to stand for one more year as Chair if no one else wished to take up the position. He was re- elected.
Chair: Nick Kolpin – Proposed by Claire Hamilton, seconded by Sue Dormer
Secretary: Claire Hamilton – Proposed by Sue Dormer, seconded by Harminder Kandohla
Treasurer: Harminder Kandohla- Proposed by Nick Kolpin, seconded by Ian Swan
Site manager- John agreed to stay on
Sue and Ian agreed to stay on for one more year.
Peter is leaving the committee.
Jane (Plot 9A) was elected unanimously.
Helen, Duncan and Bill said they wouldn’t join the committee but could be called upon to help.
All the elections were agreed unanimously.
- Questions from members:
Bev (Plot 14) had sent in 3 questions in advance:
- She proposed that the committee should buy a sit-on mower to replace our external grass cutting service. This idea had been previously discussed at the committee meeting, the week before. Members were asked for their opinion. It was agreed that buying a mower could cost £3.5 K. The committee would still have to get it serviced and then do the grass cutting themselves. Storage would be a problem and would be an insurance risk. This idea was not agreed.
- Bev proposed that extra water -troughs could be installed down the 2 sides of the site, feeding off from the current troughs down the side paths. The original troughs had been installed with Lottery money. The committee had priced up the cost of this before and this idea would once again require external funding to have it done professionally. The Chair asked if anyone would be willing to spearhead this; the committee would support it. He also asked if anyone had any contacts with charitable funds (eg BIFA had supported the restoration of the Victory Hall in Farley Hill.) If the costs were over £10,000, there was another layer of paperwork. It might be better to look at other ways of storing water. We had already had a donation of a huge water butt which would be installed in the autumn.
- Bev had raised the issue of how decisions were reached; she had said that she thought that whole site decisions should be taken by members at the AGM. The Chair responded by saying that the committee is elected to take decisions on behalf of the members. We cannot wait for the AGM to get things done. Some important decisions had been taken through an EGM eg a meeting had been called for members to approve the switching of bank accounts. Sometimes, decisions are postponed to the next committee meeting, so we could consider consulting members in the interim. Since the committee meets nearly every month, the Secretary informs members of updates in the Newsletter. The Chair suggested that a form of summary minutes could be put onto the website. It was agreed instead that a report from the Committee could be included in the Newsletter.
Ian (plot 6) asked about the new raised beds; the committee would like to build a few raised beds next to the sheds for new people who only want a small area. The new water butt could be placed there and there was easy access from the carpark. The committee had applied to Re3Grow for free compost.
Duncan (plot 7) asked if we needed a skills audit amongst members so that the committee would know if a member could help in a certain area eg for plumbing, electrical knowhow, servicing of equipment etc. The problem we have is that very few members wish to help eg at working parties. There used to be a discount on the rentals if people turned up. It was suggested that, for new members, the Licence Agreement could specify an obligation to turn up for at least one working party a year, or plots could be prioritised and given only to people who agreed to assist at working parties. Duncan said that more members needed to be encouraged to come to working parties and social events.
Bill (plot 19) asked if a new composting area or hoppers could be built somewhere else on site. These would need turning regularly to avoid rats. John (plot 16) said he had contacted the rat catcher previously used to ask him about coming again. He had recommended the autumn as the best time. Lucinda (plot 1) had suggested contacting the council to see if we could have brown bins emptied. We would need a lot of bins! Bill added that members didn’t really want to use their personal tools for clearing the public footpath. Could the committee consider getting in a contractor? Helen (plot 10) said that her husband may be able to help with a large strimmer. Jane (plot 9A) said that the extra expenses should be shared out amongst members so she supported the idea of raising the rental fee for this reason.
Helen (plot 10) raised the issue of the uneven paths, which were getting worse, in spite of previous working parties addressing this problem. She suggested filling the holes with wood chippings which would rot down in winter and the grass would regrow over the top. The committee had previously discussed the idea of buying a roller and would look again at this.
Bill (plot 19) had noticed that crops sometimes do not get harvested by their owners. He wondered if they could be harvested and given to Food Banks if the owners agreed. Harminder (plot 8) said she had lots of contacts for donating food eg to Reading Meal and said that other allotment associations regularly did this. Lucinda recommended another organisation too.
- The Chair announced the winner of this year’s Best Kept Plot which went to Alison (plot 21).
The Best Newcomer was Jane (plot 9A) but a lot of new members had quality plots this year. Well done to everyone!
- The next Committee meeting will be announced via email.
The Chair thanked everyone for coming and for their contributions.
The meeting closed at 9.30pm.