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Letter: ‘Unhappy’ Effingham Meeting Was Not Reported Accurately

Published on: 5 Jul, 2017
Updated on: 5 Jul, 2017

The EVRT committee at the recent AGM

From Liz Hogger

Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham and EVRT committee member

I was disappointed to read Chris Dick’s overly negative and in places inaccurate account of Effingham Village Recreation Trust’s recent AGM, ‘Unhappy AGM Discusses Running of Effingham Amenities’.

As one of the volunteer trustees with the responsibility of managing the King George V Hall and Playing Fields charity (the KGV), I would like to restore the balance with some additional comments and observations on events at the meeting.

One major inaccuracy in Mr Dick’s article must be corrected. He says that realisation of plans for a partial rebuild of the KGV Hall is ‘dependent on planning permission being granted for the construction of over 290 new homes in Effingham and the enlargement of a local school’. This is wrong.

I and my fellow trustee Chris Iles spent some time at the AGM explaining that the plans and costings for the rebuild were developed at short notice by a joint Parish Council / EVRT working group, using a local architect with experience of such public buildings. If the appeal by Berkeley Homes and Howard of Effingham School is allowed and planning permission granted, these plans for a rebuild will provide the necessary evidence to obtain Section 106 ‘planning gain’ money for improved facilities to help the village cope with the extra homes.

However, we made clear that if, as I sincerely hope, the planning appeal is dismissed, then the Parish Council and EVRT are working together to find other sources of funding to rebuild and improve the hall, and we are seeking residents’ views on the plans with that in mind.

The trustees also want to provide improved recreational facilities at the KGV alongside the traditional organised team sports such as rugby and football. Again working with the Parish Council, we have recently circulated a survey to 1000 homes in the village to find out what other facilities people want; ideas include better playgrounds, a jogging track, indoor fitness equipment and community meeting spaces.

I urged the audience at the AGM to fill in the survey forms, and I was pleased that many did so and gave us some very positive feedback on the plans.

Looking briefly at other inaccuracies in Chris Dick’s article: the meeting was recorded not because no-one was available to take minutes but to help me as Hon Secretary to take accurate minutes; Chris Iles confirmed that the rugby club was consulted on the plans for the KGV rebuild at the earliest opportunity; the trustees did not dismiss the idea of covered seating for Loolabell’s outdoor café (in fact we told the proprietor last year we would be happy to consider any definite proposals she brought to us); the Treasurer Chris Hogger made clear that perceived inaccuracies in the accounts were down to presentational changes under the new reporting standards required of charities and the auditors had confirmed the accounts were correct.

Much of the unhappiness at the AGM came from members of the EPFA [Effingham Playing Fields Association] social club, which has a licence to use the “Village Room” at the KGV. This was partly in protest about the formal letter from EVRT to EPFA on 6 April to remind the club they must comply with the terms of their licence, following several worrying incidents.

For example, as an EPFA committee member admitted at the AGM, one incident occurred when EPFA members set off the fire alarm accidentally by using a smoke machine at a disco, contrary to the terms of their licence, then smashed the alarm to silence the noise and enable the club to continue.

Mr Dick’s comment in his article that the ensuing correspondence between EVRT and EPFA showed that ‘the trustees have so far refused to investigate concerns and complaints raised by the EPFA committee’ is a simplistic and inaccurate interpretation.

I read out at the AGM a paragraph from the final email sent to EPFA on 29 May, as part of that correspondence: “We [the EVRT trustees] repeat, once again, our sincere wish that EPFA can continue to provide social activities for its members which are in line with the objectives of both the EVRT charity and the EPFA club. We note and appreciate there have been no further significant incidents which could be regarded as breaches of the licence, and hope this will continue to be the case.”

Chairman Gill Bowerman showed commendable patience in listening and responding to the various concerns raised, but it was disappointing that there was little time left when we finally reached the last item on the formal agenda to have the constructive forward-looking discussion about the future of the KGV we had hoped for.

It was gratifying that one member of the audience commented near the end that she thought the ideas are fantastic, the trustees have a thankless task, but it had been a really useful meeting and she was very grateful for the work we do.

Are the trustees ‘considering their position’ as Mr Dick claims? No, we are not. We owe it to the vast majority who enjoy using the KGV Hall and Fields to ensure the charity continues to meet its objective of providing ‘facilities for recreation and leisure-time occupation’ for the residents of Effingham. We won’t let the small minority of grumblers get us down.

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Responses to Letter: ‘Unhappy’ Effingham Meeting Was Not Reported Accurately

  1. Des Tanner Reply

    July 6, 2017 at 2:06 am

    In reply to Liz Hogger regarding EPFA incidents, we were put on 30 days notice of expulsion for breach of our licence on 15 items over a period of two years. We responded in great detail on each alleged breach in a 3-page letter proving the vast majority was either inaccurate or false only to receive a two-line response.

    The response included comments on a smoke machine and the smashing of the alarm. These were two completely separate incidents.

    The smoke machine incident was rectified in minutes of happening and an apology to the then groundsman with a follow up to the manager the next day. The other incident was a false alarm, not of our making. After three hours of an internal siren sounding and no key holder willing to respond, a frustrated member smashed it.

    We admitted the damage and paid to put it right in full. The person responsible was expelled from the club. Linking the two is trying to make a crisis out of a drama – and so it goes on.

    Regarding the one member of the audience was happy with the AGM, can I conclude that of an audience of about 40 would make 97% unhappy.

  2. Norma Miller Reply

    July 7, 2017 at 10:40 am

    In response to Liz Hogger’s letter, as a committee member of Effingham Playing Fields Association Limited, established 52 years ago in 1965, I would like to give some additional information.

    I feel the options given in the EVRT questionnaire were quite biased, as they are more in favour of the plans already being discussed by the trustees without full consultation with all users of KGV.

    No one is able to arrange a meeting with all five trustees, as they never have the time. The last time EPC [Effingham Parish Council] met with them was in February 2016 and another such meeting is not being planned until the autumn of this year.

    I believe that the proposals already put forward by Loolabell’s outdoor café of either a gazebo type or marquee were not refused but had a very negative initial response.

    I would add that as some of the complaints listed by the KGV Trustees were not accurate, we asked them to address these issues, and others matters, raised in our letter to them on May 3rd. This letter also contained a formal complaint to them that they have still to acknowledge.

    We wrote to them again on May 22nd giving them time to respond to our initial requests but the deadline given has passed and we are still no further on. They do reply to our correspondence but appear to evade the points raised. They have refused to rescind the formal warning and I reiterate that we continue to live with a “hatchet over our heads”.

    My overall impression of the AGM is that the trustees are concentrating on the material aspects of KGV but have completely lost sight of the human element that would benefit the community as a whole.

    Many of our older residents remember taking money to school to fundraise the initial development for this. I wonder where our King George V Playing Fields would be today without the initial enthusiasm and fundraising from the residents between 1935 and 1938 including the children with the subsequent “buy a brick scheme”?

    Norma Miller is the vice-president EPFA (Effingham Playing Fields Association).

  3. A Atkinson Reply

    July 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I’m quite alarmed that the EVRT has imposed a 43% increase in the amount it plans to charge The Howard of Effingham School for the use of the KGV, parents got a letter this afternoon. They were offered less time/space for the same money (assume 43% less). Not sure what is going to happend to the sports provision at the school? They seem to have decided in their offer of less time/space and cannot afford the 43% increase it seems.

    I’d be interested to hear what the EVRT has to say.

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