2021 AGM - Chairman’s address - 29/10/21

Good evening, Ladies & Gentlemen – thank you for coming along to our AGM – the first one we have been able to hold for what seems like years.

To go with that, I must offer my special thanks and gratitude to the members of the committee, who signed up for one year and have served the members since their election after the AGM on the 19th April 2019. Their assistance, guidance and friendship have been very welcome during such unprecedented times.

Just in case you had forgotten, that due to COVID-19 we were closed for 6 months in 2020 (April – July) plus November & December, and when we did reopen, we had to comply with various restrictions that had a big impact upon 2020 turnover, which extended into 2021 as we were closed for the first three months of the year.

During lockdown we were unable to have full committee meetings so an Emergency Management Committee was formed comprising of Julie, Al, Mike Bish, Chris Andrew, Rob Kittle and myself. Not all of us were at every meeting but where input was required invitations were sent out. Weekly meetings via Skype were held.

Special thanks to Julie and Al who managed the Furlough scheme and applied for all the grants available – Julie continues to do this as on occasion Wealden issues another grant.

On return to re-opening, thanks to Rob Kittle for his hard work in making our club clean, ready and fit for business.

Since re-opening all of our suppliers seem to be putting up their prices, as an example, some beers have risen by 15% and CO2 by 91%. In addition, I am sure you are all aware that there are large price increases for fuel, this means that the cost of electricity for lighting and chillers, and gas for keeping our club warm will become even more expensive than it already is.

As a commercial operation fuel to us is already more expensive than people on a domestic tariff due to the climate change levy.

We are aware of the requirement to further insulate but the building construction makes this difficult – but not impossible – but in conjunction with our very old boiler, positively pensionable, and as a consequence inefficient, it needs replacing – this would be a major capital cost given that it is only used 4 – 5 months out of the year.

As electricity takes 60% of our spend and 40% on gas – going forward we have to analyse how we can reduce our electricity consumption.

Energy consumption will continue to be a major challenge for the future.

Turnover is significantly down from the previous “normal” turnover figures, we have been keeping and eagle eye on this. Without doubt, at least one day per week, sometimes 2 or 3 we lose money by opening. This will continue to be monitored by the next committee and the feasibility of opening every day or not.

As an example of the reduced turnover, the average figures for October indicate that on Monday nights the figure is £90 – this is an average so on some Monday’s we take less than £90.

We are lucky because we do have a steady rental income which in conjunction with the government grants have cushioned the blow a little.

A look around the village indicates that we are not the only business with a lack of customers – it is not unique to us.

Thanks to Mr Sunak for the reduction on lower alcohol tax, even though it is not due to come in until February 2023 – in short, don’t expect any immediate price adjusting down.

In fact, in light of all the additional costs it is unfortunately inevitable that our prices will rise, we will try and keep them as low as possible, but it would be remiss of any committee to subsidise current consumption with our bank balance, we have to try and at least break even with sales.

We are one of very few clubs still registered under the 1974 Friendly Society Act. The CIU is advising that we look at forming a co-operative. No changes can be made without either an AGM or an EGM and all members will be consulted. I would like to add that there are pros and cons on both sides of the argument but that it is felt that the next committee should undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the options.

Whilst we are on the subject of longstanding agreements, I would like to say a big thank you to Tracey who has completed 20 years of service to the club. Let us show our appreciation in the usual manner.

The decision around Sky TV and switching to the cheaper alternative of BT Sport – unfortunately this seems not to be working as it has barely increased footfall at all. The committee felt that it was worthwhile giving this a 6-month trial.

Possibly an early decision to be made by the new committee as to the future of either BT or Sky – it is worthwhile noting that the cost for Sky is in excess of £900 per month – in real terms this is an extra 2000 pints of beer per month, just to pay for Sky.

The Marquee was repaired and erected by volunteers in April and has provided a good undercover outdoor space during restrictions. It will be coming down for the winter and any volunteers to help with this would be gratefully received.

Many of you will have noticed that when it rains, we still have a duck pond in the back car park – looking at the lie of the land we receive more than our fair share of water from the road at the back of the club and there are plans to make changes to this. Thanks to Rob Kittle for helping with this project.

A decision was made to outsource our accounting to Warren Day. My thanks to Chris and Julie for making this happen. The rational behind doing this is to reduce the risk to the club in the event that we needed to replace the Secretary’s position in the future. It is much easier to find people with fewer skills. In addition, it means that we can have more of a focus on club admin and marketing.

Many thanks to Mike Bish who has managed the digital land registration of the club premises. It was a lengthy and complex project.

We have made changes in the provision of the club for day-time clubs, we have seen fit to stop these for the time being due to cleaning and heating costs, plus the fact that someone always has to be available when they are here.

As you know, the current committee steps down after this meeting and it is time for us to search for a new management committee. All skills are required from all walks of life – the more diverse the better as all skills are required.

Remember that this is a management committee and you are not expected to be joining just because you can, for example, do plumbing, although these skills are also required as an executive advisor to the committee. Similarly, others in the building trade should hold a similar role as they are aware of new products available, for example new insulation products.

Any accountants amongst you, business owners, management consultants and members just wanting to make a difference and want to see some change, make lively entertainment and have fun – please put your names down and come and join the management committee.

There are many exciting projects to engage with over the next few months and these include, but are not limited to: after COP26 in Glasgow, a Heating and Insulation survey and action plan and obtaining any grants, the potential revamp / decoration of the premises, monitoring the profitability of the club, entertainment ideas and the feasibility study of potentially changing the structure of the club to a Co-operative.

I am sure I speak for the 80% of people who do not put their names forward, that the work that the management committee does is appreciated.

I am also pleased to announce that because of the work of the outgoing committee and that of Rob Kittle, we now have 464 members, this is a record in recent years, it is good to see some younger people now enjoying our facilities.

I would like to mention, the sad demise of Seamus, Wicksy and Greg who were all regular users of the club and sorely missed by many of us. We will be having a wake in their remembrance on November 6th so put this date into your diaries if you would like to come and give them a good send off and remember the good times we had together.

Finally, before I hand over to Robert Agates, I have to report that this will be Roberts last year working for us. Robert has indicated that he plans to reduce his work over the next year or so, and as such the move to Warren Day was a good opportunity for us to appoint a replacement.

Robert, thank you for all your work and understanding over the years, please accept this as a token of our gratitude.