2020/21 Chairman's Annual Report on Tarvin Community Centre
1. This report covers the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, a year which has been like no other. Covid-19 had a dramatic impact on what the Committee was able to achieve and how the Centre could be run. Even so, progress was made, and I think our residents should be thankful that their Centre is run so professionally by a very competent Committee, supported by an exceptional caretaker.
What was achieved?
2. First, the Committee coped with all the changes necessary in order to be able to operate within the Government's rules. Fortunately Cheshire Community Action was able to offer timely and helpful advice regarding how rules should be interpreted. Over the year five modifications to "the rules" were made. The actions of the Committee ensured that the Centre was always available to users, in a safe environment whenever it was allowed.
3. Secondly, the Committee invested in the Centre. We now have a refurbished stage with lighting, floor and curtains to a professional standard. The former oil tank room was converted for storage and during 2021/22 it has been used to store modern mobile staging for tiered seating. Special mobile purpose-built storage bins, which fit under the stage, were also built and installed.
4. Thirdly, the facilities at the Centre have ensured that even in difficult circumstances it has great appeal and new users, including a private training company, were attracted to use the facility.
Why was success achieved?
5. The Centre was only successful because the Committee, made up of local residents, was prepared to put in so much effort. I would particularly like to put on record my personal thanks for the efforts of Jane Armstrong (Secretary), Roy Brereton (Building), Lyn Brunton (Website/tech), Pete Brunton (Films), Sue Hardacre (Bookings), Fiona Lewis (Arts) and Jane Lush (Treasurer). Our other Committee members also played their part to make the Centre so successful in very trying circumstances. The committed hard work of the Committee, which I am proud to lead, made my role as Chairman easy.
6. Some members of the Committee are concerned that the average age of the Committee is increasing and that this becomes an issue when tasks are of a physical nature and for succession planning.. Personally I am not so concerned about the first issue. This is because I know that, when necessary, I am able to call on younger, fitter and stronger members of the community to undertake specific tasks. On the second issue I do accept that it would be hugely beneficial to have younger members on the Committee, so that when older members want to step down there are people who are trained, committed and keen who can step up and assume more prominent roles, thus ensuring continuity. However, the reality is that people who are younger often do not have the time to give as their priority is normally family and work.
7. The other reason for our success is our caretaker, Chris Leavy, who despite only working 15 hours per week ensures that the Centre is always clean, properly serviced and available for the variety of users, some of whom are very demanding. The Committee was very keen that Chris should never be furloughed during lockdowns, and this was achieved. As a consequence Chris was able to carry out significant improvements during lockdowns, including to the Hall floor, the front of the stage, the walls behind the stage and bringing the oil tank room into beneficial use. He also ensured that the various contractors employed by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), our landlord, had all the help and assistance they needed. Finally when problems with the building occurred Chris ensured our landlord was advised and action requested.
8. Our landlord can be very slow to react to problems, which is frustrating for the Committee. We put pressure on them for the flat roof to be comprehensively dealt with because in heavy rain it does leak and piecemeal patching has proved to be ineffective. Something may happen in 2021/22.
9. The grounds are another source of frustration. Grass cutting was spasmodic and despite many requests trees, hedges and shrubs were not cut back. The one beacon of excellence were the tubs outside the entrance, which were planted up and maintained by Heather Excell. The Committee was delighted and grateful for her hard work. Sadly much of the time, because of lockdowns, not many people were able to enjoy the colourful show.
10. The final frustration was CWaC deciding in November to move out of the offices which occupy the other half of the building. This is not only because we were deprived of occasional letting income, but also because our caretaker, who also cleaned those offices, had his future put into doubt. Luckily Chris has been given an alternative placement but the fact that he was not on site in the winter evenings had obvious security implications. There are also service panels for the burglar and fire alarms situated on the office side which cannot be accessed by the Committee if there is a problem. We understand that CWaC is reviewing its office provision; if and when the offices are going to be brought back into use remains a mystery.
11. Covid-19 reduced our income in 2020/21 by about 50%. However, Government grants together with some financial concessions from our landlord ensured that the Committee was able to meet all its financial obligations and even invest. Our financial strength also allowed us to put on entertainment events, when allowed, even though it was likely that these would run at a loss. As I look beyond 2020/21 it is clear that it will take at least 18 months for things to return to normal, which means that the priority of the Committee is to ensure that we remain financially strong and are in a position to meet the fundamental objective of the charity which is vitally important and set below.
"The object of the Charity shall be the provision and maintenance of a community centre for the use of the inhabitants of the Parish of Tarvin (hereinafter called "the area of benefit") without distinction of political, religious or other opinions, including use for meetings, lectures and classes, and for other forms of recreation and leisure time occupation, with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants."
Ted Lush, Chairman of Tarvin Community Centre Committee of Management