Cabinet Sub-Committee (Council Charities) Minutes

Date:
Monday, 22nd September, 2014
Time:
11.00am
Place:
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Bernard Lovewell (Chairman), Councillor P.C.W. Burt and Councillor Julian Cunningham.
In attendance:
Head of Finance, Performance & Asset Management, Head of Revenues, Benefits & IT, Service Manager - Grounds Maintenance, Parks & Countryside Development Manager, Group Accountant - Customer Services, Senior Estates Surveyor, Acting Corporate Legal Manager (for Minute 6 only), Acting Senior Lawyer (for Minute 7 only), Temporary Property Solicitor and Committee & Member Services Manager.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
1 ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
RESOLVED: That Councillor Bernard Lovewell be elected as Chairman of the Sub-Committee for the remainder of the 2014/15 Civic Year.
2 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 29 April 2014 be taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
3 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no notification of other business.
4 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Chairman reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
5 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
There was no public participation.
6 ANNUAL ACCOUNTS AND RETURNS FOR COUNCIL ADMINISTERED CHARITIES
The Sub-Committee was advised that the Acting Corporate Legal Manager would be in attendance for this item only, and that the Acting Senior Lawyer would be in attendance for Item 7 (Minute 7) below only.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented a report in respect of the returns required for each of the Charities/Charitable Trusts administered by NHDC, namely Hitchin Town Hall, King George V Playing Fields, Smithson Recreation Ground and the Hertfordshire Yeomanry collection. The following appendices were submitted with the report:

Appendix 1a and 1b - Hitchin Town Hall Trust accounts and Annual Report;
Appendix 2a and 2b - King George V Playing Fields accounts and draft annual return; and
Appendix 3 - Smithson Recreation Ground I and E Statement.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that, in respect of the Smithson Recreation Ground, the day to day management of the grounds sat with the Grounds Maintenance team and the Service Manager compiled the annual returns. Smithson Recreation Ground returns only comprised an Income and Expenditure Statement because there was no asset value to make up a Balance Sheet. In respect of the Hertfordshire Yeomanry collection, this was the only charity that did not involve land or buildings. It was a collection of military artefacts bequeathed to the Council by way of a Trust Deed dated 6 August 2003. This collection was managed by the Museum Curator. As the funds were less than £10,000, then all that the Charities Commission required was a confirmation that nothing had changed with regard to the Collection in the past financial year (and nothing had). Therefore, there was no specific return for the Sub-Committee to approve.

The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management stated that, in terms of prudent financial management, officers proposed that the Sub-Committee agreed to not having an independent examination of the accounts of the Trusts. The income for the Hitchin Town Hall, King George V Playing Fields and Smithson Recreation Ground Trusts in total was less than £25,000. Charities with income of less than £25,000 per annum were not required to have external scrutiny and this was a position supported by the Charity Commission.

Notwithstanding the officer advice, the Sub-Committee agreed that the King George V Playing Fields Trust accounts for 2013/14 should be independently examined. In so doing, they further agreed that the Hitchin Town Hall and Smithson Recreation Ground should not be independently examined in 2013/14. It was noted that Hitchin Town Hall was effectively “closed” due to the on-going renovation works, and hence (for 2013/14) there would be nothing to be gained by an independent examination.

The following further issues were discussed by the Sub-Committee:

• The returns, when made to the Charity Commission, should include the fact that Councillor Lovewell is Chairman of the Sub-Committee; and
• Visits should be arranged for Sub-Committee Members to the Hitchin Town Hall and Smithson Recreation Ground and to view the Hertfordshire Yeomanry Collection.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the information required by the Charities Commission for the Hitchin Town Hall, Smithson Recreation Ground and Hertfordshire Yeomanry Collection charities, as set out in the report, be approved so that the returns can be submitted prior to the January 2015 deadline; and

(2) That, in respect of the King George V Playing Fields Charitable Trust, the 2013/14 accounts be independently examined, and that provided no issues of concern are raised following completion of the examination, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, in consultation with the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management, be authorised to approve them, so that the returns can be submitted prior to the January 2015 deadline.

REASON FOR DECISION: To facilitate the submission of approved returns to the Charity Commission.
7 TRANSFER OF KING GEORGE V PLAYING FIELDS, HITCHIN - CHARITABLE TRUST AND UPDATE ON HITCHIN TOWN HALL TRUST PROPERTY
The Sub-Committee considered a report of the Acting Senior Lawyer (Trust Legal Adviser) in respect of the progress of negotiations relating to the King George V Playing Fields, Hitchin, and in respect of an update on the Hitchin Town Hall Trust property. The following appendices were submitted with the report:

Appendix 1 - Revised Management Agreement for King George V Playing Fields, Hitchin; and
Appendix 2 - Plan of 16/17 Brand Street, Hitchin.

In relation to the transfer of the King George V Playing Fields, the Acting Senior Lawyer advised that, following the previous meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 29 April 2014, the Council’s Property Solicitor sent a revised draft of the Management Agreement, together with an updated lease, to the Rugby Club’s solicitor. The revised Management Agreement contained an amended Clause 8 that stated:

“8. FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS

8.1 The Club shall supply to the Owner by 31 May each calendar year:

(a) a copy of its final accounts for the preceding financial year; and

(b) a statement certified by the Club treasurer confirming the Pitch Management Costs and the Relevant Income for the preceding financial year.

8.2 Where the statement submitted in accordance with clause 8.1 (b) shows that the Relevant Income is less than the Pitch Management Costs then the Club shall retain the Relevant Income for the year.

8.3 where the statement submitted in accordance with clause 8.1 (b) shows that Relevant Income exceeds the Pitch Management Costs then the amount by which the Relevant Income exceeds the Pitch Management Costs (the Excess) shall be applied as follows:

(a) Firstly the Excess shall be set off against the Management Payment due from the Owner to the Club under clause 26.4 of the Lease; and

(b) If the Excess exceeds the Management Payment then the Club shall invest the remainder into the Pitches or the Property with a view to furthering the Trust objectives.

8.4 The Club shall provide the Owner with all reasonable assistance and information to enable the Owner to submit its annual return to the Charity Commission.”

The Sub-Committee was informed that, on 14 July 2014, the Rugby Club’s Vice- Chairman sent an e-mail to a number of a number of Councillors and officers outlining their dissatisfaction with the wording of the Management Agreement. In summary, the Club’s Vice-Chairman stated that the draft Management Agreement contained a clause for unreasonable charges given they were a community club. However, the e-mail was not clear as to which wording was objectionable and no alternative was proposed. The Club Vice-Chairman was invited to meet with officers on 31 July 2014. Members of the Sub-Committee also met to consider a response to the e-mail.

The Trustees’ response clarified its position on charges and advised the Club that its obligations included the annual filing of returns to the Charity Commission and that any income derived from trust land has to be declared. The sub committee members also invited the Club to put forward its suggested wording for the clause it had objected to.

The Acting Senior Lawyer explained that, at the meeting between officers of the Council and the Club, the Vice-Chairman and his colleague were advised that, while the Council was looking to resolve the impasse, the final decision remained with the Sub-Committee (trustees). The Club’s request for the removal of clause 8.3 of the draft management agreement was refused. It stated “Where the statement submitted in accordance with clause 8.1(b) shows that the total of the pitch fee and the third party payments exceeds the pitch management costs then the owner and the club shall agree how to account for the excess sum in a manner consistent with the Trust objectives”. In the spirit of compromise and acknowledging the efforts of volunteers in achieving the Trust’s objectives, the Rugby Club was invited to suggest a threshold figure that had to be reached in profit from activities on trust land before any payments became payable to the Trust. The threshold figure was agreed to be set at £10,000 and index linked by CPI.

It was noted that a reworded draft of the management agreement had been sent to the Council’s Property Solicitor by the Rugby Club’s solicitor on 27 August 2014, the key change being that the Club had proposed a new clause 8 which gave effect to the proposals as discussed at the meeting of 31 July 2014. This has the effect of requiring the profit made by the Club to be assessed each year, and then for that to be applied in accordance with the following table at clause 8.4:

Up to and including the £10,000 threshold - 100% to the Club;

£10.001 to 20,000 - 25% to the Trust; 75% to the Club; and

£20,001 and over - 50% to the Trust; 50% to the Club.

The Acting Senior Lawyer stated that the range of issues proposed to be monitored by the User Group had been removed so as to be limited to issues of maintenance. Initially, it had been suggested that the User Group would also monitor matters such as allocation of the Pitches and hire charges for the Pitches. It was considered that asking the User Group to monitor these issues would ensure a degree of scrutiny of the Club’s actions. However, the Club had amended the Agreement to require the User Group only to monitor those issues that were currently discussed at the existing Management Committee meetings, and therefore the Club considered that the revised Agreement was consistent with current practice.

Members debated the revised Management Agreement and considered that it sufficiently allayed previous concerns regarding the financial accountability of the Club to the Trust.

In relation to Hitchin Town Hall, the Acting Senior Lawyer advised that officers had recently received correspondence from the Land Registry highlighting a minor error on the registered title for the Hitchin Town Hall Gymnasium and Workman’s Hall Trust, in respect of the land shaded blue on the plan attached at Appendix 2 to the report.

The Acting Senior Lawyer stated that Hitchin Property Trust owned the adjacent property, 16/17 Brand Street, and and recently applied to register its title. It became apparent in the course of doing this that the area shaded blue should have been included within the title of 16/17 Brand Street and had been erroneously included within the Trust’s title. Officers were consulted on this development and a site survey was undertaken by the land Registry. Officers determined that there were no potential land management issues arising and that the rectification would not have any impact on the Hitchin Town Hall redevelopment project. It was also considered that there was no evidence immediately available to challenge the assertion that the land had been incorrectly registered and, as such, Officers would confirm to the Land Registry that the Council had no objection to the rectification of its records to reflect the area shaded blue being included as part of the title of 16/17 Brand Street.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the Management Agreement for King George V Playing Fields, Hitchin be approved, and the re-wording of clauses as agreed in discussions between officers of the Council and Hitchin Rugby Club, and as settled between the solicitors for both parties, be agreed; and

(2) That the error regarding the registered title for the Hitchin Town Hall Trust, and the fact that this error is being rectified, be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that the Trust property is maintained in the best interests of the Trusts’ main purposes.
Published on Friday, 26th September, 2014
12.19pm