Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch
The Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 led us to suspend some of our activities at very short notice. These were the distribution of the Newsletter, the monthly Advice Shop, the regular Committee meetings and the Annual General Meeting due in April each year. All of these would have broken the lockdown regulations and, more importantly, put our Volunteers at risk of infection.
At the time, the situation was very uncertain but these were seen as only temporary measures, with us returning to normal in a relatively short time. Almost two years later most of the issues remain and it seems appropriate to seriously reconsider the situation.
Finance and Membership
Tony has continued to circulate the accounts on a regular basis.
The primary source of income, Members’ subscriptions, has not been available in 2021 although we have been supported by a grant from Birstall Parish Council for which we are very grateful. Thanks to our Reserve Account (set up many years ago in case of emergency) we remain viable for the next year or more. The main expenditure is incurred in publishing the Newsletter with a few other minor costs.
Collecting the subscription envelopes, counting and recording the amounts, banking a large number of pound coins and issuing individual Membership cards involved a considerable amount of time and effort as well as not insignificant stationery and printing costs.
It might be that Members could be asked to donate online through one of the charity support websites but this would need to be managed on a regular basis.
We have continued to publish the newsletter in the Birstall Post as a single page advert at a specially reduced rate. This is roughly the same as the total cost of printing and distributing the previous two-sided paper edition to well over three thousand Members’ letterboxes each month. (We do not pay for our regular Birstall Post article.)
Our Facebook Group has been managed for some time by Karen and she has continued to keep it active throughout the period that Covid-19 has affected us.
I have continued to manage our website and keep it as up-to-date as possible.
The Watch Phone is a pay-as-you-go basic mobile phone. It is currently in my possession and I monitor it and deal with queries as they arise. The number of calls has diminished considerably over the past year but those that are received are relevant. They fall into two main areas: those advising of possible crime (mainly scams) and those seeking reassurance or advice.
There is regular email post to the Watch, although a lot of it is unsolicited advertising. Members’ messages have content similar to those to the Watch Phone.
Ed Marshall has replaced missing and damaged NHW Signs as circumstances have allowed.
Committee and Annual General Meetings
Committee Members were due for re-election at the AGMs in April 2020 and 2021. Neither of these meeting have taken place and the Committee has remained as previously. We have not met during that period and the constitutional position is unclear.
We have had the use of the Robert Dickinson Building free of charge from the Birstall Parish Council for our meetings but this is shared with the playschool children who use it on a daily basis. My view has been that this makes it a high-risk indoor location for those of us who may be at higher risk from infection for whatever reasons.
With hindsight, it could have been possible to organise remote meetings using one of the video meeting platforms. It might still be a good idea to consider this option; better late than never.
The next AGM is due in April this year. These have traditionally used the big meeting room at the Methodist Church that is also used by others, although it is probably less risky than the Robert Dickinson Building. Given that the majority of those attending past meetings were of retirement age, this remains an issue both of health risk and their willingness to attend.
Our local Coordinators have three main tasks: acting as the local link for the Watch, distributing the Newsletter and collecting the annual subscriptions. Many of them have continued in the first role but the other two have remained suspended.
There has always been a regular turnover of Coordinators with new ones recruited when others leave. A number have advised that they have had to give up since the lockdown, primarily because they have moved away or because of health issues. It is likely that others have also given up without advising us or will do so if we become more active again.
We have not been in a position to recruit replacements, although a few have been found by the departing Coordinator. Resurrecting the network as it was two years ago will require a lot of time and effort.
Advice Shop and Stock
The Advice Shop was open once-a-month on a Saturday morning in the Robert Dickinson Building. The stock is stored in a locked cupboard that has not been opened since the first lockdown.
It would be nice to open the shop again but the issues around us using this building referred to above are an important consideration.
The beginning of the New Year seems a good point at which to reconsider the way in which the Watch can operate, since we cannot simply wait to ‘go back to normal’ at some unspecified time in the future.
These are just my initial thoughts on the issues and other perspectives, ideas and comments will be most welcome.