Summary of the Special general Meeting of Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch held on 20th April 2023

The Special General Meeting was the first public meeting held by Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch since April 2019. Three Annual General Meetings should have been held during the intervening period but had been prevented by Covid-related issues.

During that time, many of the Watch’s public functions had been suspended and attempts to revive them when it was legal and safe to do so were hampered by a lack of available volunteers to service them. It continued to operate in a limited manner with the Officers and a small group of Volunteers but all attempts to recruit more help met with little success. The point has been reached when it is time to re-examine whether it is viable for the Watch to continue in its current form.

The Meeting was open to all residents of Birstall and Wanlip and widely advertised in our newsletter, by email and through our Facebook Group. The attendance of only twelve Birstall residents together with nine written apologies strongly indicated that there is little general interest in the future of the Watch.

The Treasurer gave his report and the Annual accounts for 2019 to 2022 were agreed and accepted by those present. The Chairman gave his report that described how the Watch had functioned during the Covid disruption.

The meeting then went on to discuss the future of the Watch. It was thought better to establish a clear plan to wind up its activities in an orderly manner, rather than leave its future subject to uncertainty and random circumstance.

It is known that there are a number of local community initiatives throughout Birstall, operating using various social media platforms. It was suggested that some groups might wish to form their own individual Neighbourhood Watch schemes, as is the much more common model found throughout the country. The Watch’s existing Facebook Group might provide an overall link between local schemes. There are a number of options that could be considered.

This motion was put to the meeting and passed unanimously:

This meeting authorises the Officers (Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer) to:

1.  Make the necessary arrangements to cease all activities undertaken by the Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch as soon as is practicable and before 31st December 2023 at the latest.

2.  Prepare an inventory of the non-financial assets of the Watch and dispose of them at their discretion in a manner that benefits our local community.

3.  Return the balance of any cash and bank balances remaining when the final accounts are completed to Birstall Parish Council for redistribution for the benefit of our local community.

4.  Publish full details of these arrangements when they are completed.

Minutes of the Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch Special General Meeting held on Thursday 20 April 2023 at 7.45 p.m.

Committee Members Present: Ed Chambers (Chair), Sue Howell (Secretary), Tony Abbey (Treasurer)
Other Attendees: D. Owen, E. Owen, Nick Linnett, Linda Hazlewood, Joan Folland, Raymond Folland, Bhupesh Chauhan, Ed Marshall and Ian Underwood

1. Apologies
Christine Piper, Wendy Morley, Susan Cooper, Carl Briggs, Tanya Briggs, Lisa Booth, Guneet Jagi, Ray Boddy and Karen Moon

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting
The meeting agreed that the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 2nd May 2019 were a true record without amendment.

3. Matters arising
There were no matters arising.

4. Treasurer’s Report
Tony presented the accounts for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 and reported that in:
• 2019: The AGM in 2019 had been the last full year of non-Covid accounts when there had been £5,912 available at the end of the year, split between the Watch’s reserve and current accounts. Income had been £4,601.37 and expenditure £3,645.94.
• 2020: Saw the beginning of covid. Income stood at £3,800 and expenditure was £3526.65. This expenditure mainly related to the newsletter which in the first half of the year was produced by Flexplus, after which a decision was taken to include a two-page newsletter within the Birstall Post at a cost of £340 per month.
• 2021: The first full year with covid restrictions which had a considerable impact on the Watch’s income. Income stood at £1,059. Expenditure was £2,283.80 which was mainly for the newsletter. A decision was taken to reduce the size of the newsletter to a single page, reducing the cost to £170 per month.
• 2022: A decision was taken to close the reserve account (holding £3,363.33) and move the monies to the current account. Income was £1,078.26 and expenditure £2,059.80
• 2023: All covid restrictions are now lifted. However, no membership fees/donations have been received and expenditure on the newsletter was £721. Currently in the bank there was £3,269 with no other expenses identified going forward except for the newsletter at £170 per month.
Thanks were expressed to the Birstall Post for publishing the Watch Newsletter for a reduced price.
The accounts were agreed and accepted unanimously. They could be viewed in full on the Watch website.

5. Chairman’s Report
Ed presented his Chairman’s written report that could be viewed in full on the Watch website.
• He advised that Evelyn Holder had sadly passed away in September 2020 after a short illness. She joined the Watch in 2005 as a local Co-ordinator and was its Chairman from 2011 until 2019. Evelyn was always an active and committed member of the Watch and would be sadly missed.
• In an online survey conducted in April 2022, over 80% of the members canvassed stated that they preferred the Newsletter included in the Birstall Post each month.
• He had dealt with the majority of the messages received on the Advice Line and email messages. They fell into two main areas of giving advice or passing messages onto the local Beat Officers.
• Ed expressed his thanks to Shreek Raivedera and his IT company for all the free support provided in maintaining the Watch’s Website and Email System.
• The Facebook Group has been managed for some time by Karen Moon and she has continued to keep it active during the pandemic. Ed thanked her for her active support throughout that time.
• The Advice Shop did not open during the Covid pandemic. In June 2022, The Watch participated in the Birstall Gala and reopened the Advice Shop in July 2022. Footfall however had been very disappointing and no new stock has been ordered. Thanks were due to Linda Hazlewood for taking prime responsibility for the Advice Shop and Stock and to Nick Linnett for assisting with opening.
• Ed Marshall had for many years erected new and replaced missing or damaged NHW signs as circumstances have allowed. This is, however, a hazardous task requiring risk assessments and other health and safety procedures and it had been decided that no single person should be carrying out this task. No work has therefore been done in this area since the Covid pandemic began. Ed was thanked for his long commitment to this task and other Watch activities.
• No Committee meetings had taken place since early 2020 and the Watch had been sustained by the Officers and a small group of other Volunteers.
• Since the Covid emergency had receded attitudes to Groups such as the Watch had changed with very little interest shown in maintaining its activities. Ed intended to resign from his role after being involved in the management for over twelve years and the future appeared uncertain.

6. Decisions about the Future of the Watch
The meeting considered what realistic options were available for the Watch to continue in its previous form given the lack of interest from residents of Birstall and Wanlip. The limited choice was to continue until this was no longer possible or to wind up the organisation in an orderly manner.
Ed Marshall stated that several WhatsApp Groups had been set up in streets within Birstall and perhaps this was the way forward with those groups making decisions in respect to keeping their streets safe. He and Bhupesh Chauhan were going to look at their local areas to see what they could do to help set up local Watch schemes.
Ed Chambers supported this concept and pointed out that that vast majority of NHW Schemes throughout the country followed similar models and required much lower maintenance than our current very large scheme. The main task of Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch in its final phase could be to encourage the formation of these local Schemes. The Facebook Group was a semi-independent activity that could well continue as a vehicle to link these local Scemes.
It was noted that fifty-five households had paid their annual subscription at the Gala stall or subsequent Advice Shop sessions and held membership cards valid until the end of 2023.

Following discussion, the following motion was proposed by Ed Chambers, seconded by Ray Folland and passed unanimously by all present.
This meeting authorises the Officers (Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer) to:
1. Make the necessary arrangements to cease all activities undertaken by the Birstall land Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch as soon as is practicable and before 31 December 2023 at the latest.
2. Prepare an inventory of the non-financial assets of the Watch and dispose of them at their discretion in a manner that benefits our local community.
3. Return the balance of any cash and bank balances remaining when the final accounts are completed to Birstall Parish Council for redistribution for the benefit of our local community.
4. Publish full details of these arrangements when they are completed.

6. Any other business
Ray Folland asked the meeting to thank the Officers with a round of applause for their efforts over this difficult period.

The meeting closed at 8.40 p.m.

Birstall and Wanlip Neighbourhood Watch

Chairman’s Report – April 2023

 

Evelyn Holden

I am sad to report that our previous Chairman, Evelyn Holden, died after a short illness in September 2020.

Evelyn joined the Watch in 2005 as the Coordinator for her street and soon afterwards became a member of the Management Committee. She was elected as its Chairman in 2011 and served in that role until 2019.

Throughout fifteen years, she was an active and committed supporter. She took responsibility for monitoring the Watch Phone and Advice Line and was a regular helper at our monthly Advice Shop. Many visitors will remember her providing refreshments; her homemade mince pies each December became legendary.

Evelyn could always be relied upon to help with Watch activities, such as our stall at the Birstall Gala and other village events. This was usually with the quiet support of her husband John, who did much of the fetching and carrying.

She is still sadly missed.

Introduction

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, Committee meetings and the Annual General Meeting due that April. All of these would have broken the lockdown regulations and, more importantly, put our Volunteers at serious risk.

Although the situation was uncertain, these were seen as temporary measures and we hoped to return to normal in a relatively short time. It is now three years later but we have not recovered as we had hoped.

Newsletter

The profile of the Watch had been kept prominent by the delivery of our newsletter to over 3500 letter boxes every month. This ceased at the Covid lockdown and by the time it would have been safe to resume, a number of those key to this operation were no longer available. There had always been a steady turnover of volunteers who could be replaced on an individual basis but at this point the loss was such that it required a considerable amount of dedicated hard work by those remaining to restore the network.

We had continued to publish a version of the newsletter in the Birstall Post each month at a specially reduced rate. This cost roughly the same as printing and distributing the previous double-sided paper edition.

Over eighty percent of Members who responded to our online survey in April 2022 said that they preferred this new arrangement.

Finance and Membership

The primary source of our income, Members’ subscriptions, had been collected by our local Scheme Coordinators in the subscription envelopes. This required a lot of behind-the-scenes effort in both the preparation and distribution of the envelopes and collecting, counting and banking the money. There was also the time-consuming task of entering data into the Membership database and issuing around three thousand Membership Cards. This was also the victim of the lockdown.

We are very grateful to Birstall Parish Council for continuing to support the Watch with an annual grant and, thanks to a Reserve Account set up many years ago in case of emergency, we have remained viable until now. The main expenditure has been incurred in publishing the Newsletter with a few other costs. (Details are in the annual statements of accounts.)

Facebook Group

Our Facebook Group has been managed for some time by Karen Moon and she has continued to keep it active, almost single-handedly, throughout the Covid-19 emergency and subsequently.

Watch Email

There is regular email post to the Watch, although a lot of it is unsolicited advertising. Members’ messages have been dealt with mainly by me and fall into the areas of giving advice or passing messages on to the local Beat Officers.

Website

I have continued to manage our website and keep it as up-to-date as possible.

Shreek

I would like to thank Shreek Raivedera whose company proves the essential IT services for our website and email system free of charge. He is a former Watch Secretary and continues to support us quietly from behind the scenes.

Watch Phone

The Watch Phone is a pay-as-you-go basic mobile phone. It has been in my possession since before the Covid emergency and I have monitored it and dealt with queries as they arose. The number of calls has diminished considerably over the past year and this has not been helped by technical issues that meant that voicemail messages were not always available.

Street Signs

Ed Marshall has for many years erected and replaced missing or damaged NHW Signs as circumstances have allowed. This is an essentially hazardous task and not one that should be carried out by a single person. There are requirements about risk assessment and other Health and Safety about which we are unclear. No work has been done in this area since the Covid emergency began.

Advice Shop

We had our usual stall at the first post-Covid Birstall Gala in June 2022 and re-opened the monthly Advice Shop in July. This was possible with the help of two volunteers and I would like to thank Linda and Nick for their help. It had, for many years operated, in conjunction with the local Police Beat Team Surgery but it was not possible to revive this arrangement at that time. In recent months, since the arrival of PC Stu Venables as our permanent Beat Officer, this has again become possible.

The footfall at the Advice Shop has, however, been disappointing and far below the pre-pandemic experience. No new stock has been purchased since the lockdown.

Committee and Annual General Meetings

The restrictions prevented us from holding meetings and even when it became legally possible to do so, many of our volunteers were reluctant to expose themselves to unnecessary risk of infection because of age-related and other health issues.

The day-to-day management has been conducted by the elected Officers, Sue Howell our Secretary, Tony Abbey our Treasurer and me as Chairman. Quite coincidentally, a similar model had been proposed by a Committee Member as a way of reducing the frequency of Committee Meetings, shortly before Covid came on to the scene, and was agreed by the Committee.

I would like to thank Sue and Tony for their continued support.

Committee Members were due for re-election at the AGMs in 2020, 2021 and 2022. None of those meetings has taken place and the Committee has remained in place, with two known resignations. We have not met during that period and the constitutional position is unclear.

With hindsight, it might have been possible to organise remote meetings using one of the video meeting platforms.

Conclusion

This has been a difficult period for the Watch and those of us still actively involved are not able to continue its activities, even at the present level, for very much longer. On a personal note, it had been my intention to resign from the Committee, after over ten years membership, when I reached my eightieth birthday. We are now well past that date.

Ed Chambers

20th April 2023