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Reports Vary on State of KGV Playing Field Negotiations

KGV Playing Fields, Effingham

By Chris Dick

Two reports of a meeting between Effingham Village Recreational Trust (EVRT) and Effingham & Leatherhead Rugby Football Club (ELRFC) give significantly different accounts of their negotiations regarding playing field hire charges. EVRT manage the King George V Hall and playing fields (KGV).

The trust submitted a report at the Effingham Parish Council meeting (October 31, 2017) which stated that discussions were “constructive” and “ongoing” but according to a well-placed source, corroborated by correspondence seen by The Guildford Dragon NEWS, the day before the council meeting, rugby club representatives walked out of a negotiation with the trust, apparently because EVRT had proposed a 40-68% hike in the rugby club’s annual rental fees.

Howard of Effingham School faced with a similar increase decided not to renew their agreement, a decision that cost EVRT about 25% of their annual income and directly led to the current forecasted £16,000 deficit for this coming financial year 2018/19.

Extract of the EVRT Report, November 2017

Based on the report from EVRT which included the optimistic reference about their negotiation with the rugby club, the parish council agreed to cover EVRT’s  projected £16,000 deficit.

Both sides in the negotiation seemed to wish to play down any disagreement. Graham Fawcett speaking on behalf of ELRFC said: “It is common knowledge we have to agree an ongoing licence with EVRT and we are talking to them about this in various meetings.

“There is no finalisation as yet and it is obviously important for both parties to reach a sensible conclusion.”

EVRT declined to confirm or deny any details of the percentage increase or how the meeting had ended but Liz Hogger, their hon secretary, said: “In order to put the finances of the EVRT charity on a sustainable basis, during the summer the trustees thoroughly reviewed the costs of providing facilities to the main KGV user groups. Our aim is to ensure that all users pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining the KGV facilities that they use.

“ELRFC’s current licences (for rugby pitches, clubroom, changing rooms and showers) end on 30 June 2018. Under the renewal provisions of the licences, by the end of this year ELRFC must provide EVRT with the terms they offer for licence renewal so that the trustees can make a decision on renewal having regard to their obligations under the Charities Act 2011.

“In order to assist the rugby club, there have been two informal meetings between EVRT trustees and club officers. The trustees have explained that if the club wishes to renew their licences then the fees offered must cover the operational costs to the charity of providing the facilities they use. Those costs include the direct costs of providing and maintaining four rugby pitches using professional grounds maintenance contractors, and a fair share of other costs including cleaning, security, buildings maintenance, and administration costs.

“The trustees wish to make clear that EVRT is not seeking to make a profit from the club or any other user, merely to cover the charity’s real operational costs and allow a small margin to invest in future sensible improvements. We need to ensure that everyone who uses the KGV, including Effingham residents (who contribute via the Parish Council precept), the rugby club and other users of the hall and fields, pay their fair share of the costs of providing the KGV facilities that they themselves use. As far as possible, the trustees seek to ensure that no user group is subsidising anyone else.”

Vivien White, chairman of Effingham Residents Association (EFFRA) said: “The EFFRA committee is very concerned about EVRT’s current financial difficulties and hopes that a solution is found that is fair for all users of the KGV facilities.

“To resolve this situation it is important that EVRT is open and transparent about the current financial position and about any negotiations and discussions it holds to rectify a potential financial shortfall.”

The parish council chairman, Arnold Pindar, declined to comment.

Tuesday’s two and a half hour-long parish council meeting had taken place watched by an audience of around half a dozen members of the public. The council debated for an hour the financial position of KGV.

Despite the financial situation at KGV, frequently referred to as a “crisis”, much of the meeting was positive.  All those present agreed to continue to work together to secure the future of the KGV facilities and to identify the best way to achieve this aim on behalf of all residents.

The financial issues started in the summer months with Howard of Effingham School’s decision not to use the KGV or renew its rental agreement. The school had been a constant and major contributor over the past five decades.

This loss of revenue amounted to around £29,000, roughly 25% of the annual income for the charity. In turn, this loss would lead to a significant shortfall for the FY 2018/19 and onwards unless the parish council stepped in to make up the deficit and other users increased their contribution.

All present agreed that a full review of how the KGV was run and what residents wanted, should be carried out.

The full amount, including a service level agreement, means the council will pay EVRT £31,000.

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3 Responses to Reports Vary on State of KGV Playing Field Negotiations

  1. Des Tanner Reply

    November 11, 2017 at 2:47 am

    So here we go again. The EVRT negotiating team is trying to make users pay for financial mess of their own doing. The KGV had a live-in groundsman for as long as I can remember, but the current management decided to dispense with him and bring in contractors at a hugely greater expense. With no one permanently on site security requirements also increased. It was the same tale with the part-time cleaner. All that is left is a sinecure manager.

    Telling the past and present users, “We can get 40%+ more rent on the open market amounts to a veiled threat and pure complacency.

    And now that it’s all gone wrong, they have now got the parish councel to bail them out. Well on the open market the whole bunch of them would have been sacked on the spot. Take note parishioners, it’s your money they are squandering.

    • Christopher Hogger Reply

      November 11, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      It appears that Mr Tanner is unacquainted with the financial facts about the KGV in Effingham. The engagement of professional grounds contractors in May 2016 created a cost saving to the Trust of many thousands of pounds per annum, whilst the subsequent engagement of cleaning contractors last July resulted in further savings. Both of these steps were taken to help the charity remain solvent and to reduce its risks and liabilities, and would not have been taken otherwise; the obtaining of best value is a legal obligation upon Trustees.

      His quotation “We can get 40%+ more rent on the open market …” does not quote anything ever said by the Trustees, to my knowledge, nor does it express any sentiment held by them. He is making nonsensical and uninformed remarks in public as to our position, and not for the first time.

      The Trustees have not asked the Parish Council to “bail out” the Trust, we have just invited them to contribute an appropriate amount towards the cost of providing facilities to Effingham residents. The Parish Council discussed and decided upon this matter at a recent meeting which Mr Tanner did not even attend.

      Describing our manager’s role as a “sinecure” is an offensive and uncalled for slur upon a Trust employee. The accusation that Trustees are “squandering” parishioners’ money amounts to claiming that the Trustees are not discharging their lawful duties. I advise Mr Tanner – and The Guildford Dragon – to take greater care in future when publishing such pejorative, unsupported and untrue statements.

      I send this as one who does know about the Trust’s finances, policies and conduct.

      Christopher Hogger is the hon treasurer to Effingham Village Recreation Trust.

  2. Liz Hogger Reply

    November 11, 2017 at 9:54 am

    A couple of points of clarification:

    The extensive quote attributed to me was actually a statement I issued to Mr Dick on behalf of the EVRT Board of Trustees, not my own personal comment.

    The remark that Howard of Effingham School faced with a similar increase decided not to renew their agreement’ is misleading. As can be seen from the Dragon articles dealing with that matter, the School was in fact offered a new licence with a small 2.1% increase to carry on using the same facilities as before, but then reviewed their requirements and their budget and declined to renew.

    The actual facts of the matter were laid out in the letter from EVRT Chairman Chis Iles as the Dragon reported at the time (http://www.guildford-dragon.com/2017/07/18/effingham-trustees-respond-school-playing-field-charges/).

    Liz Hogger is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham, parish councillor and EVRT trustee.

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