Acting Chairman's Address to the AGM 24th February 2022
Good evening, everyone and thank you for attending this AGM which I hope will bring everyone up to date and also set us on a new road where everyone has a voice, and everyone is kept informed.
It was early December when I received a copy of correspondence sent to our Secretary that seriously made me think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the running of Friends of Osborne and as I have been a member since my kids were at school – late 1980’s – then being asked to be treasurer for IFRO and subsequently becoming a Trustee and retaining the Treasurer post I believe that I have enough experience to recognise that in-fighting, un-necessary correspondence and bad feeling all round are not the way to run a fund-raising organisation. Friends of Osborne is, or was, the largest fund-raising organisation within English Heritage and as recently as 2019 we were held up as the model to be followed. Not anymore unless we re-structure ourselves and start working with English Heritage and not always demanding what we want.
The correspondence I referred to earlier was sent as a result of a committee meeting, which I would add that neither the secretary nor the treasurer were invited to, highlighting the main issue that the trustees were not keeping minutes of each meeting they had and that the information at those meetings was not being passed on to committee. Well, I can tell you that most of the Trustee meetings were non-productive and simply kept going round the same issue of how we regain our free access to Osborne. If members were not fully informed following our meetings, by way of newsletters then I would like to apologise and assure you that this situation will not be happening again.
This correspondence that I received was the last straw from my point of view and I contacted David Wisden (who was Chairman of the Committee) and made arrangements for us to meet David Bailey to discuss the unfortunate situation we all found ourselves in. I am very pleased to say that the 3 of us had a frank discussion, aired a few grievances, and then decided to put the past behind us and start afresh. Clearing the air allowed us to discuss donating funds for the fencing leading down to Swiss Cottage, having access to rooms for committee meetings, holding this AGM and demonstrating how we are going to move forward as a united and coherent fundraising committee. David was also pleased to be able to discuss how strapped for cash English Heritage find themselves as they come out of the pandemic but also be able to outline a few items that funding could be provided for as well as what is happening with the rooms we were occupying.
If we are to continue as a profitable, well-run organisation then certain things will have to change and after considerable thought the best way I can see this happening is if we scrap the position of committee chairman and hold all meetings as a single combined committee. This I believe would allow everyone to be kept informed of everything that is happening. Please bear in mind that the functions of the Trustees are simply to monitor the correct functioning of the committee, which we are unable to do unless we are involved in the committee meetings, vote through capital expenditure and donations to Osborne and I believe that the committee should at least have an input into what we are spending our funds on and lastly to change the constitution as and when necessary, again why can’t the committee have a say. Furthermore, I think we should perhaps consider a time restriction on committee members exactly the same as trustees. The way I see our new structure working is that we appoint a new Trustee Chairman then hold meetings as normal and if any financial matter has to be voted on then only the Trustees vote. This would also apply to the other matters already referred to and the rest of the meeting would be conducted with everyone participating and having a free vote when required.
We next organised a combined Trustee and Committee meeting and these proposals were discussed and a unanimous vote in agreement was received and to enable us to move the project forward I was elected Acting Chairman – but only until the 1st meeting after the AGM.. Following the rules of our constitution, existing Trustees are allowed to vote in new Trustees, and I am pleased to announce that Mrs Maureen Moorman, Mr Ade Johnson and Mrs Helen McComb have all volunteered and I trust their positions will be confirmed shortly.
As with all re-organisations there are inevitably casualties and I am sorry to announce that our Chairman, Rob Flower, Secretary Mrs Marja Tolley and Vice Chairman Roger Crew have all resigned. Furthermore, our Membership Secretary, Mrs Joy Walker has also resigned for work commitment reasons.
Some good news that I have received from David Bailey is that after refurbishment of our rooms we are welcome to resume using them on a rota basis. Education has been highlighted as a necessity for Osborne to comply with their educational requirements which is why they are using our rooms. However, the majority of educational meetings are during the day and normally we would meet in the evenings, so we simply have to book a slot to guarantee that we do not clash with anyone else. This all seems to have been a storm in a teacup so let’s work with English Heritage from now on.
I shall be resigning my role as Acting Chairman at our next committee meeting but before I go, I will be putting forward some ideas for fund-raising as well as using some of the old favourites. The idea of having a fun day for children would hopefully attract more families to attend and what about visits to other Victorian Houses. We will also have to work with Osborne and hopefully attend joint EH functions and invite David Bailey to all committee meetings. David has already invited us to meet Tom King – David’s boss, who has already remarked at the excellent progress that has been made.
Before I move ahead on other matters could I have a show of hands to confirm that we all wish to move forward and remain as a fundraising society entitled Friends of Osborne.
Thank for that vote of confidence in the society and now is the time to start the re-organisation allowing us to look forward to a new beginning.
We are proposing to have credit card type cards that would last for the lifetime of the member and whilst there will be some initial setting up costs, we should be able to make considerable savings in the future and also reduce the amount of admin to a minimum.