Minutes from board meeting – 20th January 2021

Date of meeting: Zoom meeting Wednesday 20th January 2021 6pm

Nicky Bailey, Pat Bray, Lynn Calderbank, Fiona Eccleston, Beth Hollihead, Stu Hollihead, Caroline Hudson, Donald McQueen

Apologies: None

Chair: Beth Hollihead

Minutes: Pat Bray

Declarations of interest: PB on kitchen rental opportunity (personal friend of XX)

Reference to agendaMinutesAction
1Matters Arising and Minutes of the previous meeting:

Draft minutes from the board meeting of 6th January 2021 were approved.
BH reported on several matters arising:
Mandy is currently liaising with FE and NB regarding treasurers briefing (Zoom meeting scheduled for 21st).
Chris Mulcahy’s response letter has been dealt with.
Enquiries into the ethical framework issue are ongoing (BH).
Seeds purchase has been dealt with and woodchip delivery has been requested.
PB to send redacted minutes for publication on the website
2Update on the bookkeeper position:
NB and FE will liaise with Mandy to arrange an interview, one of them to conduct the interview with Mandy. 
BH has edited the response letter, final draft to be circulated for board approval.  
4Kitchen rental opportunity:
PB reported in summary that he had been approached by a friend, XX, with an enquiry on behalf of her son XY about the possibility of renting the Strawbale kitchen. PB explained that XX/XY have accepted our limited options for rental ie for a strictly limited period only, until we wanted to reopen our own catering facilities, restricted to kitchen only and rented on an hourly basis (room hire rather than fixed lease).
There were extensive discussions on the impact of any such rental agreement on the kitchen staff and it was agreed by all to take these factors into account when coming to a decision.
DM reported on a conversation he had with XX, he stressed that this could be a low-risk business opportunity and highlighted the willingness of XX to accept our terms and conditions, including a flexible approach to reviewing the hourly rate to ensure we get a reasonable benefit from this arrangement.
CH pointed out that we can open any time we want and we could well be in a position to open by Easter. CH stated that we need to prioritise our own business plan and hit the ground running when we reopen the café.
FE estimated potential profit at approximately £600.00 per month, for at least two months, potentially £1200 – £1500 total profit from the venture. NB suggested we obtain a deposit before any rental agreement and also that we take an inventory of all kitchen equipment in case of loss or damage. These precautions are appropriate for a commercial arrangement.
LC offered help from Wigan Council in helping us to achieve a business plan that works for us. She asked about staffing levels in the café and shop and the cost implications for the business. LC said that it is up to us to come up with a business model that we feel can work and if this requires a change in our lease then this is something that the Council are willing to consider.
SH was supportive of the concept of commercial rental in the right circumstances but felt that we should concentrate on coming up with a sustainable business plan so that our own staff can start trading as soon as possible. SH emphasized that we should be sustainable but not necessarily profit driven. He suggested that we should review after a few months and consider commercial options if we have not been financially sustainable.
FE pointed out that we can plan our re-launching in March whilst the temporary rental is in progress so the two activities are not mutually exclusive. FE suggested we could use the rental opportunity as a ‘pilot study’ to assess pros and cons. We can find out what a realistic rent would be, how much potential for earning etc. Also a good opportunity to assess potential problems.
DM pointed out that in financial terms, this is a low risk opportunity and we need money now and that should be a major priority at the moment.
LC pointed out that notwithstanding the current opportunity, there will always be opportunities to make money from room hire as there is a borough-wide shortage of rooms for hire for business and other use. This is providing a big range of different rental opportunities and models to provide income without the pressures of financial and employee responsibility. LC can supply various template rental agreement forms setting out terms and conditions, which will significantly ease the workload on the current board, if we should find a rental arrangement that suits our needs. At the moment we have a normal asset transfer lease, which is relatively inflexible but if we can come up with a model that fulfils our core principles and at the same time frees us from our current financial and staffing responsibilities, then the Council would be prepared to consider it. The Council has the power to alter the lease and would consider doing so in the right circumstances. LC also stressed that the Council needs to be involved at an early stage in the development of any model. In short, nothing is off the table if it fulfils our core objectives but we need to approach the Council with a well thought-out plan.
There was further discussion and the board agreed that they need to look further at multiple issues but will hopefully be in a position to vote and decide on the rental opportunity in another week.
PB to contact XX and explain the need for more time to reach a decision.

5Reconciliation process
BH suggested that we write a very clear brief to the reconciliation panel meeting on Friday. The idea being that Rashid, Imelda and Pat Davies are the neutrals who would help with defining, mediating and running the process. The more openly partisan panellists would represent the interests of their respective sides so that we get the buy-in to the process that we need to make the process work. The working group will be directed by the board, will report to the board and will be fully accountable to the board.
BH to draft terms of reference limiting or restricting extreme partisan behaviour and detailing alternative approaches if balanced representation is not achieved.
DM stated his support for the reconciliation process but made a strong argument in favour of the process being impartial or neutral, stating his objection to the involvement of partisan individuals from both sides.
CH was in support of partisan representatives being included in the panel as long as both sides were represented. If this could not be achieved CH would support the neutral approach.
PB also supported the reconciliation process but felt that the process would be better served by recruiting a neutral or impartial panel, rather than selecting partisan individuals from both sides. PB felt that reconciliation could be achieved by using people not directly involved in the conflict. PB felt that with the panel left unbalanced, that there would be no buy in from the other side.
SH felt that people have misunderstood what was originally put forward. He pointed out that we can’t afford professional mediators. He also pointed out that the role of the partisan people was to liaise between people on both sides who were unwilling to engage directly. The ‘liaison people’ or ‘ambassadors’ would then communicate the thoughts and feelings of the people they represent to the panel proper, which consists of two neutral members and one member with training/experience in mediation. SH said that without the ambassadors it would be impossible as there needs to be understanding of the hurt experienced by the complainants, which can be conveyed to the mediators and relayed to the third parties to form a kind of ‘buffered dialogue’.     
BH suggested that Rashid, as the only trained/experienced mediator, be asked to explain in full how he sees the process operating. BH also suggested we ask Rashid for his views on which of a balanced or impartial panel would be most useful. Rashid’s decision to inform the future direction of the panel.
SH pointed out that Rashid has already asked for representatives from both sides to be involved. CH agreed to approach members on the ‘board side’ to see if they are prepared to join the process. SH to take minutes of Friday’s meeting and report to the board.
6Infrastructure issues
Reports to be circulated by email.
7Reports to the board
Reports have been circulated by email for consideration.

8Pregnancy and maternity issues
9Strategic planning
BH received an email from FE, which highlighted several important issues to deal with before the members meeting on Saturday, including a list of items for discussion timescale of planning and other important issues. BH to circulate a list of questions for general input. BH, FE and CH to liaise to consider the input and discuss the best way to run the meeting on Saturday.
PB reported that we are going to receive another instalment of grant LRSG funding from Wigan Council, amounting to several thousand pounds.
PB also informed the board of planned funding bids to P2C and the Tudor Trust in the near future. The bids will depend to some extent on our agreed business model going forward.
Strategic consultation with Wigan Council
DM to continue discussions with LC and report by email.
11Date and time of next meeting:
6.00 p.m. Monday 1st February 2021, by Zoom.
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