Minutes from board meeting – 24th February 2021

Date of meeting: Zoom meeting Wednesday 24th February 2021 6pm

Present: Nicky Bailey, Pat Bray, Fiona Eccleston, Beth Hollihead, Caroline Hudson, Donald McQueen

Apologies: Stu Hollihead, Katy Sneyd

Chair: Beth Hollihead

Minutes: Pat Bray

Declarations of interest: None

Referenceto agendaMinuteAction

1Minutes of the previous meeting:
Draft minutes from the board meeting of 1st February 2021 were approved. 
Matters arising:
BH advised that the review of the sample policy documents from Wigan Council is underway. DM reported that the code of conduct document has been reviewed and is at the final draft stage for consideration by the board. DM has also reviewed the sample induction pack document but this will require substantial input from the board before it is adopted. There are another four sample documents requiring initial review, the recruitment and equality monitoring form, the trustee declaration of interest form, a peer-review action plan and a draft business plan for GCF. BH, FE and NB to join DM and Lynn Calderbank for review sessions if possible. BH has reviewed the code of conduct, trustee recruitment form and the trustee declaration form and made some suggestions ahead of the review meeting..  

2Financial Update:
NB presented a financial update for the rest of the board and focused on the current cash position. NB also advised that there will be a monthly update of the cash situation from now on. We have approximately £55K in our current account and deposit accounts. Whilst this appears to be a relatively healthy situation, approximately £31.5K of this cash is ring fenced, either to grant funding (with specific requirements) or to a potential corporation tax liability, resulting from historic accounting errors. We have £13K of Wigan Council Covid business support grant funding, which we need to keep the business running. The care farm is self-sustaining at the moment, with income covering wage expenses but with little or no surplus. Other operational expenses amount to £2K-3K per month, mainly on utilities with additional expenditure on bookkeeping, accountancy costs and business insurance and we need the business support grant to cover this. We also have about £10.5K unallocated spend of which NB advised we use at least £5K as a buffer. We also have about £2.5K of known spending we still need to pay for including duck housing, plumbing, electrics and Legionella testing and VAT. Expenditure on the duck housing is expected to be covered by crowdfunding. NB advised that the finances are tight at the moment, we need to be careful and pause our spending on infrastructure until the financial position improves, ie when our income becomes sufficient to cover our operational spend.
NB went on to summarize some short term issues for consideration. Most importantly, we need to tighten up on all farm spending. Other short term factors include schools, which should be returning in March and will bolster our income. The duck house will be purchased on the understanding that we have already raised enough crowdfunding to cover the spend. NB advised that we will be keeping a close eye on debtors to make sure we get paid as soon as possible.
In the medium term NB will produce a financial plan to the end of September. NB to ask board members plus Rhiannon, Kelly and Chelsea for details of upcoming spend to make the approval process quicker and highlight any pinch points along the way that we need to be aware of. We need to consider any outlays that will be needed to reopen the café and shop before we can get any income. NB recommended that we offer the new grower a short-term contract initially, to the end of the period covered by grant funding. This contract could be extended if the growing can make enough to cover the wages at that point. BH advised that there may be unspent funds due to late uptake of the grant, NB to investigate the possibility of us funding a second grower position to take up the underspend. DM asked if funds could be made available for training if required.PB advised that we have an outstanding invoice for electrical maintenance work, which arose from the recent testing. PB to review the work detailed in the invoice and report to NB on the urgency and value for money.NB advised that we have approximately £2K locked in an old GCF PayPal account and she is trying to retrieve the funds. DM advised that the allotment rentals are due in March and depending on how many plots are being used this could be around £1,400-£1,700. DM advised that there will be an additional levy of £8.00 per year for those using borehole water. NB to contact allotment society secretary to arrange payment.CH advised that Wigan and Leigh College will likely be paying for three days per week (£450.00), starting in two weeks.  



3The 2021 AGM:
BH reported that we have a Zoom professional account, which will be sufficient for our needs for the AGM. BH to investigate extended features and functions of the software to ensure a smooth running and professional meeting. KS had previously commented that the voting system used for the 2020 AGM was cumbersome and problematic. BH had approached Nick Ashcroft who offered to run the electronic voting using the ‘Election Buddy’ system. The whole voting process will be overseen by KS, with NA and the board sharing login details so that everyone can see what is going on and it will not be possible for the voting data to be manipulated unfairly.  This system costs $19.00 per election, is secure and robust, with options for voter registration and multiple votes per email address if required. The system is good at automatically picking up duplicate voting and other potential issues of concern. We will run a postal voting system for members without an internet connection. We will try to reach these members using posters at the farm and in public display areas in the locality (BH to produce the posters). We will also email and ask our other members to inform any members they know who are not online. The posters will contain information about the AGM and a phone number for people to ring to register and get their postal voting forms sent out to them.  BH has reviewed the model trustee nomination form supplied by Wigan Council. This is potentially a very useful document, containing a self-assessment section in which nominees can use a tick box system to list their skills and experience. This will be useful to the board and more importantly, to voting members, who can use the information to help them decide who to vote for. The model form also requires nominees to list referees but the board felt that this would not be useful in our case and we agreed to omit this request from our version of the form. BH to finalise the form and circulate. The board agreed to hold the 2021 AGM at 2.00 pm on Sunday 28th March and it is expected that the meeting will last no longer than one hour.There was agreement on the need to reject a trustee nomination in certain exceptional circumstances, for example if there were duty of care issues relating to our business, or safeguarding issues relating to staff or volunteers. BH to draft a brief disclaimer to be included on the application form, reserving the right of the board to reject a nomination in extreme circumstances.





4Grant funding bids:
PB, DM and FE outlined a funding bid for Power to Change that they are putting together. The award scheme is targeted to provide up to £20K for community sectors that have suffered disproportionately from the Covid crisis, specifically BAME people and people with learning disabilities. The key idea we want to present in our application is to help create pathways to real employment for some of our care farm clients and other individuals who might find it very difficult to find a job.There are a number of areas of farm activity which would benefit from this scheme, including the café and shop but after some discussion with the whole board, the applicants decided to concentrate on a community builders yard idea. DM outlined the key points of the idea, which relies on donation of unwanted or surplus building materials, primarily from contractors and wholesalers. The building materials can be sorted, cleaned, stored and sold on into the community. This will help community engagement and potentially generate some surplus income for GCF after costs. This project is designed to create pathways for real employment, it offers something different and provides a service that will be appreciated by the community. There is already interest in the idea from farm visitors and local contractors and we believe the scheme is viable. An added benefit is that trades material wastes will be reduced and saved from being land-filled, or fragmented for energy or sub-base, and can instead be re-purposed to suit the needs of our local community. We have facilities in terms of tools and workspace in the lower Wareing shed and we can operate a collection service if required. The project offers good opportunities for providing on the job training for the long-term unemployed and other individuals who have had difficulty in finding and staying in employment.BH pointed out that we already have £12K of ring-fenced grant funding to finish off the bottom Wareing shed. Work still to be done includes installing water and electrical services (including any plumbing and the electrical installation for the workshop and donkey shelter), finishing off partitions, insulation, fitting heating and fitting storage racks. PB to investigate the feasibility of getting this work done within the budget. It would also be desirable to have a secure outdoor area for storing durable materials such as bricks, masonry, roof tiles etc.BH pointed out that the employment pathway aspect of the proposal could also be used in the café and shop when we decide on a new business plan. DM pointed out that the plan for the café and shop would have to be different from the previous model that has not proved economically viable and has several direct competitors in the local area. There was general agreement that moving back to our founding principles of sustainable or regenerative growing, permaculture and organics is required in the new business model as is the principle of added value, since we are unlikely to be able to grow, source competitively or sell enough fruit and veg to run a sustainable business model. There was general agreement that this issue should be a major priority for the board after the AGM.There was a brief discussion of the proposed microgrid project. The project was well received generally but there were some concerns about the ‘energy trail’ aspect, which is proposed to make use of the woodland area. BH and SH are concerned that improvement of the existing pathways could encourage heavy use from scrambler bikes and cycle traffic, which would disturb the wildlife. The other concern is that any new development such as the proposed wooden tea house might attract unwelcome attention from teenage vandals. One possibility to be considered is relocating the energy trail to the periphery of the woodland so that it can be seen from the farm. PB suggested the project could be developed in two stages with the battery storage, additional solar PV and the farm-side of the energy trail funded first and the wind turbine and wood-side energy trail funded in a later bid. PB has identified a suitable scheme from Aviva, which will fund up to £50K, which is enough for the first stage. PB, DM and FE to work on a draft application for Aviva. 


5Strategic plan:
BH and FE suggested that due to time constraints the strategic plan is postponed until after the AGM.

6Compassionate leadership:

7Maternity issues:

8Any Other Business:
Password for the website:
CH requested that we obtain the password for the website so it can be altered by other people while NH is on furlough. BH to formally request website access details from NH.
The pig: 
BH questioned the reason for keeping the pig, opinions differ and BH will set up a poll to make a decision once we are aware of the financial implication. 


9Date and time of next meeting:6.00 p.m. Wednesday 10th March 2021, by Zoom.
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