Minutes from board meeting – 6th January 2021

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

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

Apologies: None

Chair: Beth Hollihead

Minutes: Pat Bray

Declarations of interest: None

Referenceto agendaMinuteAction

1Matters Arising and Minutes of the previous meeting:
Draft minutes from the board meeting of 15th December 2020 were approved. There were no matters arising
PB to send redacted minutes to Neil Hickson for publication on the website
2Welcome and Briefing for the new Treasurers and bookkeeper position:
NB ad FE were welcomed to the board as joint treasurers. They will be brought up to date with the current financial position by Mandy. They will be given the handover documents from the previous treasurer and any other relevant information. NB and FE to decide between themselves how to split the Treasurer’s role.BH advised that the bookkeepers position has been advertised locally and the closing date is the 11th January. To date there has been one applicant with bookkeeping experience.  

Mandy to brief and assist in providing relevant documents and information
3Complaints:The complaints from Mark Tebbutt and Chris Mulcahy were discussed. BH to send a response letter to CM. Response letter to MT to be finalised by BH and PB.   

4Infrastructure and compliance Issues:
Electrical Issues
Timed remote signalling device PB advised that this work has been authorised and site access is currently being arranged with the contractor. 
Electrical CertificationPB previously advised that the five farm electrical installations should be inspected and tested and safety certificates issued. It was agreed that this work should go ahead as soon as possible. It was also agreed that the farm portable equipment should be tested as soon as possible.PB was authorised to contact GHE Electrical and commission the work as per their recent quote.
Heaters and lights in the cabinPB reported that two heaters and the lighting sensor in the volunteer cabin were faulty and needed to be replaced. It was agreed that PB buy the materials and liaise with DM to complete the job.
DM attended a site visit by United Utilities for water quality sampling. Sampling is required bi-annually by the Environmental Health Department and DM wanted to familiarise himself with this process.DM has drafted a number of borehole-related documents, including a series of photographs to aid in the identification of plant equipment, a plant manual, a record of maintenance and repairs, a staff training log, and a record of required daily visual checks. The aim is to comply with the requirements of a risk assessment, undertaken in 2019 by Environmental Health at Wigan Council. Some of the requirements of the risk assessment have been met but there is an outstanding issue regarding the close proximity of a fuel store to the wellhead of the borehole. This has to be attended to asap because of the risk of fuel contamination of the aquifer.DM is currently organising a rota and associated record keeping of critical daily maintenance and safety checks for the borehole plant. DM has also organised detailed training sessions for key staff via Zoom meetings.   
Continuity for compliance issues
DM and PB stressed the need for continuity in our compliance procedures, in the event of changes of management and or staff. This could relate to plant and machinery maintenance and safety checks, record keeping logs, electrical certification and safety testing, insurance and many other issues for which there may not be a designated responsible person. 
Various options for dealing with the problem were discussed, including centrally held electronic documents, an information pack for new directors, hardcopy files and assigning responsibility to specific individuals.
CH reported that three permanent paddocks had been created, making life much easier for staff, visitors and clients alike.  
Routes for wiring the new cameras need to be decided. This will be dictated to some extent by local conditions and it may not always be possible to locate cameras in their optimum positions for security purposes. PB to liaise with SH to find an acceptable compromise, which allows cameras to be placed in useful locations without making the wiring runs too difficult.




5Reports to the board from line managers
Care farm
Kelly reported that the care farm service will be able to continue during the lockdown period. For clients who are extremely clinically vulnerable or any clients who have concerns about their safety, we will be running an outreach service along the lines of the service provided during the first lockdown.
The Care farm group has been on animal welfare refresher training with Rhiannon and CH. In the short term the main focus of activity will be centred on animal feeding and welfare. This will be followed by additional activities, including mindfulness sessions. BH to investigate ethical framework issue with Wigan Council and liaise with KH.  
Animals growing and education
Rhiannon reported that the new fencing is installed and proving to be a big help operationally.The domestic birds now need to be kept under cover due to the spread of avian ‘flu and this has so far been managed with existing resources.The pigs are thriving on the fodder crop, despite the adverse weather conditions and there have been a number of positive social media postings aimed at recruiting new volunteers.
The growing group have been busy renovating the vegetable beds, an inventory of seed stock has been conducted. Some resources will be required to purchase new seeds for the spring.Growing activities are not affected by the lockdown and will carry on as normal. Rhiannon has identified a funding source and will apply for a grant for animal equipment and welfare items.
Unfortunately, we will lose some income from Wigan and Leigh College due to the lockdown.
Pond animals are doing very well with a big increase in the numbers of newts and invertebrates. This has been at a cost to the planting so additional pond plants are being sought.Rhiannon to apply for funding to Biffa Waste. If successful, the grant will provide up to £30K for important and interesting biodiversity work on the farm site.SH requested that the woodchip supplier be contacted and asked to supply woodchips to maintain the woodland paths. BH to arrange.



6Strategic Planning:
PB recalled the experience of the previous board and the general view from many board members and staff alike that too much time has been spent at board level on day to day management of the retail businesses at the farm. This has been both inefficient and contentious with the board having to take responsibility for the general management of a café business requiring subsidy and the staff feeling ‘micro managed’ and resentful.One potential solution to this issue that has previously been suggested by staff and board members alike, is to adopt an alternative business model with the café and shop being run by an independent company. This could probably be accomplished by GCF retaining control of core service businesses and providing and maintaining the infrastructure to be rented to the new business, lease agreement permitting.This would insulate the farm from future financial liability and would also be an opportunity to return to our core principles of sustainability and ethical trading.  However, there was general agreement this is not the only way forward, just one of many possible options for the future. Also there was general agreement that this decision was too important to be decided by the board alone and required participation of the full membership.Therefore, the board agreed to organise a general meeting to discuss these strategic planning issues directly with the membership. We agreed to try and present multiple strategic options for the future and to ask the membership for advanced notice of ideas and issues for discussion. This would necessitate a well facilitated open meeting with a restricted agenda, to be held on Saturday 23rd January with a possible ‘mop up meeting’ on 30th January.

BH/FE to liaise over practical planning of members meeting.
BH to inform the membership of the general meeting on 23rd
7Any Other Business:
PB advised that the claim against Ecosave Business Solutions Ltd for brokering our current punitive arrangement with YPG was progressing. PB and DM are now named correspondents and the claim will be submitted within the next week.

7Date and time of next meeting:6.00 p.m. Wednesday 20th January 2021, by Zoom.
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