Minutes from board meeting – 8th April 2021



These minutes have been redacted for reasons of confidentiality

Date of meeting: Zoom meeting Thursday 8th April 2021 6pm

Present: Angela Blackshaw, Pat Bray, Fiona Eccleston, Neil Hickson, Beth Hollihead, Allison McGuinness, Donald McQueen, Pam Moore, Chris Roberts, Andy Sheridan, Mark Tebbutt

Apologies: Nicky Bailey, Stu Hollihead, Caroline Hudson, Phil Moore, Katy Sneyd

Chair: Beth Hollihead / Pat Bray

Minutes: Pat Bray

Declarations of interest: None

Referenceto agendaMinuteAction
1Minutes of the AGM of 28th March 2021:Normally these minutes would be approved by the outgoing chair (BH) but BH had not had sufficient time to read them carefully. Also PB needed to update the attendance list so it was agreed that the minutes could be approved at a later date either by BH or by the incoming board. PB to update the list and circulate.Matters arising:There were no matters arising.PB
2Hand over to the new board:All members present gave a brief personal introduction. Incoming board members were then made aware of a number of ongoing items of board business, which will have to be dealt with by the new board. To aid discussion, PB had made notes in advance. which had already been circulated to all members of the new board.Strategic reviewWe are conducting a strategic review with Wigan Council under the terms of our lease and asset transfer agreement. Wigan Council representatives have been present at board meetings to advise and will continue to attend, at least until the process is complete. As part of the review we have been given a number of sample policy documents in order to improve our governance process, which needed to be reviewed and amended to suit our specific purpose.  The review of these documents from Wigan Council is partially completed but the review process is now overdue and its completion is a priority for the new board. Outstanding items are the business plan, which will require consultation with the membership, the induction pack, which requires further work and the business risk assessment, which needs to be populated as the business plan is developed. The latest version of these documents has been circulated by PB. The outgoing board were unable to formally adopt the documents we have already reviewed, due to time constraints. All the documents should be formally adopted by the new board as soon as possible.Financial updatePB had previously circulated a summary of the current cash situation, which was presented by NB at a recent board meeting. FE gave a brief introduction for the financial team, FE and NB are chartered accountants sharing the Treasurers role, FE on the strategic side, including project planning and grant funding bids and NB on the operational side, although there is some overlap. The third member of the financial team is the bookkeeper, also fully qualified. The three meet together regularly to keep on top of the farm finances. The team are working out the detailed aspects of the book keeping systems, accounting standards and getting to know the accountants (NR Barton). The 2019/2020 accounts have been finalized and need to be approved by the membership and there are historical financial issues from earlier years still to be dealt with. There are much bigger issues of how the farm finances are viewed in terms of departmental cost allocations and the expectations of financial performance for each department of farm business activity. AM offered support in terms of grant funding opportunities, FE and the financial team open to support and suggestions on any of the financial aspects. NB and JB to work closely to provide monthly financial updates for the board.MT and NH questioned the allocation of cash for the growing team for purchase of seeds and other growing materials. It is vital that cash is available at certain times of the year and some members of the growing team have been unable to access it. PB advised that cash had been allocated for seed purchases earlier in the year. MT also questioned the situation with furloughed staff, there is an urgent need to get the café and shop operating again and staff need to know where they are. FE emphasized the need to change from being reactive to being well planned, this will improve as we move out of the current uncertainty caused by the pandemic and also as the financial team becomes more established. FE also emphasized that major strategic decisions such as planning the reopening of the strawbale are decisions for the whole board and the financial arrangements around starting the business and implications for furlough should be part of the board level discussions rather than decisions taken by the financial team. CR suggested that the first priority should be to set the timeline for reopening as soon as possible. There was general agreement about this and the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting.Grant applications:PB and DM gave a brief overview of current grant applications. The main points were covered in the notes circulated before the meeting but briefly an application for £20K has just been submitted to P2C. PB expanded on an earlier point made by AM about support from Wigan Council in finding funding opportunities. PB suggested we nominate a board contact (possibly AM) to liaise with the Council on this.PB also outlined a community energy project currently in the planning stage. The idea is to create an independent not for profit community energy company via the local Transition Group. Among other things, this company will liaise with Wigan Council and staff at the Rural Community Energy Fund with a view to conducting a feasibility study for a significant renewable energy generation project in the locality. For GCF and possibly other Council-sponsored projects in the borough, we intend to set up a micro-grid, which, among other things, will help GCF to achieve energy self-sufficiency. AM suggested a potential funding source, the government Green Recovery Fund.Staffing issues:BH outlined that the strawbale staff were still on furlough, had not had any recent communication and need some reassurance about what happens next. Back in November at the start of the furlough scheme, we updated their contracts, put them on the furlough scheme and informed them that they were on the scheme until April. The scheme has since been extended to September but we envisage that some or all staff will be taken off furlough before that, as restrictions are lifted and our strawbale business gets going again. We need to let our staff know that we are committed to keeping them on but we may continue to use the furlough scheme for the time being as we need it. NB and JB will be available for support on costings of various options.BH gave an update on a maternity package we agreed, which improves on statutory maternity entitlement. This sets a precedent and will inform future policy for all staff but the staff handbook still needs to be updated to reflect this.
Other matters: PB outlined the details of a claim against Ecosave, an energy broker (now defunct) against excessive secret commission charged by them when brokering a deal between GCF and Yorkshire Gas and Power. PB is currently board liaison but will need to hand over the task to another board member.
3. Resignations from the board: Under our rules, one third of the elected directors (or the closest number) must resign at each AGM. At the 2020 election there were five elected directors meaning that two directors had to step down. In fact, BH, SH and CH have already resigned meaning that this requirement has already been satisfied. PB stated his intention to resign from the current board as soon as he feels he is no longer needed to help with the hand over.  
4 Any Other Business:PM mentioned that some members of the growing group have been unable to access the heated greenhouse, which was causing problems. PB advised that this was a matter to take up with Rhiannon, who has been delegated the responsibility to oversee the growing group under her role as Farm Co-ordinator.FE felt that this was one example of difficulties that arise from the current relationship between the board and staff. Without a designated CEO, there may be confusion about who to approach to deal with operational issues that arise.  
5Date and time of next meeting:TBA in consultation with the new board.
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