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Halls Ownership Update

Posted on 12th March, 2017

In Nov 2016 BPC turned its attention to the Halls Committee regarding the ownership of the village halls and land, and associated responsibilities; with talk about taking legal advice at the public's expense (Nov 2016 Min 289.9) BOB informed BPC that there was a BPC/Hall Committee Agreement-Protocol and requested a copy.

 

From our understanding:

  • "The legal ownership of the Hall is vested in the Council as Trustees for the use and benefit of the Beneficiaries and it is therefore an asset of the Council."
  • the Halls Committee have "control and management of the property"

We believe Dec 2016 Min 290.13 is misleading i.e. it does not indicate that BPC has legal ownership IN TRUST to be logged on the BPC asset register as an asset of nil value as indicated in previous BPC minutes.  The deeds state "... for the physical and mental recreation for the inhabitants of the Parish of Bleadon"; BOB last informed councillors of this in May 2016. 

 

We, and others, feel that a correct record is important because the halls and land are not BPC's assets to do with as they wish, they belong to the parishioners of Bleadon. Also, should BPC 'fold' in the future these assets should not then pass to any other government authority.

 

---

 

CORRESPONDENCE WITH BPC RE: HALLS OWNERSHIP & RESPONSIBILITIES

 

From: Bleadon BOB Community Website <bleadon@live.co.uk>

Sent: 18 November 2016 18:10

To: Bleadon Parish Council Clerk

Cc: Cllr Chinn; Cllr Clarke; Cllr Gutsell; [Hall Rep]; [Hall Rep/Member of public]

Subject: November Minutes - Halls Ownership, Building Insurance, VAT

 

Dear Tony,

 

Thanks for the minutes (now on BOB) , but having read the minutes I'm confused what the problem is here between BPC/Halls, and as Jo was on the Halls Committee  at the time she has compiled the reply below based on her knowledge and research on the matter - Chris.

 

I'm aware of a lengthy legal process in 2006-10  on the issue of ownership and interpretation of the Coronation Hall Trust Deed as I was on the Halls Committee during 2007-09.  From public documents and minutes I understand that in 2008 BPC resolved to register its assets with HMLR including 'Coronation Hall/Jubilee Hall/Childrens Play Area/YouthClub/Car Park' (hopefully including all trust information where necessary).BPC therefore own the halls (as publicly stated in 2010 and confirmed by you via HMLR). They are owned with BPC as Custodian Trustee in relation to a  1938 Trust Deed for '..the physical and mental recreation of the inhabitants of the Parish of Bleadon'. The Halls Management Committee run the halls as Management Trustees, also in relation to the Trust Deed.  In 2010 the public was informed that this issue was concluded with an agreement signed between the Chair of BPC (Penny Skelley) and the Chair of Hall Committee (Len Chamberlain) i.e. Protocol 205. It was stated that this document was 'to clarify the ambiguities and bring the Governing Document, the Trust Deed of 1938, up to date'. So why these ownership, insurance, etc. issues have been raised again only six years later I'm at a loss to understand, especially considering the time and money spent on legal advice in the past, and suggested again now. Let's hope this current process will clarify the situation once and for all.

 

Please can you send BOB a copy of BPC/Halls Committee agreement i.e. The Protocol regarding the interpretation of the Coronation Hall Trust Deed dated 14 January 1938 (Protocol 205), signed and concluded at the Annual Parish Meeting 2010?

 

I'm also a bit confused by the insurance and VAT statements.

 

I believe that it was the halls ownership and insurance issue, as originated in 2006, that eventually caused Protocol 205 to be written in 2010 to clarify the situation, we seem to be repeating that process again, some info:

  • October 2007: The clerk advised the meeting of the responses he had received from both the NALC and SLCC. As a result he confirmed that he would be accepting their advice by formally amending the entry on the Parish Council Asset list with regards to the Insurance Value of the Coronation Hall. In the future the value would be listed but in brackets with the following explanation – Held in trust by Bleadon Parish Council as custodial trustees.
  • July 2008: Resolved to receive Custodian & Management Trustees Report and to accept the Clerk’s following recommendations: That the Parish Council is the Custodian Trustee and as such should record the asset on the Parish Council Asset register That the value should be listed as Nil value That the Coronation Hall Management Committee is the Managing Trustee That the Parish Council and the Coronation Hall Management Committee mutually seek direction from AON the Hall Insurers as to whose name should appear on the policy and who are legally are responsible for paying the Annual Insurance Premium
  • Bleadon Village News - 85 - Summer 2010: Contrary to their previous advice, our insurers (Aon Limited) have confirmed that the Hall insurance policy should be divided into two – the buildings element being written in the name of the Parish Council as legal owners of the property and the contents and other matters being in the name of the Hall Management Committee. Legal advice given by Hall, Ward and Fox is that the Governing Document (the Trust Deed dated 14 January 1938) is ambiguous. Their recommendation was to draft a Protocol to clarify the ambiguities and bring the Governing Document up to date. This has now been completed and the Protocol was signed by Penny Skelley (on behalf of the Parish Council) and Len Chamberlain (on behalf of the Hall Management Committee) at the Annual Parish Meeting on 12 April. Cllr Clive Morris 
  • BVN 86 - Autumn 2010: Bleadon Coronation Hall In the last issue of the Village News, our report was given at the Annual Parish meeting by our Hall Representative and Treasurer Cllr Clive Morris. It was a comprehensive report, on finance, improvements and general happenings in both halls. It also mentioned the signing of a new Protocol document, to clarify the ambiguous wording on our 1938 trust deed, which to my knowledge has been the cause of several serious and conflicting interpretations in past years. So we are confident that future hall committees will have the benefit of the action we have taken now and we have minuted our appreciation of the time and effort put into this over the past year by Clive. Len Chamberlain - Chairman

VAT: 

  • May 2016 : The hall funds will be used to carry out the refurbishment work, but the Parish Council have agreed to donate up to £20,000 to make up any shortfall. The internal auditor has advised that if the work is commissioned in the name of the Parish Council, and they receive the invoices then the VAT can be reclaimed.
  • June 2016: 284.12 To discuss the Village Hall rebuilding works. A working group has been set up, and met a week ago. The auditor Terry Lewis has advised that if invoices for all the work are made payable to the Parish Council then the VAT can be reclaimed. 

I feel public clarification is definitely required with regards to BPC's ownership of all its assets (including trusts) and its meaning for the people of Bleadon; its relationship with other groups e.g. the Halls Committee, Youth Club, etc.; any related operational and financial management responsibilities; and associated trustee and public scrutiny. I believe there is a difference between 'owning' an asset and 'owning it in trust' and I feel that this must be clearly communicated to residents. It seems that an open and transparent approach to access to information on these issues is required for all parties, including the public, otherwise the public per‎ception may be that the PC/Halls could perhaps otherwise use 'its' asset without recourse to Bleadon and potentially involve more unnecessary costs now and in the future.

 

As you are aware this is the recommended practice under the FOI Act by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) Model Publication Scheme to help prevent these types of legal, financial and time consuming issues recurring for all interested parties. We have previously suggested and requested this practice numerous times  with BPC resolving to adopt the ICO Model Publication Scheme in December 2008 and again in March 2016 but this information is still missing from the website.

 

When this matter is finally concluded could you please keep BOB (and Bleadon public) informed by publishing all related documents alongside all BPC public documents, policies, protocols, newsletters, etc. on the BPC website for future reference as per the ICO Model Publication Scheme? 

 

 

Kind regards,

 

Jo

 

---

From: Tony Jay <parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk>

Sent: Friday, 18 November 2016 7:06 PM
To: 'Bleadon BOB Community Website'
Cc: 'Cllr Chinn'; 'Cllr Clarke'; 'Cllr Gutsell'; 'Hall Rep'; 'Hall Rep/Member of public'
Subject: RE: November Minutes - Halls Ownership, Building Insurance, VAT

 

Hi everyone,

 

I circulated the draft PC minutes to Bleadon BOB on Wednesday, as per our protocol.  I was concerned that public comment would be made regarding the ‘hall ownership’ issue before it had been resolved, as the situation on Wednesday was very different to that on Monday following the receipt of the land registry report.

 

The issue has raised its head again because the hall committee received advice from the Charity Commission that the Charitable Trust were the owners of the hall.  The hall management committee stated that they intended to completely rely upon this advice, which the PC did not agree with. Hence the PC was forced to make the enquiry with the land registry which eventually proved that the hall is owned by the PC.

 

If it had transpired that the PC did NOT own the hall then it would have been very unlikely that the VAT could be reclaimed.  The citizens of Bleadon would then have lost £12k. When the internal auditor gave his advice, he was under the impression that the PC owned the hall.  His advice would have been different if that was not the case.  The VAT will be reclaimable now, so this is no longer an issue.

 

I am quite happy to reply to any request for information regarding assets etc.  I do not hide anything. The asset register is currently being updated and will be published when completed.

 

One of my many unfulfilled tasks is to publish all of the policies etc. on the PC website, however due to my workload regularly exceeding my 15 hours a week on regular PC business, I simply have not had enough time to do so yet.  It is not in the financial interests of the village for my hours to be increased (and I don’t want to work more hours anyway), but when a Clerk only works 15 hours per week it has to be accepted that it will sometimes take a long time for non-urgent tasks to be completed.

 

Tony

 

--

From: Bleadon BOB Community Website <bleadon@live.co.uk>

Sent: 20 November 2016 23:08

To: Tony Jay

Cc: 'Cllr Chinn'; 'Cllr Clarke'; 'Cllr Gutsell'; 'Hall Rep'; 'Hall Rep/Member of public'

Subject: Re: November Minutes - Halls Ownership, Building Insurance, VAT

 

Dear Tony,

 

Thanks for the prompt reply. 

 

We appreciate your/council time constraints, as does the ICO, which I suppose is why they created the model publication scheme to assist all councils/clerks to reduce the number of direct requests for information (whether via paper, email or website). I therefore would have thought that the publication of key public documents would be an urgent priority for BPC, especially since the current website is nearly a year old. Publicly accessible documents enables everyone to easily find the essential information they require, reducing the amount of your/BPC time needed to deal with requests or worse,  're-inventing wheels'. Easily accessible, current, and definitive information can then be used to assist future decision making whether by former, current or future councillors, members of the public, or in this case the Halls Committee too. 

 

We realise that the current lack of online access may be due to your predecessors (as this is a 2010 document, created when the public were informed that BPC 'owned' the halls) but we hope that you can rectify this for all ICO recommended documents in the near future.

 

Jo and I look forward to receiving a copy of Protocol 205 as soon a possible please, by return of email, if that's easier than via the BPC website.

 

Kind regards,

 

Chris Butler

email: bob@bleadon.org.uk

web: www.bleadon.org.uk

twitter: @bleadon

facebook: BleadonBOB

latest news: http://www.bleadon.org.uk/news.html

 

---

From: Tony Jay <parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk>

Sent: 21 November 2016 08:32

To: Bleadon BOB

Subject: FW: Ownership of the Coronation Hall

 

Hi,

 

I have recently been forwarded Protocol 250 from [a member of the public].  It is the first time that I have seen it.  I do not hold it electronically.  A copy may be in the PC cupboard at the Coronation Hall.  Councillors and I will be going through the contents of the cupboard tomorrow.

 

Tony

 

----

From: Tony Jay <parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk>

Sent: 21 November 2016 08:41

To: 'Bleadon BOB Community Website'

Cc: 'Cllr Chinn'; 'Cllr Clarke'; 'Cllr Gutsell'; 'Hall Rep'

Subject: RE: November Minutes - Halls Ownership, Building Insurance, VAT

 

Hi,

 

I have forwarded scanned copies of Protocol 250 in a separate email.

 

It is true that the website is not up to date in some respects, (agendas and minutes are up to date) however my priority is to deal with ‘day to day’ business, which is currently taking more than my allocated 15 hours per week.  If and when my workload decreases then I will have time to work on the website.  If anyone wishes to have a copy of a document which is held electronically, or is easily accessible then I will obviously provide a copy.

 

I have removed [Hall Rep/Member of public] from the cc list, as he is not a Parish Councillor.

 

Thanks.

 

Tony Jay

Parish Clerk

 

--

From: Tony Jay <parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk>

Sent: 30 November 2016 11:00

To: Bleadon BOB

Subject: FW: Ownership of the Coronation Hall

 

Hi,

 

I understand that you are saying that you have not received a copy of the protocol.

 

I will resend it again.

 

Tony

Parish Clerk

 

--

From: Bleadon BOB Community Website <bleadon@live.co.uk>

Sent: 30 November 2016 12:58

To: Tony Jay

Subject: Re: Ownership of the Coronation Hall

 
Hi Tony,
Thanks, we did get this email, but [member of the public] states it is draft, so assume you have now found the original signed copy?
Regards Chris and Jo
 
-----
From: Tony Jay <parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk>
Sent: 05 December 2016 15:05

To: Bleadon BOB

Subject: Protocol for the Coronation Hall

 

Hi,

 

I attach the signed protocol.

 

Tony Jay

Parish Clerk

.

 

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