Mr Gee took the chair, apologies from Mr Ridgway, all other committee members were present with a further 13 society members in attendance.
Minutes of the previous annual general meeting were confirmed and signed, proposed by Mrs J Goodwin and seconded by Mr M Osborne.
Once again I start my report with the words that the past year has been a challenging one. We continued with the task of tackling the heating systems in our properties and making sure that they are all up to standard and as you know we are checking all gas fires, solid fuel and wood burning stoves as well. This is part of our commitment to health and safety and the welfare of our tenants. As you will see from the accounts this is taking a fair proportion of our income.
We have had a steady stream of houses becoming vacant, mainly due to the deaths of older tenants. These tend to require a lot of work to bring them up to the standards now required before they can be re-let. With council tax now being charged on empty properties, it is essential that we complete these properties as quickly as possible and we do employ outside contractors wherever possible in order to do this. But it still takes time. Damp proofing rewiring, re-plastering, upgrading the central heating system, new bathroom suite and a host of smaller items, all need to be completed before the house can be offered to the next person.
Our policy of checking chimneys for safety is continuing and as reported at our last meeting, many of them are failing the safety checks. We now have a backlog of tenants waiting for their chimneys to be blocked off. Please have patience; we will get around to you as soon as possible.
The yearly gas check that we do is a duty imposed on us by the Gas Safety Act and we are legally obliged to do them. In order to complete the program in a cost effective manner we need the co-operation of all tenants. If the time slot allocated to you is inconvenient or you will be out, please contact the contractor to re-arrange the appointment.
The governments new green deal scheme has sparked off a flurry of companies knocking on doors and ringing up with all sorts of energy products and systems. We have no objections to increase loft insulation but cavity wall insulation is a non starter as we do not have the required depth of cavity in the wall of our properties. We are monitoring some of the new forms of insulation to see if they can be of benefit to us with regard to the energy efficiency of the houses and we shall report on these in due course. It is important that we are notified before any work that affects the fabric of the house is considered.
As well as the major works that we are undertaking the usual list of minor repairs and maintenance continues. Re-pointing where necessary, dripping taps, blocked drains, damp patches on walls, window seals failing and so the list goes on. We endeavour to do all these with the minimum delay and inconvenience to the tenants as possible. With the amount of money we have available we consider that we do a good job. We shall have to go carefully over the next year and although we have not yet discussed an increase in rents, one may be necessary.
Communication with the committee is important. If things start to go wrong, particularly with regard to payment of rent, don’t just sit there and wait for the arrears letters to arrive, but contact the committee. It is possible we can help and work out a solution. I would like to remind all people who are on the waiting list for a house that the onus is on them to notify us of any changes with regard to address and telephone number. If we cannot contact them when a house becomes available, we will move on to the next person on the list. This can be upsetting for all concerned and we do not wish it to happen.
It was great news to hear that after 3 years of battling, the land registry have finally recognised our claim to be a valid one with regard to the small parcel of land at the rear of 15/17/19 Lilac Avenue. This land has now been registered in our name.
We cannot bring back the old days, nor should we wish to. This estate of ours has to progress to embrace the modern world. But that shouldn’t mean that we loose the values on which this community was founded. The committee works hard to enable this estate to continue, but if people see it only as a way of getting a low cost house and have no input into its continuation then the future will be uncertain. It was therefore very encouraging to see the support for the Queens Jubilee celebrations, and our thanks must go to the members of the organising committee for all the hard work they put in to making it a success, members of the committee were-
Penny Smith, Lesley and Michael Osborne, Victoria Tuttle, Vanessa and Ian Walker and Ben and Cecelia O’Hare. Dare I hope that there will be more events in the future?
This concluded the chairman’s report.
Mr Mee began his report by saying that the income had increased by 5% this was down to the rent rise plus the higher rent charged for the renovated properties in 2012. During the year there was thirty nine months of rent not received due to properties being off the rental market while they were being renovated. Obviously it takes time for the properties to be put in a state for re-letting. Not only are you losing the rent but the society has to find the money to carry out the work. Hopefully in 2013/2014 when these properties have been let, you will see the rent income increase.
There were increases in management expenses from the previous year, temporary staff taken on which increased the wages. Lighting and heating were up this was partly due to usage being estimated and final bills when moving suppliers. Extra pest control around the estate put up the cost from the previous year. Professional fees which includes solicitor, health and safety consultant etc. increased. The donation was for the Jubilee Celebrations as mentioned.
A large proportion of the estate expenses were taken up with the central heating installation and repairs. Also expenditure on building, roofing, skip hire and electrical increased mainly due to work on empty properties.
The painting programme was deferred. There was less spent on windows and doors from the previous year, the estate is getting to the end of the windows programme.
As the balance sheet shows the society overspent £22,253 this year and £21,089 the previous year, before this there had been a period where funds were built up, purposely to cover the extra expenses in taking over central heating repairs and full renovation of properties.
Mr Mee went through the society’s assets before concluding his report by saying that as the houses are getting older; to sustain the amount spent on them you would need to look at generating more income in the future.
Mr M Osborne proposed that the accounts were accepted as a true record, seconded by Mrs J Bradshaw.
Mrs I Gaten proposed the re-election of Nixon Mee Limited as auditors for the coming year; this was seconded by Mrs J Goodwin.
As there were no names put forward, the committee would appoint the arbitrators for the coming year.
A nomination for the committee was withdrawn, as there were two vacancies and two nominees a vote was not required.
Mrs J Bradshaw proposed that the committee fee should stay at £3.00 per meeting: this was seconded by Mrs J Taylor.
Mr M Osborne asked would council tax have to be paid on empty properties. Mr Gee said that as from the 1st April 2013 full council tax would have to be paid on all empty properties.
Mrs J Goodwin asked about the rent arrears that were shown on the balance sheet, she went on to say that there was a huge jump from last year to this year. Mr Mee explained that the last quarter rent on the hall had been received after the end of the financial so shows up as arrears.
Miss J Gamble brought up the increase in the heating and lighting from the previous year. Mr Pawson explained that this was due to a meter being taken out and the reluctance of the utility provider to increase the direct debit payment on the remaining meter. This resulted in having to make a large payment for the electricity used when we made the final payment before changing provider.
Miss J Gamble then brought up the interest earned from the money held in the Nationwide Building Society and asked if a better rate could not be found. Mr Pawson explained that this is a commercial account, not a personnel account and was the best rate available.
Miss J Gamble asked further questions regarding the balance sheet; these had already been covered by Mr Mee in his auditors report.
Mrs J Gamble asked if the committee had given any more thought to giving a contact number for out of hours emergencies.
Mr Gee said that the committee had a long discussion on this and the outcome was that we were leaving it as it is at the moment because the system that we have has always worked, the concern is what it would be used for.
Mrs J Gamble said that if there was an emergency you have to go round to a committee member’s house some tenants do not know where the committee live. She said that by having a mobile phone that the committee members take in turns having then tenants would be able to contact someone direct.
Mr Gee said that you have to look at it from the committee’s view; it would mean that someone would have to be on call. He went on to say that he appreciates what she was saying but it was felt that the system in place works.
Miss J Gamble also put forward the suggestion of having a contact number.
Miss Gamble then brought up the question of a letter having to be sent in for a repairs request, and suggested that the tenant have a letter of acknowledgement. The secretary said that the request is usually acknowledged by the maintenance man going and assessing the work required. Mr Gee said that her comments would be taken on board and looked at.
Miss J Gamble then brought up the question of solar panels being fitted. Mr Gee said that this had been looked into and reported on at a previous meeting. He went on to say that it was a non starter. Unless you wanted to pay for it yourself, the firms who go round fitting it for free keep control of all the equipment and the majority of the money, and they rent the roof for twenty five years. The estate would have to ask for permission to carry out repairs if needed on the roof and have to pay for the removal and replacement of the panels to carry out a repair. It had been agreed that this was not something that the estate would get into.
This concluded the business of the meeting and Mr Gee thanked everyone for their attendance before declaring the meeting closed at 7.35pm.