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 Cort.
Mr T Smith asked a question which was not related to the minutes of the previous A G M to be brought up in Any Other Business.
This last year has been as busy as ever. The duties imposed upon us by the gas safety act and the health and safety act meant that along with renovating the empty properties we had to concentrate on chimney repairs and heating systems. But we are getting there. We still expect the letters for heating system repairs will still come in, but hopefully at a slower rate. The mild winter has helped and we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. This year we fitted two complete heating systems into the houses we were renovating and seven new boilers or part systems into occupied houses. We were taken to task last year with the way in which we treated boiler and heating repairs. It is the policy of this committee that when a heating system breaks down, we get an engineer to attend as soon as possible. It is no fun for a family to sit there with no heating or hot water. This policy is now receiving lots of support from tenants who find themselves in this situation and we have received quite a few letters of thanks for the quick response that was made. It is very nice to get these letters and we thank the people concerned for taking the time and trouble to let us know that they were satisfied.
When a tenant sends in a request for repairs we issue a job sheet for the repair. Last year we issued 371 job sheets. This gives you some idea of the amount of work that is being done and has to be done on the estate. We came through the storms and windy weather very well, with only three houses losing some tiles.
Rumours have been going around regarding the letting of the houses. It was said that we were having problems finding tenants for the empty properties. Like all rumours it was only partly true. What we were having difficulties with, was getting through the mass of people sitting on the housing list who do not want a property. All these people have to be contacted and their reply waited for before we can move on to the next person on the list. There are many people on the housing list who want a property; it was just a matter of getting to them. We have corrected this situation by temporarily removing from the list the people who keep refusing the offer of a tenancy, so giving us a more relevant list.
We face the current year with a more optimistic frame of mind. The rent increase which came into force this year, will I hope, enable us to move forward. We would like to reinstate the painting program and are at the moment awaiting quotations from various companies with this in mind. Whether it will be possible to complete both sides of Fern Rise this financial year will obviously depend on costs. We also wish to press on as quickly as possible with sealing up the condemned chimneys and fireplaces.
Those of you who are regular attendees at these meetings will notice that we have a new member on the committee. We welcome Amy Benning to our little band. It is so important that we get these younger people on to the committee. They bring with them fresh ideas and a greater understanding of modern life and its complexities. We in turn hope to instil in them the passions and beliefs that we hold for this community of ours.
We accept that it can be difficult to juggle a family life and give time to serve on the committee. But no one is saying that it should be a long term venture. Just one or two terms would give people an insight into how we work and how we hope to continue.
These houses were in a lot of cases, occupied by your great grand parents, your grandparents, your parents yourselves and now your children. We want to make sure that your children’s children have the same opportunities that they had, an affordable home and a nice community to live in.
This concluded the chairman’s report.
Mr Mee commenced his report by saying that although there had not been any increase in rents charged, income had been increased by £8,200 this was due to the houses that had been renovated being re-let at a higher rent. Although they cost a lot to renovate, once they are back on stream the society does benefit from the increased rent. Management expenses were basically the same as the previous year. An extra worker was employed on a temporary contract the previous year, that cost covered the pay rise for 2013. There was an increase in van expenses; this was due to a large repair bill. Most of the costs are much the same as the previous year which is encouraging to see. The big expense on the estate is driven by the number of empty properties, money spent on windows and doors were half the cost of the previous year, partially due to the society coming to the end of replacing all the windows and doors. The second year of the central heating programme saw less spent.
There was no lead replacement undertaken, but a new cost is council tax that now has to be paid on empty properties, this totalled £3,400. With no rent being drawn on these as well, it is advisable to get them back onto the rental market as soon as the renovation work allows. This is easier said than done, as you can get more than one property empty at a time.
Last year £22,000 was spent more than was taken in, this year with the increased rent and reduced spending you have managed to reverse that and have put £11,500 back into the bank account. But this can soon be eaten up by empty properties and central heating repairs, so it is important to sometimes generate more money than you spend to increase the buffer to cover any emergencies that may come up during the year. Overall it is a very satisfactory state of affairs.
Mrs J Goodwin proposed that the accounts were accepted as a true record, seconded by Mrs I Gaten.
Mrs E Geary 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.
Mr Gee said that as the staff had not received a pay rise this year he felt that the committee fee should stay the same.
Mrs C Smith proposed that the committee fee should stay at £3.00 per meeting: this was seconded by Mrs J Goodwin.
Mr Gee said that there had been two questionnaire forms sent back, Mrs Bakker had asked why the housing list had gone down so much. Mr Gee said that seventy five names had been taken off because they had been sitting on the list so long with no intention of accepting a house, some live in America, France, Thailand etc. These people have to be written to and wait for an answer, this all takes time. People who have not replied have been taken off the list; they can apply to have their name put back on the list after twelve months. Some have already said that they will not bother to put their names back on. With doing this it will enable us to get to the people who are waiting for a house more quickly.
Mr T Smith asked do we know if the thirty one names on the list definitely want houses. Mr Gee says as far as we know they do. Mr Smith said that there are twenty nine on the list that are not eligible due to their age, he went on to ask if the committee had thought about altering this as you have got twenty five year olds that have got families. Mr Gee said that this had been brought up at the last meeting. There was then further discussions and points were put forward and questions asked by various society and committee members. Mr Gee said that this had been discussed at length after the last shareholders meeting and the committee were split on whether to lower the age, but it was voted that it remain at twenty five.
Mr Fraser going back to the housing list asked if everyone living abroad had been taken off the list. Mr Gee said that those living abroad are taken off the list as we get to them, they can then go back on the list after a year. Mrs C Smith asked where do they go on the list when then they are put back. Mr Gee said that they are put at the bottom of the list, but they have to ask, they are not put back on automatically.
Mrs V Walker asked a question regarding issuing a telephone number to be used for out of hours emergencies. A situation had arisen at a relatives regarding a leaking radiator and they did not know who to contact. Mr Gee said that this had come up quite a few times, but the system that we have always used works pretty well. Most people will know where a committee person lives and will tap on their door. Mrs C Smith said that we really do need an emergency number. Mrs Walker said could there be a list of reasons that D J B Gas & Heating Services could be called out for and the tenant be able to contact them direct. It was pointed out that this contractor did not offer a 24 hour call out service.
Mr Gee said that there was also a question from Mrs Bakker regarding how many shares a member could hold. Mrs Bakker asked what benefit would there be for someone to hold more than fifty pounds worth of shares. Mr Gee said that it gives them more voting power, people with more than five shares have usually been left them by relatives, the maximum you can have is two hundred pounds worth. No one with fifty pounds worth has ever asked for any more. Mrs C Smith asked if shares can be passed onto someone or is that only on death. Mr Gee said that they can only be passed on to existing shareholders.
Mr C Smith said is there something a bit unsavoury for someone to have extra voting rights. Mr Gee said that that was the fundamental rules of a co-operative society, 1 share 1 vote. Mr C Smith said that it strikes him as being extremely undemocratic. He went on to say that the people who have more shares have more voting rights. Mr Pawson said that the more shares you have the more votes you have, that is democracy.
Mr M Cort said that at the end of August 2013 he had both his chimneys condemned and was told that it would be six to eight weeks before they (fireplaces) would be taken out. He went on to say that his central heating system has been restored by D J B after several visits and at best is only background heating. Both his chimneys are the same as when they were condemned, and he is not very happy about the situation. Mr Gee said that he was in the same position. Mr Cort asked when his were condemned Mr Gee said about eighteen months ago, we are trying to get round to doing this work but it’s a case of the other work that needs to be done as well. Further discussion on this subject followed. Mr Cort brought up the outstanding repair request for his garage door. The secretary said that the maintenance man had called several times but was unable to catch him in; if he cannot repair the door then a company would be called in.
Mrs C Smith asked that where gas fires have been disconnected would it be possible for a liner to be fitted to the chimney and is this something that could be done through the estate. Mr Gee said that a tenant would have to have this done themselves and it would have to be done by a qualified contractor. Mrs Smith said that she has a perfectly good fire but a boiler that is seventeen years old. Mr Gee said that eventually all houses will probably have new boilers over a period of time.
Mr Fraser said that as our houses have 9 inch walls would we benefit from exterior cladding. Mr Gee said that this had been looked into on the Green Deal Scheme which as far as landlords are concerned was stopped last year; it was found that it contravened the credit act. It is fitted free but they then put a charge on your electricity to pay for it and the problem was who signs the credit agreement the landlord or the tenant, this they didn’t know. So they have had to rush a bill through parliament that should be acted by the end of this month. There is going to be a whole host of action to do with the Green Deal Scheme so we are waiting to see what happens.
Mrs Gaten said that to save on electricity is it necessary to have all the lights on around the hall at night. Mr Gee said that these are on for security and the bulbs fitted are the low cost type.
Mrs V Walker asked if the gas safety check includes the servicing of the boiler. Mr Gee said that this is included. Mrs Walker said that her boiler had not been serviced when D J B Gas & Heating Services called this week. The secretary said that as there was work to be carried out on a radiator the contractor may have left the servicing until this had been done. Mr Gee assured her that her boiler would be serviced.
This concluded the business of the meeting and Mr Gee thanked everyone for their attendance before declaring the meeting closed at 7.50pm.
These minutes are the official record of what happened, and not a verbatim account.