Grimsby Freemen

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Chairman's Report 2015


This is the Chairman's Report for the year-ended February 2015. The Full Annual Report, Accounts and half-yearly Dividend, will be issued through the post to all those persons on the Pastures Roll during May 2015.

 

THE ENROLLED FREEMEN OF THE BOROUGH OF GREAT GRIMSBY

 

CHAIRMAN’S ANNUAL REPORT 2015

 

It is with regret that I have to start my report this year on a sad note.

 

Last November one of our long-standing committee members, and one-time Chairman of our Market sub-Committee, Edmund “Ted” Loftus, died suddenly. Then, in February, Michael “Mike” Campbell, a former committee member, died after a long illness. The Freemen were well represented at both funerals and donations made to their respective chosen charities.

 

Other than that, I would have to say that overall we have continued to improve our position since February 2014.

 

The Business and Digital Hub, officially opened in January 2014, is now home to a number of varied tenants, some businesses and some having charitable objectives working with the unemployed or those who find themselves living on the margins of society. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding which (partly) covered the main contract and building work has been extended by mutual agreement to cover some of the running costs; this extra time is helping us to achieve our Project Outputs of Jobs and Businesses created which have to be running for 12 months before they are eligible. We have not yet let out all of the offices, which we knew would take some time, but “spare” rooms are being taken for training purposes, video-conferencing and general meetings. In addition, the large seminar room on the ground floor, and which opens out onto the market, is being used regularly for our Saturday Kid’s Club and has also hosted the Grimsby Renewables Partnership “dress-down Friday” meeting, the Creative Humber Group and the GAP Theatre activities.

 

A new website has been set up purely for this project under the banner of Freeman Creative and you can find this at www.freemancreative.co.uk.

 

All of the stalls that had to be temporarily re-located whilst building work was in progress have now been reinstated including an additional café, “The Vine”. The external and internal façade of The Pea Bung have been renewed and the refurbishment of the stalls and floor within the market, including the new “barrows”, is now complete. These improvements have been greatly appreciated by traders and shoppers alike and almost all stalls are now occupied. Following the Governments’ relaxation of rules concerning power generation, we have installed a fourth and final phase of Solar PV on the roof in order to both safeguard us from possible power cuts and future increases in energy costs.

 

The Pastures Development Company continues its’ role in the promotion of The Hub and any other initiative which otherwise might fall outside of the purely charitable objectives of the Enrolled Freemen. The PDC comprises five Directors (initially) drawn from the Pastures Committee, Sara Meller, Richard Bellamy, Dr Stephen Bloy, Stephen Wakefield and myself, and we meet regularly with our Clerk and Treasurer.

 

The effects of the “Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (HL)”, which extended the franchise to Freemen’s daughters three years ago, are still being felt. During the year admissions to the Freedom were slightly more than those removed with the result that the number of Freemen on the Roll now stands at 1,070, (was 1,059 last year). I, along with Stephen Wakefield, (Vice-Chairman), and Stephen Savage, (Clerk), attended the Admission Courts last year and will continue to do so in order to add to the sense of ceremony of the occasion.

 

We are able to further amend the rules of admission and initially we are proposing to;-

 

1.                     Reduce the age of admission from 21 to 18 years, and

2.                     To re-affirm admission by a recognised apprenticeship

 

Notice is therefore given that this item will be discussed following the formal AGM Agenda, and a vote taken of those present.

 

Please encourage members of your family to apply for Admission if you think that they may be eligible. It is not the case that only the first-born can apply, admission is open to all children, including legally-adopted children, of Freemen parents – father or mother.

 

I would like to thank all members of the Pastures Committee, and The Pastures Development Company, for their diligence and hard work over the last year. I would especially mention Dr Stephen Bloy who, although moving out of the Borough, agreed to continue as a PDC Director until the end of the year. We do have several vacancies though that we urgently need to fill on the Committee, to be elected at the AGM, and it will be up to you, the Freemen of Grimsby, to decide who the fourteen will be since the entire Committee has to be elected annually.

 

There is a list of current Committee Members on page 5 together with the number of meetings each has attended during the year; this is something that we have always done, without comment. All I would say is, is that a number of our members have to try to fit in around their working arrangements and others around family commitments. Each one makes a valuable contribution to the work of the Committee.

 

It is very important that at least four Freeman (male or female) puts themselves forward for election this year. Any person whose name is on the Pastures Roll, with the exception of Widows of Freemen, may propose themselves for inclusion on the Committee. If you wish to be considered please apply, in writing, to The Clerk’s Office no later than Monday, 25th May. Please include your full name and brief details of your education and employment history outlining what relevant skills and knowledge you could offer. In the event that we have more than fourteen candidates then a vote will be taken at the AGM, if we have the exact number required then they will be automatically appointed. If there are any vacant posts remaining then the Committee may co-opt at a later date after having given due consideration to any candidate’s credentials. Nominations from the floor will not be accepted on the day.

 

It is now seven years since I first wrote about the plans for the regeneration of Freeman Street. The report of EC Harris, which was commissioned by North East Lincolnshire Council, is now a public document and the NELC Cabinet have adopted the Report and Plan as one of their Primary Regeneration Projects. Further meetings have been held over the last year between the Council, Shoreline Housing Partnership, other agencies and ourselves to ensure that the plans that are made will be achievable and appropriate for the area. It has to be said that we are enjoying a very positive relationship with the Council, (and their partner Cofely who took over Balfour Beatty), and we are delighted to have been offered this opportunity to work alongside them. This has meant that those of us from the Committee, as Trustees, have had to put additional time in to attend the various meetings, and to carry out research etc., along with our Clerk, Treasurer and Surveyor. We would not have achieved a fraction of what we have without their willingness and, again, I would like to express my gratitude to them on your behalf. You will all be aware of the improvements which have been made to the roads surfaces, footpaths, lighting and the Garibaldi Street car park.

 

There has been a very good take-up on the NELC Shop-front Improvement Grants Scheme with around 65 properties benefitting in total, including our own, (St Andrews Hospice Shop). There are a few contracts still in progress but there is no additional budget allocation in 2015/16. However, what has already been done has given the street scene a much needed lift between the Market and Hainton Square.

 

Turning now to the Financial Activities and, in particular, the Market. Trading conditions continue to be difficult but are beginning to show signs of improvement. It is difficult to compare exactly like for like in each year for a variety of reasons. For example, income from stall rents, The Skills Centre and the Solar PV FIT have increased and costs have reduced but overall we still had a deficit, although much reduced on the previous year. With other factors and costs taken into account The Dividend had to be reduced last year but the Council’s 1/20 share was much increased. If you have any specific questions regarding the accounts the Treasurer will be attending the Annual General Meeting to answer them.

 

As with last year, we have once again held our stall rents in an effort to retain our traders until the economy picks up.

 

The Solar Panels, mentioned earlier, yielded a higher Feed in Tariff of £18,300 over the year, (£15,300 previously), and could possibly double during 2015/16.

 

The Skills & Craft Centre has had a better year although we lost Synergy and gained Minimatt in the recording studio. Practically fully occupied now, we have begun converting what was the woodworking shop to provide an extension to Thebuzzbox hairdressers and other lettable space. This area also includes a Bridal Shop, The Attic “shabby-chic” furnishings and Mummy Rose Maternity, Nursing and Premature Baby Wear and is completed by Custom-Funky, an outlet for printed mugs, tee-shirts and workwear. The whole of the market has Wi-Fi and The Courtyard Bistro is proving to be very popular with shoppers who like the atmosphere that we have created. We are always open to ideas and suggestions for other possible uses within the Courtyard area.

 

Two special events that we held last year was the service at the end of the local church’s Good Friday Walk of Witness, complete with hot cross buns, and an Act of Remembrance for the 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, and for both of these we were indebted to the generous assistance given by Revd Mary Vickers, the local Industrial Chaplain. We subsequently invited Mary to be the official Chaplain to the Freemen and she was pleased to accept.

 

Last December, with the dividend cheque, I appealed for names that we could include on a permanent memorial to Freemen who had died in service of their country, so far I have received just 2, surely there must be others?

 

We are members of the Grimsby Renewables Partnership and have also been supportive of the Ice Factory/Prince’s Regeneration Trust collaboration for the possible positive effects that these could have on the Freeman Street/East Marsh Regeneration.

 

None of this could have been achieved without our dedicated staff and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Market Managers and their team for their hard work on the Market in helping to transform it and for steadily improving its internal appearance. Those of you with access to the internet may care to visit www.freemomarket.co.uk, or www.enrolledfreemenofgrimsby.org or the markets’ Facebook page to see how we are moving with the times. My thanks, on behalf of the Committee, also go to our Clerk and Treasurer and their respective staff who work most diligently to keep our legal and financial affairs in good order. I would also like, again, to thank the Members of the Committee for the time they have given to the affairs of the Freemen on your behalf.

 

I would urge you all to support the Market, if you have not seen the improvements we have carried out do go and have a look; I think that you will be surprised.

 

As has been said in previous reports, if you require any assistance please apply to the Benevolent Fund through either the Clerk or the Treasurer.  The criteria for applying to the Fund are, in the case of extreme hardship, the payment of a household utility bill, (usually gas or electricity), the replacement/repair of cooking facilities, (e.g. a new basic cooker if your existing one is not able to be repaired, to enable one to keep warm, (e.g. a portable heater), and essential repairs to property.  Each case will be considered on its own merits.  The Fund is not available for general financial assistance. Please do not be afraid to ask, we have had no requests for assistance at all over the last year.

 

If you move home kindly inform either the Clerk or the Treasurer of your new address.

 

The Annual General Meeting is to be held on Monday, 1st June 2015, at 12.00 noon at the Town Hall.  Please make every effort to attend in order that you can elect the new Pastures Committee for the next twelve months and to ask any questions that you may wish to put to the Committee or its’ Officials.

 

Stephen P. White

Chairman