Report for 2016 to Annual Parish Meeting

The Charities’ principal asset, as many of you will know, is the Bell Inn.   Given in trust for the benefit of the village more than 400 years ago, the Bell was already a 200 year old building at the time it was given.   So it’s a building that needs looking after, and in 2016 the Bell involved the trustees in a good deal of both time and expenditure.   This included the Quinquennial (Five Yearly) Report on Condition of the Bell carried out by our architect, Mr. Ian Angus of Carden & Godfrey, a Quinquennial Electrical Survey, the negotiation of a new lease to Scott and Iain Ganson, the external redecoration of the Bell and the carrying out of various external repairs to it.   The building is looking better than it has done for many years and is hopefully in a structural condition which will preserve it for many years to come.

All this, I am pleased to say, has been achieved without having to cut back on the Charities’ benevolence and while still maintaining our reserves at what the trustees consider a prudent level.   Inevitably there was a deficit on the Income and Expenditure Statement, of just over £46,000, but increases during the year in the value of our investments meant that Net Assets fell by only £21,000, to £511,000.  Because of surpluses built up over recent past years, this leaves our reserves still at a level which the trustees consider to be satisfactory to meet future contingencies.

In terms of benevolence, the Charities made grants in 2016 totalling just under £36,000, approximately £1,500 more than in the previous year.   As in recent past years, the main allocations of funds have been, firstly, the annual distribution at the beginning of the year to qualifying residents, of whom in 2016 there were 41, and, secondly, the further education grants to assist young people resident in the Parish who have left school and are in, or are about to be starting, further education or training, such as university, college or an apprenticeship.  A total of 29 people living in the village were helped with the cost of their further education in 2016. 

Ongoing projects to which the Charities have remained committed during the year include help with transport and the provision of Lifeline personal alarms.  Help with transport comprises two elements: a taxi service, and also the People to Places bus service which the Charities organised and subsidised for visits to Morrisons in Bracknell and Waitrose in Woodley on an alternate weekly basis.

There is a development that has arisen in just the last few days that I think I ought to mention as it affects the Charities’ endowment.   This relates to Sue’s Piddle, the field behind the Star, which was given to the Charities for the benefit of the village by someone called Michael Wandesford just over 300 years ago.   During all those 300 years the Charities’ right of access to Sue’s Piddle from Broadmoor Road has never, so far as I am aware, been challenged.   However, since the pub closed, the new owner of the Star has indeed informed us just in this last week that he challenges that right of access.   I hope that common sense will still prevail, that our right of way will be recognised and that the Charities will not have to divert funds that would otherwise be available for the benefit of the parish in running up legal costs defending our historic endowment.

Following his taking up residence in the village and his licensing as Priest-in-Charge in August last year, Charles Mason was welcomed as ex officio trustee of the Charities.  I would like to thank all the trustees for their contributions to the running of the Charities during the year – Cynthia Philp, Prue Williams, Nigel Backer, Nick Kohl, Polly Pollecutt and Charles Mason.   I would like to thank particularly Nick Kohl for all the extra work in which he was involved during the year in connection with the Bell, Nigel Backer as Treasurer for his handling of the finances and ensuring we were able to pay all the additional bills for the Bell as they came in, and Polly Pollecutt for ably running the People to Places service.

The Trustees continue to look for new opportunities for providing financial support in the parish.   If you believe there is an individual in need or a worthwhile charitable cause in the parish please do not hesitate to get in touch with me or with one of the other Trustees.   We welcome suggestions!   The Trustees usually meet four times a year, in March, July, September and December.   Applications for financial assistance will normally be considered at the next Trustee meeting following receipt of an application, but they can also be considered between meetings when circumstances require.

Richard Sykes

April 2017