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Minutes of Meeting 2nd April 2014


April 22, 2014 by oswestrychamberoftrade


Heather Noble welcomed all present to the meeting and advised membership of the retiring treasurer, Louise Hudson’s recent birth of her baby. Jessica weighed in at 8lb 12 oz. Mother and baby doing well.

Apologies were received from Clive Knowles. No other member apologies forthcoming.

HN outlined the Agenda items and welcomed several new visitors to the meeting.

Review of the Year

HN advised all present of the Agenda and formally began the meeting with a review of the Chamber’s many and varied activities, events and crucial information sharing successes over the past twelve months. In summary these were:

•    Monthly member meetings at The Wynnstay Hotel (except January 2014)
•    Speakers many and varied sharing useful business information
•    Hugely successful Chronicle Business Awards event
•    Revitalising the Chamber’s website
•    Sub Group ‘Engaging Non-Networked Businesses’ created to explore encouraging greater engagement from Oswestry’s thriving business community with the Chamber
•    Working towards developing a more attractive membership proposition through exclusive member to member offers and promotions where desired
•    An insight into Oswestry’s night time economy with information sharing by key players in that sector and discussion of issues
•    Strengthening of links with Shropshire Chamber of Commerce through affiliation with Oswestry Network Breakfast Club – where Oswestry Chamber members can access this networking opportunity without first becoming member of Shropshire Chamber – a saving of £200+ when taken up
•    Strengthened links with Oswestry Town Council and a positive statement of intent to partnership working from new Oswestry Mayor Cllr. Chris Schofield
•    Presentations from Moreton Enterprises – encouraging useful presentation and public speaking skills for aspiring young business women from Moreton Hall School
•    Presentations and useful insight on the Incredible Edible Project within Oswestry encouraging the growing and free foraging of produce in public spaces
•    The introduction of a regular Your Business in the Spotlight slot for members at monthly member meetings. Members benefiting from this excellent opportunity to showcase their business included Paul Wiseman Investigations, The British Ironworks Company, Brewin Dolphin, Rowanthorn, Woolston House B&B, Whittington Music Festival and Moghill Web Services.
•    The Chamber’s Hope House Challenge fundraising Sunday brunch delivered £250 to the local children’s hospice
•    Excellent and informative presentations and information sharing were delivered to members by Susan Coleman, Helen Hunter Hayes and Steve White from Shropshire Council
•    Information sharing on Oswestry Town Council planned activity and discussions on the issue of car parking charges over the Christmas period shared by David Preston, OTC Clerk
•    Presentations and useful information sharing on local training opportunities and apprenticeships were delivered to members by several organisations including County Training, Walford & N. Shropshire College and a young apprentice from Moghill Web Services Tim Ord
•    The Oswestry Connection Event – a mini expo organised by Chamber showcased Oswestry’s networked businesses. This event included key presentations from major players in the county’s business scene sharing up to date expert information and guidance on the town/county economic prospects, strategic funding and opportunities for business. Speakers included Christine Armitage, UKTI, Many Thorn, Chairman of Shropshire business Board and Marches LEP Board member, Chronicle Business Club and West Mids Ambulance Service (Chronicle’s Defibrillator campaign)
•    Early 2014 presentations and information sharing showcasing the town and district’s vibrant arts and culture scene were given by Oswestry LitFest and the Whittington Music Festival
•    Information sharing and a request for discussion and feedback on business thinking relating to the Living Wage was offered by the Oswestry Equality Group
•    Advice on how to access funding and/or deliver business consultancy expertise through the government-backed Growth Vouchers Scheme was delivered to members by members of the Chamber’s management committee.

Election of Officers

HN requested permission from members present to break with the Chamber’s constitution and defer the Election of Officers as only three candidates had put themselves forward for nomination. As a result – and as per item 12 of the Constitution – this did not provide the requisite quorate for onward decision making. This request was carried by a show of hands from paid members present.

Annual Accounts

HN presented the annual Statement of Accounts, which showed a small surplus of £609.00 year-on-year.

Questions from the Floor

Paul Wiseman raised a query on why the Chamber Executive Management Committee (EMC) has not produced a formal “business plan”.

HN responded:
The role of the Chamber is to be able to respond and react to the needs and wants of the membership and whilst monthly Committee meetings take place to discuss matters arising and agendas for future meetings these discussions can only be based upon requests from the membership.
Any forthcoming suggestions are discussed and actioned as appropriate.
Opinion is regularly canvassed at The Chamber monthly meetings and members are always welcome to suggest/request matters and or objectives for review/investigation/action.
HN would urge any members who wish to suggest actions and/or investigations to forward their proposals to the Chairman or one of the Executive team for review at Committee.

Contributions from the floor included representations from Jude Robinson and Ingrid Knowles not to burden a volunteer committee with unnecessary bureaucracy.
•    No onward action requested.

Paul Wiseman advised that he had requested a Freedom of Information Act to discover what had happened to the Portas funds held by Shropshire Council.

In summary HN responded:
The Portas Monies are currently held by Shropshire County Council on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. There had been several potential uses of the monies considered over the past year, all of which, it would be hoped would provide some ‘legacy’ for Oswestry and it is, with that focus in mind that no ‘firm ideas’ had been suggested, progresses and/or decided.

Paul Wiseman raised a query on why the Chamber Chair or EMC members had attended only two of four planned Joint Economic Committee Board meetings. Mr. Wiseman further asserted that the JECB meetings could or should have been attended by other representatives from the Chamber EMC or wider membership.

In summary HN replied:
•    HN repeatedly attempted to make contact with OTC regarding meeting dates of OJEB.
•    HN unavailable on some meeting dates.
•    HN often received short notice of meeting dates, and on occasion has been unavailable due to business commitments.
•    HN happy to check email thread to evidence dialogue with OTC report findings.

Contribution from the floor included Tim Morris’ assertion that JEB meetings were not open to Chamber members and could be attended by invitation only.
•    HN to check JEB attendance protocol and confirm.

Paul Wiseman raised a query on why the cost of the mini-bus hired for EMC’s fact-finding trip to Skipton had risen from £75 to £178.

In summary HN replied:
•    Mini-bus hire fee (£75.00)
•    There were additional costs for fuel and parking (£79.00)
•    A small gift of appreciation was delivered to one Skipton Borough Council individual who had given up an entire day to accompany the EMC party on its fact-finding tour. (£24.00)

Paul Wiseman raised a query on why feedback from the EMC’s Skipton trip had not been reported to members.

In summary HN replied:
•    The trip and significant learning outcomes had been reported upon at the Chamber member meeting in August and in greater detail in her presentation to members and the wider business community at the Oswestry Business Connection Expo event in October
•    No onward action requested.

Patrick Barnes raised a query on why the EMC has raised the Oswestry Chamber of Commerce annual membership fee from £20 to £25 when the bank position shows a surplus.

Mr. Wiseman further requested clarification on what the increased income from raised subscriptions will be spent on in the coming year and in the [assumed] absence of a strategic spending plan.

In summary HN replied:
•    Membership fees fund a pot for activities, both planned and opportunistic, that contribute to the economic health and vibrancy of the town
•    The Town Council’s request for a financial contribution from Oswestry Chamber towards bunting for the summer season being one such request considered and agreed
•    Current membership levels cannot be assumed. Sensible best financial practice is to protect cash flow
•    Inappropriate to plan significant expenditure in 2014/15 against a background of a dwindling EMC
•    A newly elected EMC and officers in place following formal election best placed to make strategic spending decisions

•    Portas monies demanded strategic legacy spending – Chamber funds offer more flexibility
•    No onward action requested.

Paul Wiseman raised a query on why the EMC does not deliver its Executive Management Committee meeting minutes to the wider membership.

In summary HN replied:
•    Entirely inappropriate to do so when frequently there are items under discussion involving third parties and which may be of a commercially sensitive nature or unsuitable for release into the wider public domain due to incomplete or on-going information or contextual detail.
•    HN gave examples where this was the case – supported by further examples from members of the EMC from the floor – Jools Payne and John Waine
•    Lack of precedence
•    No onward action requested.

The Election of Officers and Committee Protocol

Paul Wiseman raised the issue of how the Election of Officers and Committee would be held at the meeting in May.

A discussion between the Chair and the floor ensued about the relative merits of electing nominated candidates either by a public show of hands from the floor or from a secret ballot paper presided over and counted by an independent observer Oswestry Town Councillor Paul Millner.

It was agreed to take the matter of the manner in which candidates would be elected to a vote from the floor by a public show of hands.

In summary:

a.    Proposal for a vote by public show of hands.
Proposed by Paul Wiseman
Seconded by Patrick Barnes
Votes: 3
b.    Proposal for a vote by secret ballot paper presided by
 Cllr. Paul Millner
Proposed by Jools Payne
Seconded by Howard Ellett
Votes: 13
Abstentions: 2

Date of Next Meeting

Wednesday 7th May 2014. This meeting will feature the election of committee and officers.


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