The Charity

ELSENHAM VILLAGE HALL

Charity 282773  Registered 1981

When I don’t understand something it irritates me so I pick at it until I have enough of the parts to see how it all works, otherwise, to me, there is a risk that it doesn’t actually work and its going to let me down when I most need to rely on it.

I started by really listening to what was being said but when enough people are involved there are then enough variations to cancel out much of the total. I then started collecting documents but some are legal deeds and others are interpretations of them by non-legal people. The apparently supporting documents are then selective in their content and biased to the views of their authors. The original documents are not just legalese but old legalese so while I have been forced to refer back to them I have also had to establish the situations and environment in which they were written, to understand them properly. My biggest problem of course is that I was not there, so I have needed a lot of help from people who were.

First look at the registration date of the charity, it predates the Sharing Agreement by 5 years. When it refers to “Elsenham Village Hall” it does not mean the current one, that did not exist then. Going way back Sir Walter Gilbey gave the village a sizable plot of land with a basic hall on it plus two cottages. The plot was located adjoining the School to the east. Over time, despite the efforts of the villagers, it all deteriorated to the point where it was sold and the proceeds taken up as a charity known as the Elsenham Village Hall Charity.

The formal objects of the charity were: 

“THE PROVISION AND MAINTENANCE OF FACILITIES INCLUDING A VILLAGE HALL AND RECREATION GROUND FOR THE INHABITANTS OF THE PARISH OF ELSENHAM FOR RECREATION AND LEISURE-TIME OCCUPATION IN THE INTERESTS OF IMPROVING THE CONDITIONS OF LIFE FOR THE SAID INHABITANTS.”

Notice and understand then that the Charity is a pot of money not a hall. The trustees of the charity then administer whatever facilities they have managed to acquire but they do so subject to the Charity Rules and specific conditions imposed by the Charity Commissioners at registration and sealed after the Sharing Agreement was signed and the securing investments made.

This is all now clearly understood and my trail of evidence starts at the Charity Commissioners web-site which has a very good search engine which from the keyword “Elsenham” throws up a short list from which the Hall can be selected. You then find yourself on a page that carries all the formal information and the financial returns going back to 1998. I can’t reprint the whole page here because I think that would be a “substantial download” and require formal permission. The information however is in the public domain and subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so I am both free to quote it and make the link available to you so that you may verify my words. (see below)

Reference to the village Hall, I thought I understood, but reference to a recreation ground confused me. I sought help from prominent people involved at the time and resolved my confusion thus. At the registration of the Charity the current hall did not exist. The Charity commission had to approve the 55,666 contribution to the building of the new hall and it was this that lead to them requiring the securing condition of the long term investments. A portion of the remaining fund was invested, such that it would grow to a similar sum in the term of the Sharing Agreement. The Elsenham Village Hall Management Committee was then established to administer the Hall on behalf of the Charity Commissioners. To do this they were given full control of the residual fund, which is the 22689.94 current balance referred to at the AGM.

When at the AGM a question from the floor as to what the Acronym COIF meant the answer was quite involved but came down to Common Investment Funds and was the money salted away to provide long term security to the Charity at the insistence of the Charity Commission. Security in this contect however was security of the fund against the possible failure of the investment in a hall.

This last paragraph is where the dangerous confusion arises. Challenged with the assertion that the Sharing Agreement was under threat because the working funds were set to run out prematurely, the Chairman referred to the security of those investments as proof that the current village hall could never become bankrupt. The current EVHMC saw itself as the charity hence the CIF’s were their security. The statements made implied that they could spend all of their working funds and still not be bankrupt. Sadly this is wrong! The long-term investments can only be dipped into with the formal permission of the Charity Commissioners and bailing out failed hall management was not what it was for.

Now we look ahead to when the working funds run out, the Sharing Agreement is then terminated, the EVHMC is then evicted and the School then assumes full title to the property by default. That is all clearly spelt out in the Sharing Agreement. The Charity, however, will carry on, a duty to perform but no facilities or working funds to do so until the year 2044 unless the school falls into disuse and is sold beforehand and the Charity then recovers its investment. The Charity Commissioners do not function in real time, their duties run in perpetuity. A delay in performing a function caused by factors beyond their control, of forty years would not be an issue to them (if you click on enough of the Charity Commissioner’s web-site glossary buttons you will build up a feel for the way they work like I did. I may be wrong but if I’m not complacency will cost us the Hall.

Click below to go to the Village Hall page of the Charity Commission’s web-site, check my logic, retrace my steps. Go talk to people who were there, the Sharing Agreement carries some of their names, you probably know others. This is far too important to be allowed to slide into apathy.