My October Blog was delayed because, I wanted to ensure it contained the important information conveyed to members during the Members Information Evening on Thursday, 29 October.
Little did I know that within 48 hours our Government would be announcing a second lockdown, which again left us reviewing the planned events announced on Thursday, as well as the working practices of the Clerk’s Office. How impossible it has become to plan anything when the future is so uncertain. We are certainly living through Detached and Unmatched times.
This second lockdown affects all our lives and once again we are being asked to give up so much in the hope that lives will be saved and the NHS will be protected in order to protect us. Let us hope the sacrifices we are all being asked to make now will mean a semblance of a festive season where families may meet up safely. For me our Christmas Supper was always the start of the festive season. This year a Virtual Carol Service is planned for the 2 December, the final day of lockdown. It will be very different to what we have grown used to, but perhaps more profound.
On the 29 October members were invited to attend a Members Information Evening on Zoom, to hear important Company news from me and the Chairman of Plaisterers Hall Limited, PM Robert Dalrymple. It did not make for easy listening. Robert provided an update on the finances of PHL, including the news that there had been no income from our catering/events partner since our Hall was mothballed in March. That income met the considerable costs of maintaining our Hall and offices, as well as paying all salaried staff, including the Clerk and the Assistant Clerk.
Since March, those costs have been met from the significant cash reserves of PHL and on current drawdown, those cash reserves will be depleted by July, 2021. If, PHL’s income stream has not resumed by then, it would be looking to its investment and/or property portfolios to raise more funding.
Members asked how they might help the Company financially. Unfortunately, the sums are so significant, it would not be possible for members to fund the shortfall in any meaningful way. Members quarterage and fines, together with investment income, is the income stream of our Livery Company. It is used to support the governance, management and social functions of the livery. Everything else is met by PHL, from income generated from the use of Plaisterers Hall as a conference and an events venue.
Currently there is no intention to increase fines and quarterage in 2021. However, timely payment of quarterage due in February 2021, would help with cashflow. For now, it was crucial that members remain engaged, supportive and steadfast.
During the meeting, I was able to report on the important decisions taken at the Court Meeting on the 6 October and this was to do with progression and emergency provisions in the event of the Court being unable to meet.
The Court unanimously agreed that the current Master, Deputy Master and the Wardens serve a second year. This decision impacts on all members of the Court and their terms of service on the Court. The Livery year starting in July, 2020 will now extend until July, 2022.
The Court also renewed and extended to April, 2021 the emergency provisions it put in place in this April’s Quarterly Court Meeting. The Court may meet at 3 days’ notice instead of 3 weeks and in the event the Court is unable to meet, the Master, Deputy Master, the Upper Warden and the Clerk collectively could take any urgent decisions on behalf of the Company.
The Company is prepared for what may be coming down the tracks. It is important we have an informed membership. The feedback I have received on the Members Information Evening has been positive. Those who attended will know that these evenings will now be held on a quarterly basis during these Covid-19 times and the next meeting will be in January 2021, after the January Quarterly Court Meeting. If you did not attend in October, then I would urge you to join the January, 2021 meeting.
Communication during these Detached and Unmatched times when we are unable to meet in fellowship is paramount. The quickest way to find the latest news is on the Company website. Since March, we have had to embrace virtual technology, including Zoom. Please Plaisterers embrace the website. If you have not visited it for a while, you will be amazed by the wealth of information to be found there. Rest assured, in addition to the website, the Clerk’s Office will continue to communicate with members by email, letter, the Clerk’s Newsletter and on social media.
The new edition of the Yearbook is now available on the website for the first time. A hardcopy is on its way to members by post.
In addition to the above, members were reminded that the business of our livery company has continued much as usual, albeit by Zoom and all the committees had met in September. The Membership Committee was particularly keen not to lose momentum in respect of recruiting new members, the Apprenticeship Scheme, the Young Livery Group and the Membership Survey. The Industry Committee will be exploring community of interest opportunities with Trade Associations.
The Charity Steward confirmed that sadly funds had been depleted during these Covid-19 times, but with the help and donations from our members, the Charity would continue to support community-based causes and our military affiliates. Members were thanked for their donations and participation in fund raising events.
There are many positives in these challenging times. We are going ahead with the Entrance Hall Enhancement and for that we are indebted to Liveryman Derek Stubbs and the legacy from Liveryman John Robinson. The building project will take place between January and March 2021, which means it will be completed in time for our Banquet in May 2021 when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of our Hall. Look out for information and updates on the project from PM Terry Wright.
Next year our Company will be supporting and celebrating our Deputy Master’s Shrievalty year. We all wish Alison well in her mission to become the Aldermanic Sheriff. What a wonderful opportunity for our Company to participate in the events and ceremonies of this ancient office. We will have a float in the Lord Mayor’s Show in November, 2021.
Our Clerk, Garth Manger has been with us for 6 months. I know most of you are yet to meet him. You will not be disappointed. I have worked with him throughout that 6 months and closely with him since becoming Master in July. With our support and goodwill, I am in no doubt he will provide strong stewardship and a safe pair of hands to see us through this Covid-19 crisis and beyond.
With a Charter that goes back to 1501, we Plaisterers know something about being in it for the Long Haul. Now facing yet another lockdown, turning the lights back on in our Hall seems even further away. Our Company throughout its history has seen fires, plagues and World Wars and now we have Covid-19 to overcome. But overcome it we will. We will do this together with resilience, sound management, sheer guts and determination.
Our motto ‘Let Brotherly Love Continue’ can be interpreted in many different ways, but fellowship and looking out for each other is as appropriate now at it ever was. It is what unites us; it is what strengthens us; it is what defines us as Plaisterers.
Let Brotherly Love Continue
Stay Safe. Go Well.