U3A THAMES VALLEY NETWORK

Representatives’ meeting held at the Sports Hall, Watlington, courtesy of Ridgeway U3A,

on Wednesday 31st August 2011

 

Present: Pam Jones – Chairman (Witney), Agnes Budagowska (Swindon), Colin Mitchell (South East Region), Mike Price (Greater Thame), Len Smith (Wokingham), Ann Mary Ware (Marlow), Anne Marie Lord (Chinnor & District), Susie Berry (Ridgeway), Christine Cox (Bicester), Pam Palmer (Bracknell Forest), George Hunter (Chinnor & District), Molly Milner (Chinnor & District), Ian Clarkson (Faringdon ), Kath Wallis (Faringdon), Ann Walsh (Goring Gap), Frank Medcalf (Greater Thame), Pam Feltbower (Greater Thame), John Brandis (Haddenham), Ruth Waddle (Headington), Barbel Cheesewright (High Wycombe), Vic Ware (Marlow), Clive Dray (Newbury), Malcolm Barker (Princes Risborough), Avis Furness (Reading), Jacky Wagstaff (Ridgeway), Pat Fewell (Ridgeway), Angela Jacob (Ridgeway), Phil Eagle (Swindon), Norman Lambert (Swindon), Rita Fidler (Thame and District), Derek Randall (Thame & District),Mark Phillips (Thameside, Wallingford), Valerie Palmer (Witney), Jon Cole (Wokingham), Patsy Thornton (Wokingham).

 Apologies: Anne Gould, June Morris and Pauline Nuttall (Abingdon), Geoff Young and Shirley Stokes (Aylesbury Vale), Anthony Fulford (Bracknell Forest), Martin McBride (Carterton), Nadia Ellis (High Wycombe), Jeanie Dickie (Swindon), Margaret Edmondson (Wallingford)

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1.0                   Minutes of AGM (06/05/11)
The Minutes for the
AGM held on 6th May 2011 were approved and signed.

2.1 Matters Arising There were no matters arising. Swindon requested that the agenda include the date for the   Minutes that will be considered at the meeting. 

3.0 Network Committee Reports

3.1  Chairman (summary)
       On 27th July Pam attended a meeting in Farnham,
Surrey organised by Colin Mitchell, our Regional Trustee. It was a meeting of SE Region Network representatives with a Vice-Chairman of the Trust and one of the Education and Development officers. She realised that those at such meetings were the U3A enthusiasts who were there to share knowledge and expertise just like those at the meeting today.

       Pam thanked those who had returned the questionnaire. These included suggestions for future study days but no one wishes to organise the Conference for 2013. Summing up the comments received she felt that there is a degree of insularity particularly within the smaller U3As but is hopeful of a change of attitude with changes in officers. The training day in May was much appreciated and she felt new committee members would benefit if it was repeated every two years. Pam thanked Swindon for a splendid Conference in June and hoped that many would attend the 2012 Conference in Abingdon which that U3A was enthusiastically planning. The Craft Day on 22nd August was excellent and the Opera study day in November is almost fully subscribed. She thanked all            involved.

       The Riverside Project with its diverse activities has drawn in many members. An article in the U3A News has resulted in a response from members UK wide. She thanked all organisers and helpers.

       Martin McBride has relinquished his post as Treasurer on the Committee due to personal circumstances. Mike Price has taken over temporarily and will hand over to Agnes Budagowska once the Riverside Project has slowed down. She thanked the Committee for all they do.

       Colin Mitchell was thanked for his hard work and achievements as South East Regional Trustee and not least for working so hard on our behalf.

       Pam thanked all representatives for coming and for their support. She also thanked Susie Berry in advance for the lunch.

3.1i Comments – (these focussed on the Conference)

       Haddenham felt that working in collaboration with other U3As as they had done in the past in organising a conference had been very constructive. This group of 4 smaller U3As were still working closely together. It was pointed out that most U3As are not in natural clusters.

       It was agreed that co-operation and exchange of ideas is key. To this end a request was made that the exchange of  newsletters be continued.

       A comment was made that the cost of petrol and the distance for travel to the conference were factors that put delegates off. Many U3As fund travel and conference fees, car sharing could be encouraged.

       Having this year’s conference on a Saturday meant that those with family commitments were unable to attend. It was pointed out that the venue was more readily available at a weekend and the day avoided U3A activities which normally take place on weekdays. 

3.2  Treasurer’s report

       Mike Price circulated copies of the TVN Account Summary as at 29/08/2011. Most events are covering their costs as is the Riverside Project. Mike congratulated those who organise these.

       The current year is free of affiliation to TVN fees, the position for next year will be considered later in the year.

       Anthony and Pam will be requesting an extra room for lunch at Rewley House for the Opera day.

       A slight loss on an event could be absorbed the margin of this was agreed as being no more than 100. If it is more the Committee needs to be consulted as has happened for Wellington College and the Craft day.

       Mike was thanked for taking over as Treasurer for the interim.

4.0  Regional Trustees’ Report

       Colin said that voting for his successor closes today and urged everyone to ensure that their U3A had submitted  their vote. He hoped that his successor will have a somewhat easier time as everything was new when he took over and there is a lot to be gained from seeing what goes on in a large region. The Thames Valley Network holds   a Conference, Sussex has an AGM and social event plus monthly study days, Kent is following our direction and Surrey has many study days. Overall there have been many changes and improvements.

       Recently, Colin has been aware of discomfort about the 3.50 capitation fee. He explained in detail what benefits U3As derive from this through the Third Age Trust, these include liability insurance, Trustee insurance, tour operator insurance for study groups, equipment insurance, free phonographic and copyright licence, free legal advice for every member, U3A News, a copy of Sources three times a year, assistance and advice from National   office, access for all members to a website including information on each area, advice sheets, reference booklets and aids, a resource centre fully catalogued with access via the website, organised courses, some of the money is returned to the Regions. Colin will e-mail all this information to the Thames Valley Network for dissemination to the U3As there.

       He also explained how capitation money returned to the regions can be used and suggested that applications can be made to the Region for monies to pay for the Network conference. Swindon received 500 towards the Conference this year and it is hoped that Abingdon will receive a grant to cover the Conference for 2012.Networks can also apply for grants for meetings for Chairmen, Treasurers etc. Public events to publicise U3A can also receive a grant.

       The view was put forward that many members are indifferent to U3A, they are only interested in joining groups and have no wish to contribute further. Colin pointed out that any U3A can opt out if it does not want to pay capitation but in doing so it loses all the benefits referred to previously.

       A brisk discussion followed with the following points being made: people like the idea of getting together and   learning with like-minded people, it is like an extended family which provides mutual support, within smaller U3As the monthly meetings are important as they provide opportunities for friendship and support, opportunities are provided that no longer exist in the community eg evening classes. Concern was expressed that individual members were often unaware of what happens beyond their own group or U3A, good links are needed between groups and the committee.

       Much of this is not necessarily unique to U3A but the “banner” may well be the appeal for many.

       Mike Price explained that the capitation fee provides resources, some of it is automatically there for your U3A and others can be used as you wish. It is not prescriptive as long as the objectives and principles are met.

       As a bottom-up organisation it is important that all U3As feed into it.

       It was felt that there was a need to encourage ethnic minorities to join but it was recognised that there can be cultural elements that prevent full participation on their part.

       The concept of U3A works in small communities as well as in larger ones, the example of Ridgeway was cited.

       Outings are a tremendous asset and the benefits far outweigh the less positive aspects such as cliques. People can also be put off if they are pressured to take on a more active role.

       Discussion concluded with the proponent saying that he appreciated all the comments and was playing the role of  devil’s advocate.

       It was also pointed out that U3As discuss and promote their role in the community with other organisations.

 
5 Development Matters

5.1  There have been problems regarding people contacting the Third Age Trust about waiting lists and also U3As who find they are unable to function in a particular way because it would be contrary to their Constitution.

       Third Age Trustees are being asked to give more help when a U3A starts up. They will need to check and monitor that the Constitution is up-to-date, that the accounts are set up properly and that there is a workable committee. A Regional volunteer development officer will need to monitor all this and confirm that it is happening.

       Colin explained that there are many helpful leaflets available from the Third Age Trust and they are listed on the        website. A new Model Constitution is currently in the draft stage. He advised that a definition of a quorum should be in the Constitution. The start- up grant for a U3A is 150 at present.

5.2i Colin said that there are eight Advice sheets available but they are not rules. These include: gift aid, organising AGMs, first aid, organising residential schools, social events and travel, accessibility for disabled members.

       There are also two discussion papers: “Keeping your U3A vibrant” and “The challenge of finding group leaders”.

       A group of U3As meeting to discuss either of these could request a grant to cover the cost of the discussion day.

       These can be downloaded from the website and all U3As have received them in mailings.

       Pam asked if there was a list of all the Advice sheets and discussion papers with the last updated date. Colin will put this to Lin Jonas.

       Several representatives said that these documents were very useful.

ii     “The Essential Trustee” giving the responsibilities of trustees should be with every Trustee.(Charity Commission publication.)

iii    Colin was asked if there was any advice on data regarding members eg on next of kin. It was thought that could have been in one of the mailings. Greater Thame give a list of members on outings and contacts in an emergency to a member who is not on the outing so that action can be taken should it be necessary.

iv    Mike Price advised that the Charity Commission must be informed and approve any proposed changes to the Constitution before they are approved by the membership.

v     Ian Clarkson passed on the advice that bank account signatories should be Trustees.

6 Network

6.1  Patsy Thornton reported that the Riverside Project still has several activities planned over the coming months:

       i    Wellington College exhibition team meeting Sept 2nd

       ii    Walk into history day in Abingdon on 21st Sept.

       iii   Wildlife activities day on 1st October.

       iv   Talk on the Thames Barrier on 22nd November at St Paul’s Parish rooms Wokingham. Cost 2.50
    
      
The Project has appeared as an article in the U3A News and people have responded from all over the
UK including Billericay, Scotland and the Isle of Wight. 70 people are booked for the Wellington College Event.

       Ian and Patsy will hand over a baton commemorating our Riverside walks and inscribed with the names of all the participating U3As to those organising the Olympic Walks in London. The handover will be photographed and it is hoped that a further article sent in to the U3A News will be published.

       Colin has booked 2 display boards for the Region at the Third Age Trust Conference and would like any material from the Network on A4 sheets ASAP.

6.2  The Opera day is fully booked. Details will be finalised on 5th Sept.

       The Arts and Crafts day went well and Ann Mary has produced a diary of the day. Len has added a link from the website to her album. There were 95 participants and 44 Exhibitors. The enthusiasm was wonderful and it is anticipated that someone else will run a similar event in 2 years time.

       The Training day was excellent, 70 people attended. It is felt that this could be repeated periodically to keep new post holders/committee members informed. The following were highlighted from the day:

       i    U3As are being expected to take disabled members when they do not have anyone trained in handling care, they must come with a carer.

       ii    Theatre visits and outings should never be financed through personal bank accounts or by using debit/credit cards, problems can arise when arranging group bookings.

       iii   Social accounts should only be used for outings.

       iv   Holidays should be organised through a travel agent.

       v   Finance advice and details from the Third Age Trust need to be used to keep U3As up-to-date.

       a similar training day will be held in 2012.

    
      
A huge amount of effort is put into organising these events and U3A representatives were urged to disseminate publicity as soon as possible.

       A brief report was made on the Conference at Swindon. Barbara Lewis, Vice Chairman of the Third Age Trust, was an inspiring speaker at the morning session. The workshops were very good but the speaker in the afternoon sometimes seemed to lose his way.

       (other comments had been made following the Chairman’s Report, see Min. 3.1i)

       The Bridge tournament was cancelled. Travel was identified as a problem. Ian said that he could try to arrange        another, it would be in Faringdon as local U3As are interested but would not be a Network event.

 
6.3 
Events for 2012 include:

       9th March English Social History. Covering post-Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods. Venue: Adams Park,       High Wycombe.

       April – space for a training day if wanted

       May- no fixed date – Peter Chapman is planning a day for novice photographers.

       16th June Conference at Abingdon.

       19th October Food science at Benson Village hall.

       November Classical music study day- this is being planned by Anthony and Norman.

       Pam asked to be given a list of those attending and their U3A for each study day.

       High Wycombe is planning an activities day in 2013.

7.1 Contacts List

       Please send updates to Pam.

7.2 Speaker’s Database

       Send information to Pam if appropriate and please request it.

7.3 Website

       The number of hits in July and August were down on previous months. Len reported that maintaining the TVN  calendar was complicated but as he was assured that it was used by those at this meeting he will persevere for a while. It was suggested that showing it as a list might be easier. Len will look into this.

8 AOB

i      Pam is going to a study day on Family history at Ash in Surrey on 15th March 2012.

ii     Frank Medcalf requested a telephone number be included as well as an e-mail address on event information.

9 Date of next meeting …………. Friday 25th November at the Sports Hall in Watlington.  10 for 10.30am

Please note the change of venue from Wokingham