I come to the end of my third and final year as Chair of Stafford District Arts Council. I have found it a very interesting and rewarding experience and I thank you for electing me on three occasions.
As the previous year it has been a very difficult year for the committee primarily because of a tax demand from HMRC. As I reported at the last AGM we received a letter from them in August 2009 stating that the administrators which we have used from time to time are our employees and as such we were responsible for collecting income tax and national insurance.
HMRC claimed back tax, interest and penalties from us going back over the previous 6 years. The committee had estimated that this could amount to nearly £10,000. The committee felt strongly that the administrators were self-employed and we had several rounds of correspondence with HMRC on the matter.
In January 2011 the committee took a commercial view on the advice of our solicitors that it was no longer justifiable to spend further time and money on pursuing the case. Following some negotiation the amount was reduced to £3300. This has now been paid in full settlement of the demand.
The committee meets monthly where it considers grant applications. The Treasurer will give a financial report which will show how we spent our funds, and where the money came from. We received a grant of £10,000 for 2010/11 from Stafford Borough Council. We have received our grant of £10,000 for 2011/12. I want to thank the Borough Council for their grant to us. It is particularly beneficial to small groups and groups in rural areas. The committee believes the Arts make a significant contribution to people’s lives. The health and well-being benefits of the Arts are well documented.
This is the last payment under the current Service Level Agreement. We hope that the Borough Council will continue to be generous in its grant to us. It does help many groups who would not otherwise be able to do so to put on artistic activities to the benefit of themselves and the residents of Stafford and beyond.
The committee is always interested in receiving grant applications for proposals of an innovative nature. It could be a new work, a new performance location or attracting new audiences.
The Wardrobe is held in the Chetwynd Centre. I would like to extend my thanks to the Chetwynd Centre for allowing us the use of their premises. We have approximately 2,000 costumes plus accessories (hats, bags, shoes, gloves, aprons, etc). This year we have sold further unwanted items on eBay. I should like to thank Viv Watkins and her team for maintaining the Wardrobe as an important resource for the Arts in Stafford and beyond.
I should like to thank all the committee members for their hard work throughout the year. We meet every month so their commitment is high. I would particularly like to thank Ray Braziel our secretary for the large amount of work he does in organising our committee meetings and the general meetings and also Bruce Jewell our Treasurer who both keeps the accounts and handles the grant application process. He has the task of writing to applicants with good and bad news about their application.
There are four committee members retiring today.
David Beckwith has been our President for a great number of years. He has worked on our behalf behind the scenes. As an example he introduced us to Council Officials so we could explain the ongoing problems with HMRC to them.
Bruce Jewell has been Treasurer for three years. He has had to bear the financial brunt of the dealings with HMRC including a £400 fine for supposedly late payment of tax, which was then withdrawn because we were never required to pay the money for which the fine was issued. He has a lot to dine out about.
Nick Balmforth has been a committee member for a long time. His knowledge of the Arts in Stafford, especially the Jazz scene, has been of great help to the committee in its deliberations. He continues with his long-standing association with the Arts through the Stafford Jazz Society.
John Hopkinson has been a committee member for two years. His wisdom and knowledge about the Arts in Stafford has been of great value to the committee. John knows a lot of people in Stafford.
So I thank all four of them on your behalf for their many years of work on the Executive Committee of Stafford District Arts Council.
28th September 2011