31 Oct 2017
It has been just over two months since the Emergency General Meeting and the appointment of a new Board of Trustees. As you'll be aware if you are a regular user of the House or were at that meeting, Shrewsbury House Community Association faced a financial crisis that could have led to closure. We're glad, therefore, to tell you that any immediate threat has been averted and for the remainder of this financial year at least we are secure.
As we are an almost completely new Board we needed to take the time to fully understand the operation of the house, why the financial crisis occurred and to plan a way forward that minimises the chances of a similar situation happening again.
It's been a hard few weeks of intense work to get us to this situation so our apologies for not having communicated with you sooner but we considered that it was better to wait until we had something concrete to tell you.
Our plan for the short term
The House is underutilised at the moment and there is a lot of scope for bringing in more activities and developing new business. However, this takes time to build up and we needed a survival strategy that gave us some immediate gains.
Reducing our staff costs
We have firstly looked to reduce our costs. Staffing is our largest cost but it is also the staff that make it possible to run the House at all.
As many of you will be aware, Matthew left us a few weeks ago and, at least for the time being, he will not be replaced. This is a cost saving but also reduces staff capacity. Matthew provided much of the catering for us and for now we have outsourced this to another local community-based catering provider. This means we are able to provide lunch for meetings and special occasion catering but not as yet a regular cafe service (see more below).
We'd ask user groups to show their appreciation and consideration of the staff by making sure you are packed up and out of the building by closing time.
As well as reducing costs we have looked at the pricing structure for room use by affiliated, non-affiliated and commercial users. We are aware that this is an issue that users will want information about as soon as possible but we want to make sure that we get any changes right the first time and devise a system that is future-proof and fair.
As you might have expected there will be increases in room rates. These will be balanced across various user types so that we can continue to support smaller, not for profit groups.
We will be announcing the new pricing structure in January but it will not be implemented until April. However if any groups felt that they could pay the higher rates from January on a voluntary basis this would obviously be much appreciated.
In future years room prices will increase in line with inflation.
These cost savings and price increases mean that we can survive for the time being and have bought us the necessary time to put in place longer term plans.
Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated
Nothing spreads faster than bad news and Shrewsbury House has suffered from a false impression that all is doom and disaster and the House is about to close. There have even been rumours of it being sold to a property developer.
Positive word-of-mouth is the best antidote to rumour and speculation so please take every opportunity to tell as many people as possible that we're here to stay, open for business and actively looking for new users, groups and ideas. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and re-tweet and re-post. Help us build our social media networks and get your friends, family, acquaintances, people you just met at the bus stop to subscribe to this newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking here
Keeping in touch
We want to keep in touch with our current users as well as encouraging new ones. This newsletter is part of that but you'll also find various members of the Board of Trustees hanging around the building and wanting to talk to you. Many of you already will have fallen victim.
We have set up a special email address firstname.lastname@example.org which goes to every member of the Board so if you have something to say do use it to get in touch. We want your views and ideas.
If you already follow us on Twitter and Facebook you should have noticed that we are now posting more regularly with information about what's on each day and upcoming events. If your group isn't being mentioned it may be because we don't have enough information about you. Or we may have missed you out by accident. Either way let us know so we can let others know.
Our new website will be launched very soon which will make it much easier for people to find the information they need quickly.
There were some issues with the wording of our licence that led to confusion over when the bar could be open. We met with Greenwich licensing authority on 4th October and all the issues have now been resolved.
We plan a phased opening of the bar initially on Friday nights starting on 27th October and gradually rolling it out to other nights. Please do come and join us. The bar will initially be staffed by Trustees so it's a good opportunity to meet us for a drink and a chat.
The bar of course is also available to hire as part of a party or wedding celebration.
The cafe is a slightly more complex issue. Our preferred solution for the long term is to outsource the cafe and offer a contract to a local provider. We do not have the capacity with the current staffing levels to run the cafe in-house and that will be the case for some time to come.
A few people have volunteered their time but there are regulatory issues - for example anyone who serves food must have a Level 2 food safety qualification.
Until we have fully consolidated our financial position we are not really able to offer a contract to anyone for longer than six months initially so unless we can find someone who is prepared to take on the running of the cafe on a short-term basis regular opening may have to wait a while. Obviously we welcome any suggestions and proposals that might help us move on this more quickly.
Meet the Police SNT
You will find that the cafe is open on some occasions when it can be staffed by volunteers (who do have a food safety qualification). On Tuesday 21st November from 1pm to 2.30pm the cafe will be open for coffee and cake and an opportunity to meet and chat with our local Safer Neighbourhood Police Team.
Friends of Shrewsbury House
The Friends of Shrewsbury House had their first meeting on Saturday 7th October. We're very much looking forward to hearing their ideas and plans. For more information contact Caroline email@example.com.
Office space to rent
We have three small but very nice offices on the second floor of Shrewsbury House that we would like to let on a monthly basis to local enterprises or start-ups.