Page published 13 July 2010
Introduction by Julie Johnson
Andrew Farthing offered to produce an ECF report. For those who are not aware he attends ECF Board meetings as an alternative director for Chris Majer the CEO. As I ceased to be the minutes secretary for both Council & Board following the AGM I felt it would be useful to get a report from Andrew as someone “closer to the action” than I, especially as I found that there is a distinct lack of information on the ECF website. My minutes for the AGM are not posted, nor anything for the April Council Meeting and there is nothing relating to Board meetings beyond Nov 2009. There are of course other unofficial sources of information and gossip which delegates can access on the web.
I would therefore comment that this highlights that communications have taken a backward step. It should not be necessary to rely on unofficial sources or the vagary of whether your organization has someone on or close to the ECF Board to find out what is happening.
Those who were at the Finance Council Meeting or have seen any of the unofficial reports about the meeting will be aware that Chris Majer will not be standing for re-election as CEO. He feels can no longer combine his day job with the CEO post. Another matter not mentioned by Andrew is that the ECF county stages have had three controllers in 2010, culminating with last year’s controller (Cyril) being prevailed upon to step into the breach on the weekend of the preliminary matches.
Andrew Farthing's Report on ECF Developments
Since the last MCCU meeting, there have been two ECF Council meetings, in October 2009 and April 2010. The October meeting was dominated by the news that Department of Culture Media and Sport had suspended its annual grant of £60,000 to the ECF, due to concerns over consecutive annual deficits in the Federation’s accounts. Since then, the ECF has produced a financial recovery plan, as a result of which the DCMS reinstated the grant. The budget presented for Council approval in April 2010 reflected the recovery plan.
Since the April meeting, news has been received to the effect that the DCMS is reducing its grant to the ECF in the current financial year by £15,000. This is part of a round of cost reductions in the public sector following the General Election. Although further reductions have not been confirmed, the ECF’s planning assumption is that the grant will taper off at a rate of £15,000 per annum until it is reduced to zero.
In order to retain the ECF’s financial stability under these changed circumstances, I was commissioned to undertake a review of the Management Services function (in effect, the ECF office) to identify potential improvements/cost savings. The review also included consideration of the ECF’s funding infrastructure, i.e. membership and game fee. A report was delivered to the ECF Board in advance of its most recent meeting (17 June), where it was discussed in detail. The findings of the report must remain confidential at this stage – they will be reported to Council in October – but I can say that the recommendations were split into two phases. The first phase, which will be implemented immediately, will save the ECF about £35,000 a year. The second phase is more complex and will require Council to debate the underlying issues and choose its preferred solution.
ECF Board Changes
October also saw the elections for the ECF Board. The principal changes were:
NB. In April, Council approved a proposal to introduce a new Board position of Chairman, to support the existing Chief Executive and President. Elections for this post will be held in October 2010. Shortly after the October meeting, the ECF finally succeeded in finding a Director of Finance, Gareth Caller, who works for the National Audit Office (analysing the national debt!). Following the October Council meeting, the Board reappointed me to the position of Strategic Planning Officer as well as Alternate to the Chief Executive (Chris Majer). As it transpired, Chris Majer’s day job prevented him from giving time to his ECF responsibilities for two periods totalling about four months in the second half of 2009, so the Alternate found himself called into use for longer than he had expected!
Membership Fees and Game Fee
At the meeting in April, the following decisions affecting the MCCU and ECF Direct Members were taken on membership fees and game fee:
Chess for Schools
After some debate, the ECF’s 2010/11 budget was approved, including limited continuing support for the much-delayed Chess for Schools free chess sets initiative. With regard to the latter, production of chess sets by Holloid Plastics has been on hiatus for several months, reportedly due to high demand from Holloid’s (paying) customers which has prevented the company from devoting any production capacity to free chess sets. Given the lack of activity, the ECF decided that it would not be justified to renew the contract of the staff member handling Chess for Schools administration (as well as working in support of the Certificate of Merit scheme) in June of this year. As a result, current expenditure on Chess for Schools is effectively nil. The existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ECF and Holloid expires at the end of July. The MoU is not legally binding, but it does set out each party’s expectations of the other. At Council in April, Sean Hewitt sought a commitment from the Chief Executive not to sign a fresh MoU without Council approval. This commitment was not given and Sean is apparently seeking to garner support for an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the issue.
Certificate of Merit
The ECF has now launched its online Certificate of Merit scheme, aimed primarily at schools, providing teachers and coaches with materials and giving pupils a means of testing their progress. On-line tests (3 levels) and support materials are available for purchase. Sales are building slowly.
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