AGM and Council Corner

 

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AGM & Council Corner

2021 Chariman’s Report

In closing, the 2020 AGM last December, which you will recall was carried out by Zoom due to the pandemic, I commented that 2020 had been an extremely challenging year on many fronts, but despite that I believed it had been one where the society had maintained it’s course to financial viability and continued to progress activities which should enable future growth. I am confident that what you will hear over the next hour or two will reassure you that we are continuing to move in the right direction.

Looking back to when I became Chair at the end of 2018, we were determined to transform the society in to one which was sustainable, provided what the members needed and enabled the traditions of carriage driving to continue.

The many changes which we have implemented, and those which are in progress, were not driven by me alone but by a small team of council members who through some very rocky, challenging times, have stood solid pushing forward with the changes which we needed to make. That closely aligned team are: Roger Hopton – who always keeps conversations honest, Kendall Young & Penny Hopkins our great branch Chairs for Scotland & Wales respectively, Jonathan Carnduff who represents Ireland, Barry Luck whose knowledge & expertise has proved invaluable, Julie Elliott the Vice Chair, Caroline Watson, and Modris Kesans. I am truly grateful to, and extremely proud of, this team!

In addition to the support I receive from Council, I just want to thank our President Colonel Toby Browne, the Crown Equerry, along with Vice Presidents John Richards and Sallie Walrond, who have been unfaltering in their support. I cannot stress enough how grateful I am personally to have their guidance and to be able to draw on their limitless wisdom & experience.

I also want to callout our Junior Commissioner Emily Ham who is doing a sterling job, Emily who is keeping the young driver activities operational and bringing forward some fresh ideas, I am sure we all recognise the importance of this activity in introducing and nurturing the carriage drivers of tomorrow.

So I suppose we should take a moment to remind ourselves why we needed to transform the society:

Firstly, we were in a very weak financial position, in 2018 expenditure exceeded income by over £90,000

Our OFQUAL regulated qualifications were under scrutiny, with many areas of concern around our compliance with the OFQUAL standards and regulations.

Plus, membership numbers were falling and feedback was that the society was not providing what members wanted.

Looking back I believe 2019 was a great year for the Society, where we turned a corner and started to move forwards on many fronts, many of the successes you will recall we talked about at the 2019 AGM.

Our hopes were that we could then build on that momentum as we went in to 2020, but as we all know the unexpected happened and in Q1 the pandemic started to take it’s grip on our lives, which unavoidably stalled or at best slowed our progress, and stopped many of our events. However, we continued to move forwards and implemented a number of new ways of operating.

Moving in to 2021, we fortunately saw the pandemic start to release the grip it had all our lives, with restrictions relaxed as we moved through the year, enabling many of our activities to resume.

So I want to just take a few moments to reflect and share some of the achievements of 2021:

  • We continued to improve the governance of the society – ensuring decisions are made by the appropriate, responsible parties.
  • We ran all Council and Committee meetings virtually using Zoom, this proved less intrusive to attendees, and reduced costs.
  • We ran the ‘Drive for fun in 21’ initiative which was open to all BDS members running from March through to the end of October, which you will hear more about later on this afternoon.
  • We have improved relationships with a number of other carriage driving bodies, British Carriage Driving, who I am delighted to say are hosting their AGM here today alongside ours and joining us this evening at the Dinner& Dance , the British Scurry & Trials Driving Group who joined us at the Championship Show in September, and the Whip & Collar Club over in Ireland to name a few.
  • We have continued to make significant improvements to the society’s finances – which we will talk about in more detail shortly.
  • we have increased the limit of indemnity on the British Driving Society Public Liability to £10,000,000 per incident, from the previous limit of £5,000,000. This is an important change to our policy, which enables members to enjoy driving in a wide variety of venues, such as those owned by the Forestry Commission, National Trust etc, with full public liability cover being provided through your membership, removing the need to take out additional public liability cover to meet the requirements of an increasing number of venues & organisations
  • I must thank the ACs, AACs & area + branch teams for running over 220 events during the year, and remember whilst that is lower than the 300 we ran in 2019 this year has been somewhat shorter for events due to the pandemic restrictions during H1. The hard work and long hours that go in to organising these events I am truly grateful for.
  • The official meet of the BDS was again held at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and was a tremendous success and a great shop window for the society. I must thank John Peacock and Barry Luck along with the wider team of stewards & volunteers for the smooth running
  • The national society shows were a great success. The new Spring Bonanza, Smiths Lawn and the September Championship Show were all blessed with brilliant weather, good entries, and plenty of spectators. Well done to Julie Elliott & team on organising these wonderful events.
  • Alongside the Championship show the Judges Committee ran a Judges Seminar trialling a new format. In addition, Jane Brightwell led a number of probationary judging activities.
  • The Scottish & Welsh branches ran their 2021 AGMs. The Scottish one which was held on the last Sunday in October at a lovely hotel in Perth was a grand event, with an upbeat & positive vibe. Whilst the Welsh one was run just over a week ago by Zoom.
  • Membership has held fairly steady now standing at just below 3k. Obviously, as we move forward growth will remain one of our key goals.

 

Clearly, that’s a fairly long list of achievements, none of which would have been possible without the army of volunteers who run this society; council members, committee members, ACs and AACs, stewards etc – the list is endless, without whom we would not have a society. My one ask to you all as members is that we all recognise the contribution of these individuals and show them the gratitude and respect they deserve in supporting this society which provides so much enjoyment to us all.

  • My final word on the positives goes to our many generous sponsors who came forward to support the society throughout the year. We are humbled and extremely appreciative to have your support.

In addition, to managing those activities, Council focus has been consumed by a number of aged, serious issues which stretch back to the previous administration, which are being managed in the background, such as a serious accident from almost a decade ago which is still subject to investigations,  allegations of racism in the society apparently lodged a number of years ago which were not thoroughly investigated, however are now being looked in to thoroughly. These types of things take time, are not enjoyable, and are often done without the membership’s knowledge.

As well as talking about the positives, I think it is essential that I provide a balanced view, and there are a few areas which have not gone as well as we would have liked.

  • In 2019, we changed the way we support the areas, ACs and AACs – this has not worked as well as we would have liked, and we now have renewed focus on how we can support the areas & the branches better. Early November, saw Penny Hopkins and Kendall Young run a Zoom meeting for ACs which is likely to be the first of many, where concerns were aired and it was discussed how we could provide better support. The AC drop-in which took place earlier today was another initiative in understanding first hand how we can do things better.
  • Training is another area of concern. As mentioned earlier at the end of 2018 we had challenges with our Ofqual accredited system, which was also not attractive to our members. A new Training committee started to plot out a new approach but unfortunately during 2020, key members of that committee stepped away and we found ourselves almost back to square one. Just over a year ago Modris Kesans took the helm of the training committee, and the committee now consists of experienced and enthusiastic individuals; Claire Bourne, Brenda Ball, Pat Calderbank, Andrew Counsell, Roger Page, Jane MacInnes, and last but not least Sam Searle. These guys had a mountain to climb almost starting from scratch, and to be brutally honest progress has not been as quick as any of us would have liked. But we have made progress and at the end of October Jane & Ewan MacInnes ran a very successful test day based on the new structure. Additionally, this morning we ran alongside the AC drop-in session, a Training drop-in where further information was available. So, after a long haul, I believe we are now starting to see things coming together.
  • Finally, I just want to mention something that has been very much in the public domain over the last 2 weeks, the fact that sadly we have revoked Gary Docking’s membership. This was not a decision taken lightly, or quickly. We published a statement on the society’s Facebook page last week, which read:

On Tuesday 26th October, at the meeting of the BDS Council, it was unanimously agreed to revoke Gary Docking’s membership of the Society due to repeated and sustained breaches of the ‘Guidelines on Ring Etiquette (for Judges, & Owners/Exhibitors)’, in particular in relation to the use of social media. All our panel judges including Mr Docking, sign an acceptance form each year agreeing to adhere to these guidelines.

In particular the guidelines, which were introduced a number of years ago & last amended early 2019, state “SOCIAL MEDIA: A judge must not express his/her views on specific animals/exhibitors/judges or their judgement via any form of social media via the internet.

The BDS had been in communication with Mr Docking about the issues for a number of months.

This is a very sad outcome, which was only reached when all other options to reach a satisfactory conclusion were exhausted.

 

     It would be wrong of me to go in to the detail of the issues, but all I will re-iterate is that we had been talking to Gary about the rule breaches since early May, and that the sanction we imposed we believe to be balanced – all things considered especially in relation to our duty of care to our members and officers. I am sure you all recognise that we all need to abide by the rules of our society.

This was an extremely difficult decision, and an outcome that everyone on council wanted to avoid. However, be assured that our mantra continues that we want the society to welcome everyone with an interest in carriage driving.

We should all be cognisant that Carriage driving, across the disciplines, is a very small community and I appeal to all involved to pull in the same direction, as one thing that is certain is that we are stronger together than we are if separated into individual silos.

One final point of thanks must go to Sue Mills who runs the office, Sue has again worked tirelessly throughout the year through some very challenging situations and I would just like to recognise those efforts on behalf of the membership, the council and myself – Sue we are all truly grateful.

In conclusion, I would like to say, 2021 has again been an extremely challenging year on many fronts, but despite that I believe it has been a positive one for the society; one where we have made further progress on transformation, and one where the majority of our members have been able to enjoy our sport.

In closing the Chairman’s report, I would just like to thank you for your continued membership of the society

Thankyou

2021 Financial summary

Despite 2020 being a difficult year as a result of Covid, the overall financial results shows a net profit before tax of £52,935 up from £3,627 in 2019.
Primarily due to the impacts of the pandemic, income is down to £138,214 from £181,271 in 2019 and in the main relates to the cancellation of key events such as Smiths Lawn, the championship show, the AGM Dinner dance and other elements such as training.
However, we also saw a drastic reduction in Direct costs down from £110,645 in 2019 to £38,679 and again which in the main relates to reductions in costs for Affiliated shows, Area allowances, Assessments, the Championship show, Smith Lawn etc.
There is a point to note that in 2020 we made the difficult decision not to pay Area or branch allowances. This decision was reached on two key points of consideration; 1) because of the uncertainty around the pandemic and how long restrictions preventing activities from taking place would last therefore we felt we needed to protect the society ensuring we had adequate financial reserves to weather the storm, And secondly, because we knew that in the main the area allowances are paid to enable the areas & branches to run events etc, which were not taking place due to the restrictions.
We did however, write out to ACs & branch Chairs advising them of the decision and advising them that if funds were required to contact the office. A couple did contact the office and had funds issued.
The accounts include Other operating income of £11,610, which is primarily the £10,000 Small Business Grant.
Administration expenses have fallen by £18k to £76,186 and the main reductions relate to the reduction in the Council and committee expenses, which is obviously aided by the move to conducting meetings virtually using Zoom.
The Investment Portfolio
The investment portfolio performed well over the year as follows:

Dividends and interest received £ 3,675
Increase in value of investment £22,285

The value of the portfolio including cash balances at 31 Dec 2020 was £225,403 versus £208,545 at the beginning of the year.
Talking about our investments, they continue to perform well into 2021, realising a value on 19th October of £247,776.
That performance is largely down to our portfolio being heavily focussed on technology, pharmaceuticals, and renewable energy, a mix which has over the last 2 years outperformed the average investment fund by circa 15%.
So in summary I believe our financial performance is encouraging to say the least, we are on course with the strategic target to return the society back to be financially sustainable; to recap expenditure exceeded income by just over £90k in 2018, 2019 saw us return a profit of just over £3k, and 2020 an increase despite the pandemic giving us a net profit of £53k.
The outlook for 2021 is also promising, where we are expecting to see an improved financial position compared to these 2020 accounts.

 

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