Webteam: December 2020
The Trustees of the Village Club understand that fiances are now the biggest challenge to the future of the free library service in Kingsclere, and as such the library have set up a gofundme page https://uk.gofundme.com/f/save-kingsclere-library
Rent is their biggest outgoing, and the Club Trustees are under pressure from the library and concerned individuals to reduce the rent charged to the library — most recently at our AGM in October. The following position statement is being circulated to explain the situtation from the Club perspective and answer questions that are circulating the village. If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Kingsclere Village Club: Position Statement on Kingsclere Community Library Rent Dec 2020
The building used to be a 'reading room' — if you don't have a Community Library are you failing to meet your charitable objects?
The Holding Family did set up Reading Rooms in the Village Club, and it was transferred to the community in 1921 to provide a "community resource for low income, uneducated, and isolated people". However, after the Village Club fell into disuse, and it was discovered that the building could not be sold to help fund the building of the Fieldgate Centre, the 1921 Deed of Trust was replaced by a completely new one. The 1995 Deed of Trust states the Village Club is a Village Hall. This has a very specific charitable purpose, which relates to the provision of space for use by all of the community. There is no obligation to have a reading room under this new constitution.
Why does Kingsclere Village Club charge rent to the Library?
Since there is no ongoing grant funding to meet the day to day running costs of providing and maintaining village halls, the Club needs to be able self-finance. One of the Club's income streams is renting out space to groups and organisations, such as the Library, that fit with our charitable purpose.
Is it true that you have more than doubled the rent — and if so how on earth can this be justified?
Yes. Hampshire County Council had been paying £2050 and if the lease had been renewed, the market rent would have been applied at £7610. When the Community Library became properly constituted, it wanted the same kind of exclusive use of the room that Hampshire County Council had enjoyed, and be charged no or minimal rent.
However, if an organisation has exclusive use of space, the Charity Act 2011 requires market rent to be charged unless the Charity Commission agree to a lesser rate. Consent to a lesser rate is possible where the prospective tenant is a charity. In 2018 an independent survey assessed the market rate as being £7610 per annum for 3 years, then rising. The Charity Commission did not authorise a lesser rate because it was unclear whether the Library is set up as a charity.
Keen to keep the Library open, an arrangement based on shared use was offered because in addition to being more in line with principle that the space needs to be available for everyone, this gives the Club Trustees greater discretion in setting the rent level. Independent advice recommended a reduced rate of £4566 raising to £5707 after 3 years. The Trustees have been unable to justify reducing this further.
£4566 rent seems rather excessive for a Library that is only open for a few hours per week — surely this can be reduced?
Whilst the Trustees have discretion when setting the rent level, they must achieve a figure that is in the "best interests" of the Village Club. The Trustees are potentially personally liable if they get this wrong, and have looked to see if a lesser rate can be justified. One consideration was an hourly rate based on the opening hours — currently 13 hours per week. At £10 per hour for 48 weeks of the year the rent due would be £6240 excluding their events and Village Bunnies opening.
I heard the trustees want to turn it into a yoga studio — is this true?
No. When looking at whether the rent could be lowered beyond the recommended £4566, the Trustees considered whether there were other people wanting to use the space — and there are. A tangible calculation was made based on being able to bring a yoga class fully in house, which was being moved to the Methodist Church once per month to accommodate a prior booking. Just this one class on one evening a week during the academic year would contribute £2610 to club funds. This calculation showed that realistically the space would generate more than £4566 if the space was available to be used for classes or community groups.
If the Library applies for grant funds, isn't it in effect fundraising for the Village Club, whereas it is the Library that needs financial help?
Certain funders will look more sympathetically at an application that includes rent that is paid to a Village Hall because the rent element of the grant has a secondary social benefit (i.e. contributes to the running of a building for the whole community) that does not happen where a private landlord is involved. However, it is stretching it to say this means the Library is fundraising for the Village Club.
But we all want to keep a village Library — What has KVC done to try and resolve this situation?
Like everyone else in the village the Kingsclere Village Trustees are keen for Kingsclere to retain a Community Library because value of keeping services like this within the village is clear. The Village Club Trustees understand that even the lower price is very challenging for a community organisation to meet. Since lowering the rent further is not an option, we have given the Library time to come up with a funding plan before the increase took effect, offered to co-administer a gift aided donation scheme, introduced them to the Greenham Common Trust that was interested in funding its running costs, offered them alternative (smaller) space that is within its means, and offered to help it rethink the service it offers so that it can operate within its existing finances, and suggested that it looks at alternative venues.
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