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Thread: Lease Horror Story

  1. #1
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    Lease Horror Story

    Hi all, been a while. Have recently taken much more of an interest in my old Group and have found myself trawling through a litany of cockups... the best being that somehow the exec has not paid ground rent since the beginning of the Lease (over 20 years) and flouted various other aspects of it. The group has also been chronically undercharging the Nursery that uses the building and has not renewed the licence agreement with them since 2015.

    Iíve been saddled with it (Iím a solicitor myself so know how to play this) but I have to ask... how do things get so out of hand? Have you ever had to deal with such rank incompetence? Have you ever seen execs place all of their trust in a GSL to deal with these critical things and seemingly abandon responsibility.

    Speechless.


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    I've certainly heard of that happening before, yes.

    And in their defence, you are a solicitor. Most Execs are laypeople. And TSA provides literally nothing at all to help.

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    I have heard of this type of thing. It happens more than you would imagine.

    The difficulty is that many people join to "help out", to keep a group afloat, and few really grasp the task that is involved in actually being a trustee, especially if the group has premises. So, an exec may run on the goodwill of some only lightly interested laypeople, who have no understanding of leases or contracts, or even maintenance schedules. Unless the Group has someone involved who actually understands such things, or has an interest in such things, then these issues arise. I was going to call them failures, but that presumes an attempt to understand that has not worked. These are issues because people simply do not understand.

    My own experience;

    At my old group, the land was bought from the council. There were clear Lancashire and Yorkshire boundary markers in place, but at the point of sale, the map followed the boundary wall, this was the land we bought. A small parcel of land between the property bought and the adjacent property was left off the purchase. 35 years down the line, when we tried to gain control over no man's land, it went to the adjacent property - who, as a farmer, had more experience in land deals, and engaged a solicitor that we could not afford.

    Another group failed to maintain their building. The building became unsafe and they were faced with a six figure repair bill just to make it externally safe - on inspection by building control a wall actually fell down! They left their accounts in the name of past trustees who were happy to sign cheques when needed. When the two signatories were no longer available, the bank account took three years to unlock.

    A District Campsite that came close to being sold because no-one had bothered enforcing the management and it had been left to a partial sub committee who were virtually accountable to no-one and they only maintenance they did was cut the grass.

    It is common to find these issues because people join scouts to help out, they do not realise that there are some real world jobs to be done, just as there are in any business.
    Ewan Scott

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    ESL and DESC ianw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jameeez View Post
    I’ve been saddled with it (I’m a solicitor myself so know how to play this) but I have to ask... how do things get so out of hand?
    They just do. But good on you for stepping up and sorting it out. People like you have saved many a group from a sticky end.
    Ian Wilkins
    Farnham District Explorer Scout Commissioner

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    I've also seen similar stories. Nurseries seem to be the bane of many scout groups lives (yes someone will post a positive nursery story in reply to this but there seem to be loads of bad ones... Just search nursery on this forum!)

    If legal stuff like the lease is in that state, has anyone checked stuff like legal health and safety requirements (electrical and gas testing, fire risk assessment, asbestos risks assessment, fire extinguisher servicing, etc)??

    Putting the group at financial risk is one thing... but are children, leaders and nursery staff also being put at risk of injury? I've seen plenty of scout huts that resemble death traps because "maintenance is expensive"

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    My horror story of incompetence was a treasurer who'd been in role for years and who no one dared to question. Then the local council wrote to the new chairman of the group exec demanding that they pay £6K of storage costs for the group's boats for the previous 3 years, threatening to take it further. At which point the exec discovered that the treasurer had been ignoring invoices - apparently he didn't think the council wanted money from a scout group - and had utterly failed to collect subs from fully 40% of the group members. Some hadn't paid for years.

    He resigned in disgust at being questioned and left a real mess behind, not least because those who had been used to not paying subs were difficult about paying for the future - even though there was no attempt to collect back subs due. That was the group that ended up increasing subs from around £140 to £240 to cover the deficit - and another example where the district treasurer should have stepped in to review - a process which now happens as a matter of course at each AGM.

    Nurseries? Basically it works in most groups that I'm aware of provided that the group and the nursery keep in good communication and that storage and hut useage is agreed and reviewed from day one. One previous group in which I was an SL had the nursery manager attending (not voiting) on group execs to discuss their needs and concerns and vice versa - that worked very well as there are often 2 sides to the Nursery horror stories and you won't get the other side on threads here.

    Once you get down the "they can do one" route then you're lost. Nurseries often have more support in the local community than the Scout group - and rightly so in many cases, the closure of a Scout group is not the end of the world, the closure of a nursery can often cause real hardship for working parents.
    Last edited by RisingStar; 20-05-2020 at 08:39 AM.

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    Yes seen it at a local group, not helped as is often the case that its a peppercorn rent that neither party bothers to collect or pay

    As mentioned, the training and instruction given to treasurer, chairman and exec is woeful and the module 1e really doesn't go far enough
    Dave Ralphs
    Yarnton Scout Group (Treasurer)
    DofE Advisor & District Exec Member - Oxford Spires District
    http://yarntonscouts.org.uk/

    I work for O2, any posts are my own personal views & do not represent O2

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    I think there is an issue with how we now recruit adult volunteers and institutional memory.

    Because people don't stay for as long as they used to, it's a lot easier for things to fall through the crack and become issues.

    Also, it's voluntary. Much as people like to say folks should do what they say they're going to do, it just doesn't work like that. It's just not a priority.

    I think it's just an 'occupational' hazard.

    Our nursery looked at operating in the hall. I don't think it was ever serious though. The list of demands they had was long - they said we'd need to make the changes before they would agree to use our hall. We were sitting there thinking, 'eh, you asked us'.

    Every few years, talk of sharing the hall with Guides crop up, and a couple of us make's sure it doesn't happen. That's a good example of why some times things go astray. We know why it wouldn't work, new people coming in may not, so may go ahead with it and rue the day. Or, they would, but then they leave and the next lot are left to do it.
    Last edited by pa_broon74; 20-05-2020 at 08:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    I think there is an issue with how we now recruit adult volunteers and institutional memory.

    Because people don't stay for as long as they used to, it's a lot easier for things to fall through the crack and become issues.

    Also, it's voluntary. Much as people like to say folks should do what they say they're going to do, it just doesn't work like that. It's just not a priority.

    I think it's just an 'occupational' hazard.

    Our nursery looked at operating in the hall. I don't think it was ever serious though. The list of demands they had - they said that we'd need to make 'these' changes before they would agree to use our hall. We were sitting there thinking, 'eh, you asked us'.

    Every few years, talk of sharing the hall with Guides crop up, and a couple of us make's sure it doesn't happen. That's a good example of why some times things go astray. We know why it wouldn't work, new people coming in may not, so may go ahead with it and rue the day. Or, they would, but then they leave and the next lot are left to do it.
    This is a great example of why handover documents should be written long before they're needed and kept up to date. Call it a business continuity document if you prefer

    Often when people leave it's for negative reasons. Maybe a falling out, maybe voted out of a role, maybe suspended. In these circumstances they're not going to feel like writing up a dull set of handover notes

    One thing our "corporate minded" GSL did, and one of the few that I agreed with, was to insist on up to date business continuity plans being produced annually. That way things like annual payments, details for rarely used accounts, insurance policy numbers, etc would remain available

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    I think we have had the discussion about scouting not being a business. it isn', but it needs to be run like one.

    A friend stepped in as a GSL at a group. The accounts were not quite right, he thought. So he started doing some calculations and the income from the members should have been somewhat greater than the figure recorded. No-one had questioned this previously.

    He spoke to the Leaders and they told him that they didn't push for subs from some families because they didn't have the money, which to a point is fair, but it had never been passed by the Exec. My friend asked around parents what they thought about the subs, and he discovered that most had actually been paying weekly subs; they just appear not to have been recorded.

    In all, he reckoned that in the couple of years that he looked at, in excess of £3K should have been paid in, may have been paid in, but was not accounted for, anywhere. Giving the benefit of the doubt, these were leaders just doing their bit to help out.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by campwarden View Post
    This is a great example of why handover documents should be written long before they're needed and kept up to date. Call it a business continuity document if you prefer

    Often when people leave it's for negative reasons. Maybe a falling out, maybe voted out of a role, maybe suspended. In these circumstances they're not going to feel like writing up a dull set of handover notes

    One thing our "corporate minded" GSL did, and one of the few that I agreed with, was to insist on up to date business continuity plans being produced annually. That way things like annual payments, details for rarely used accounts, insurance policy numbers, etc would remain available

    I have to admit, that upon my departure, When I returned the kayaking kit, I did so with a full stock list. The DDC refused to check the kit and refused to sign the stock list. I was so angry that I swept all the paperwork for the group into a box and handed it over as it fell. My secretary put her files in a box and handed them over. We were never asked about anything from that point on. Until about 18 months down the line, when I was asked where certain documents were. I said, "In the box I gave you." The reponse was, "oh, we didn't think that stuff mattered and it was thrown out..."
    Ewan Scott

    It seems that there are a lot of Nawyecka Comanch around....





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    www.upperdearnevalleynavigators.org.uk

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    This is why term limits on Trustees is not a bad idea - the Scouts need to implement the changes to the way Group / District / County Executives work to follow the Charity Governance Code quickly. They talk about improving Governance, I saw recently they were recruiting for National Governance volunteers; I don't know what their timescale is.

    see https://www.charitygovernancecode.org/

    There may be problems with TSA guidance for executives, but there is plenty of good guidance on the Charity Commission website for those who can be bothered
    ďA week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.Ē Baden-Powell

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnL View Post
    This is why term limits on Trustees is not a bad idea - the Scouts need to implement the changes to the way Group / District / County Executives work to follow the Charity Governance Code quickly. They talk about improving Governance, I saw recently they were recruiting for National Governance volunteers; I don't know what their timescale is.

    see https://www.charitygovernancecode.org/

    There may be problems with TSA guidance for executives, but there is plenty of good guidance on the Charity Commission website for those who can be bothered
    Yes and no. A good chair is like gold dust... saying "you've done two terms, you've got to go now" won't necessarily be a good idea!

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    Quote Originally Posted by campwarden View Post
    Yes and no. A good chair is like gold dust... saying "you've done two terms, you've got to go now" won't necessarily be a good idea!
    I agree and disagree

    Good people don't automatically good for ever, or remain the best person for the role.

    They can but from my experience (professionally I work in corporate governance and have done for the best part of 20 years now), term limits set at the right level have more pluses than negatives. The right level is very difficult to reach and certainly is not a one size fits all model, and its about balancing continuity v the benefits of fresh ideas and approaches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnL View Post
    They talk about improving Governance.....
    There may be problems with TSA guidance for executives, but there is plenty of good guidance on the Charity Commission website for those who can be bothered
    Some of us have been trained to deliver business risk management to Districts and Counties, and to deliver a more useful module 1E than online. There's guidance, and training, and risk mentoring. What there's less of, is the recognition within Execs that they are carrying risk (reserves carried for the unexpected anyone?) and a drive to push governance training. It's a great opportunity to do it while we're locked down.
    If it was easy, it wouldn't be so much fun...
    GSL 1st Aylburton & Lydney, TA, ESL(YL), District Campsite Warden & webmanager .....only 1 hour a week, they said (not pointing out that was what was left)

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    Once again the one size fits all approach doesn't really work. Being chair or treasurer for a small group with minimal assets and responsibilities will be a very different role than it would be in a big group with premises. Some groups essentially run community centres. Some run campsites. They really are like businesses and need a lot more processes etc in place. A small group on the other hand can probably be administered by Arthur on the back of his cigarette packet.

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