WRNS BT Annual General Meeting 22nd May 2013
Chairman, Cdr Andrea Crook Royal Navy, opened the meeting by welcoming Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, The Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Vice Presidents and Trust Officials, 110 Guests and Members. Andrea then invited HRH The Princess Royal to address the meeting.
Her Royal Highness expressed her pleasure at being present once again at the AGM and to see so many members in attendance. Her Royal Highness said that it was the sum of the individual contributions of each of the members that ensured its being. 2012 had been another busy year for the Trust, and indeed the 70th Anniversary celebrations had helped raise its profile.
Her Royal Highness said the Trust had also made huge efforts to advertise and had also benefited from exposure in newspaper articles and editorials, and through radio interviews. Over 1,000 copies of the book 70 Years of Trust, launched at the 2012 Annual General Meeting had been sold, with copies being sent as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Closer to home, the Trust’s Ambassadors continued to raise awareness through meeting with interest groups across the country. Their work was seen as particularly valuable in those areas distant from the usual naval communities. In addition, new entrants at HMS RALEIGH were now learning about the role of the WRNS as part of their naval heritage.
Her Royal Highness said that it was apparent that an increasing number of the Trust’s members were embracing modern technology. The website, which had been updated in 2012, was attracting an ever increasing number of visits. It now had over 4,000 visitors a month—double that of a year ago. Similarly, the Former Wrens’ Facebook Group had grown and with over 1,700 members was providing a particularly successful means of putting ex-colleagues and friends back in touch, and spreading the word about forthcoming events.
Her Royal Highness added that, as was to be expected, a significant proportion of the Trust’s beneficiaries were now in their 80s and 90s, but the Trust continued to be approached by a number of its younger members, some of whom would need help for many years to come. This again demonstrated the need to maintain the profile of the Trust.
In conclusion, Her Royal Highness said that 2012 had been a successful year for the Trust, both from the perspective of providing real and much valued help to those in need and also ensuring that former Wrens and their families and friends knew about the charity. Together with fund raising, maintaining and building on this momentum remained a priority for the Trust. She repeated her thanks to those without whom the Trust could not enjoy its success. Knowing where to go for help, and to be treated with respect when doing so, was very important.
Andrea then highlighted the work of the Trust from the 2012 Annual Report:
- The Trust was very sad to report the death of Vice President, Commandant Anne Spencer, who had died in July 2012. Joining the WRNS in 1963, Commandant Spencer had enjoyed a long and varied career; Cdr Crook said that she may be remembered best from her time as the WRNS appointer, as Deputy Director WRNS and as Director WRNS. She had become the 17th and last Head of the Service in March 1991, and as such had been instrumental in ensuring the effective integration of the WRNS fully into the Royal Navy. Commandant Spencer had also served as Vice Chairman of the WRNS Benevolent Trust from 1991 to 1993 and as Chairman from 1996 to 2002. Cdr Crook said that the Trust had also learned of the death of Superintendent Margaret Sherriff, who had also died in July 2012. She had served on the Trust’s Grants Committee in the late 1970s, and was appointed as the Senior WRNS Officer on the Staff of Commander In Chief Naval Home Command from 1977 until her retirement in 1980.
- 2012 had been another busy year for the Grants Committee. The Trust had received 330 applications from individuals eligible to apply, a reduction from 377 in 2011. The Committee had met 24 times and gave grants totalling £327,000 to 325 beneficiaries – including some 25 residing overseas (in Africa, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France), declining to provide assistance on only 5 occasions.
- During 2012 there had been a significant reduction in the number of one-off grant applications, down from 197 to 149. Three maximum one-off grants of £3,000 were made, a small decrease from 5 in 2011; although only 2 were made in 2010. The overall number of recipients of regular weekly and annual grants in force continues to show a gentle fall. With the exception of regular grants, the next highest spend was £30,000 on medical aids, followed by £18,000 on assistance with funeral costs and £17,000 on primary debts.
- Surprisingly, in view of the on-going financial situation, the number of applicants approaching the Trust for the first time had again reduced – down from 114 in 2011 to 93 in 2012. However, the workload for the Grants Committee had not diminished as the casework provided by SSAFA and The Royal British Legion was becoming noticeably more complex, especially for younger applicants, although the computerised Casework Management System (first introduced in 2010) was assisting with the workload.
- Cdr Crook said that the Trust was most grateful to all the individuals and organisations that, through their support, made the work of the Trust possible. She said that it was good to see those organisations represented at the meeting. As ever, the Trust was particularly appreciative of the generous support provided by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, Greenwich Hospital and the Corporation of Trinity House.
- Many individuals remembered the Trust in their wills; details of the legacies and in memory donations received were recorded in the Annual Report. Of particular note was the very generous donation made by Mr Peter Mountenay, in memory of his wife Pauline who had died in 2012.
- Cdr Crook said that the Trust was also most grateful to the members of the Association of Wrens for all that they did on its behalf. She also said that the Trust recognised the important role that the Association played in bringing the Trust to the notice of potential beneficiaries.
- She was most grateful for the unstinting support over the past year, as given by the Trustees, the members of the Central, Grants and Finance Committees, the Ambassadors, the General and Assistant Secretaries, and of course, the members of the 70th Anniversary project sub-committee.
Janet Crabtree (Hon Treasurer) then presented the Financial Review for 2012:
- Mrs Crabtree opened by saying that the Trust had 4 main sources of income: interest from investments, grants, donations and legacies. In particular, it was not possible to forecast income from legacies, with amounts fluctuating, often greatly, from year to year. The year 2012 had been no exception, with receipts at the mid-point low and leading to anticipation of a deficit at the end of the year. A decision had therefore been made to approach both Trinity House and the RNRMC for additional grants, to avoid such shortfall. Both applications were successful, and the Trust was very grateful for an extra £20K from Trinity House and £10K from the RNRMC. Come the year end, the Trust had actually received £103,057 in legacies, a reduction of £178,694 in 2011, but with a further £144,000 in the pipeline for 2013.
- Mrs Crabtree said that inclusive of the above additional grants the Trust’s sources of income rose significantly. The Trust received £106,004 overall from the RNRMC (against £90,504 in 2011), and £36,000 overall from Trinity House (no grant was received in 2011 because legacy income had been much higher). The Trust also received £1,000 from the Mountbatten Festival of Music Trust, and £2,000 from the Queen Mary’s Roehampton Trust.
- Other sources of voluntary income had risen in year, largely helped by the launch of the 70th Anniversary Book. As always, the Trust was extremely grateful to the Association of Wrens, who continued to support the Trust, whether by branch collection boxes or through fund raising events.
- Mrs Crabtree said the Trust set an annual income target of £140,000 from its investment portfolio, and in 2012 this income rose £6,569 above 2011, achieving a return of £146,742. Like everyone else, the Trust experienced disappointingly low interest on cash invested on general deposit, and to help counteract this had placed £50,000 on a short term fixed term deposit in an attempt to improve the return.
- Turning to grants expenditure, Mrs Crabtree said that as the number of applications for assistance received during 2012 had fallen slightly there had been a 6.5% fall in value of grants given. There had been no changes in the rates set for regular weekly or annual grants, but the complexity of cases received had increased.
- Mrs Crabtree said that fund raising and publicity costs had increased as a result of the launch of the 70th Anniversary book. More time had been spent on raising the profile of the Trust, so a higher proportion of the General Secretary’s employment costs had been posted here. Expenditure related to governance (made up of audit, accountancy and legal fees, meeting expenses and a further 10% of the General Secretary’s costs) had ensured that the Trust complied with relevant external regulations. The increase in these costs over 2011 was the result of the special 70th Anniversary AGM held at The Mansion House, which had allowed higher attendance and the related need to meet unavoidable but planned added expenditure.
- Mrs Crabtree said that the Trust’s investments were valued at £3,261,357 at year end. Added to other financial assets the Trust had closed the year with a balance of £3,602,743—an increase of £269,312 (8.08%) over 2011.
The Chairman asked members to approve the list of those nominated for office in 2013/14, and the new nominations for Trustees—Cdr Elizabeth Walmsley and Mrs Alison Gott. The motion was carried unanimously.
Andrea then introduced Lt Sarah Thompson, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, representing the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre based at Headley Court.
Sarah gave a highly interesting and most informative brief on the history and present role of Headley Court.