2 Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter REPORT FROM THE AGM 2008
Interesting and constructive comments and suggestions were made by members attending the FPRA AGM at the Park Crescent Conference Centre in London on September 23.
New Chairman Bob Smytherman opened proceedings by giving a vote of thanks to the outgoing chairman Muriel Guest- Smith and her hard work over many years for the FPRA. “I am certainly up for the challenge,” said Bob “and there are a number of challenges facing leaseholders. I am very keen to hear from the membership – what we are doing well and what we could be doing better.”
Chief Executive Robert Levene described himself as “an old penny turning up again” as he resumes this role he held previously. He reported a successful transition of the administration offices from Colchester to Epping, and said there had only been a small delay in answering members’ questions due to the move. He said he was keen to look at how FPRA services could be improved and new members be recruited.
Robert highlighted the imbalance of protection given to leaseholders against the burden of running freehold blocks and promised the FPRA would be doing more lobbying in this and other areas of concern. For example, householders could obtain grants to insulate their homes, but there were no such grants to leaseholders in blocks of flats. He also expressed frustration at the fact that in 2008 we are still waiting for some of the statutory regulations of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 to be brought into effect.
Asked how many members FPRA had, Robert said there were 550 residents’ associations and about 50 other associate members. Both he and Bob were looking for publicity to win new members and expand the FPRA.
Treasurer Michael Derome was pleased to report that this year there had been a surplus of income over expenditure – a
reverse of last year – and there was a healthy sum in the bank. Subscriptions were up and the cost of insurance had come down significantly as – with Robert Levene’s expertise – all the different covers of insurance had been brought under one contract, giving a substantial saving. The membership subscription was being kept at the lowest level possible.
A suggestion was made by some members that the FPRA could, under current legislation, dispense with the auditing of the accounts and thus save money. Michael Derome was against this, as it would not save a significant sum and might mean excessive work for volunteers like himself. Other committee members expressed the view that they preferred the extra protection given to them by a professional audit. Robert Levene reported that the audit was put out to tender every three years and the best value for money obtained. In conclusion, members were invited to submit a formal proposition on this issue to the AGM next year if they wanted to pursue it.
Other members suggested an annual report on the activities of the FPRA during the year could be presented at the AGM. Another suggestion was that answers to “frequently asked questions” could be displayed on the FPRA website. Robert Levene reported that this suggestion was well under way and that “FAQs” would soon be appearing in the members’ forum section of the website.
Following the business of the AGM, FPRA vice-chairman Richard Williams made a presentation to Muriel Guest- Smith and thanked her for “eleven gruelling years” as chairman during “busy, exciting and even scary times”. He said: “FPRA is in really quite a healthy state and I’m not sure that without Muriel we would be in that position.”
The guest speaker at the AGM was Chris Humphreys, policy officer of the Leasehold and Park Homes Team for the Government, who stood in at short notice for his colleague Charlotte Sewell who was unwell.
Mr Humphreys said that the Government recognised the importance of management of leasehold properties and considered input from FPRA as important in moving forward. He assured the meeting that implementation of the rest of the CLARA 02 legislation was one of his department’s priorities.
Many members present highlighted to Mr Humphreys the problems caused by legislation designed to deal with the old “ogre” landlords turning out to be a burden on leaseholders managing their own affairs. He was asked if there could be separate legislation for people managing their own estates. Mr Humphreys said the Government was trying to set a minimum standard and bring the worst examples up to that standard. It was not intended to be an excessive burden. It would be difficult to make exceptions to the law and “special cases”.
A number of members pressed Mr Humphreys on the “huge amount of prescription” attached to S20 consultation. Could an AGM vote to dispense with this? Mr Humphreys warned that in that case service charge payers could withhold their contribution. He said the Government had no intention to change S20 legislation for owner/occupier blocks. He was further pressed as to whether an AGM could vote to dispense with the new accounting rules and made the same reply – service charge payers could in that case withhold their payments.
Early warning A Diary Date for 2009
The FPRA annual general meeting (AGM) is to be held on
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at the Gulbenkian Room,
Park Crescent Conference Centre, International Student House, 229 Great Portland Street, London W1.
Issue No. 87 Winter 2008
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