AGM 2021 Minutes

AGM 2021 Minutes

Minutes of the AGM of Lord Moray’s Feuars held at 6pm on 23 June 2021 in the Moray Place Garden.

Present: Dr M Vail Barker, Chair,
Mr M Baynham, Prof P Broda, Mr A Dixon, Mr G Henderson, Mr B Finlay, Mr E Jeffrey
47 feuars


In attendance: Mr K Cattanach, Whitelaw Wells, Secretaries
The Chair welcomed all to the meeting then introduced the Committee.
Dr Vail Barker thanked our out-going Chair, Mrs Fiona Young, for her outstanding and tireless work for the Feu,
acknowledging the work Mrs Young had done on long-term budgeting, governance, the risk register and setting the
foundations to build reserves. Mrs Young had worked to move the focus of the Committee to being more efficient
and sustainable, irrespective of the personalities that formed the Committee. Dr Vail Barker presented Mrs Young
with a gift to thank her for her considerable contribution.


Dr Vail Barker noted no formal resolutions had been lodged with the Secretaries by feuars by the due date.
Apologies
Apologies were received from Mrs F Griffiths, Mr K Dixon, Mr & Mrs Mackintosh and Mrs E Holman-Arthur.
Minutes of previous AGM
The minutes of the AGM of 9 September 2021 were approved, proposed by Mr M Baynham (18/1 Moray Place) and
seconded by Mrs V Glynn (7A Moray Place).


Treasurers’ Report
Mr Cattanach referred to the accounts appended to the summer newsletter. The results for the year report a
surplus of £26,200, £21,400 higher than last year and slightly above budget. This is attributed Bank Gardens £10,100
and Front Gardens £16,100, increasing each garden’s closing reserves to £55,500 and £42,600 respectively.
Overall income of £128,300 is up £6,800 on last year but exactly in line with budget. Assessments were up £7,500
and Outside subscriber income up by £900, both as result of increased rates agreed at the last AGM. These increases
were off set by one-off income in the previous year of £1,125 film location income and a £500 donation from Square
& Crescent.


Total expenditure of £102,100 compared against last year of £116,600, so down £14,500, with the decrease largely
due to the impact of Covid-19 on expenses. The most significant decrease was wage costs, which fell from £58,600
in 2020 to £52,300 in 2021, a reduction of £6,300. During 2020/21 year the feu were unable to take on a temporary
summer gardener due to Covid-19 saving around £7,000 against a normal year. This saving will not be repeated in
2021/22 as a temporary summer gardener has recently started in the gardens. Other variances were as follows:
• Fertiliser costs of £2,400 were £900 higher than 2020 as Spring and Summer fertiliser was purchased this
year against only Autumn fertiliser last year
• Maintenance of railings, gates and benches is up £1,900 to £3,600 due to the purchase of timber and wire
for plant protection and repairs to gates
• Professional fees of £2,700 were £2,300 higher than last year due to VAT consultancy work and
assessment of the arches.
One-off costs in 2020 not repeated in 2021 included
• Painting of Ainslie Place railings £7,100
• Refurbishment of benches £3,100
• Play bark for the climbing frame £450
Other reductions in cost against last year:-
• A planned training course for the gardeners did not proceed due to Covid-19 so the £250 cost paid last
year was refunded this year.
• Equipment depreciation is £1,100 less as some items became fully depreciated and the major additions
(£6,000 on a new tractor and £8,000 on Gardener welfare facilities) are written off over 10 years.
Other variations were generally small so within what we would expect to see.
In the Balance Sheet fixed asset additions of £14,000 included £6,000 on a new Westwood tractor and £8,000 on
Gardener welfare facilities. Creditor and Debtor movements are small other than an decrease in outstanding
assessments at the year end which was caused by one feuar not paying last year increasing the outstanding balance.
Cash increased from £38,200 to £64,100 at the year end.
Mr Cattanach invited questions from the floor but there were none.
The accounts were adopted, proposed by Mr A Dixon (12 Great Stuart Street) and seconded by Mrs G Durham (11
Forres Street).


Resolutions
Dr Vail Barker noted no formal resolutions had been lodged with the Secretaries by feuars by the due date. The
Committee were proposing five resolutions to be discussed then individually voted on. Each resolution would be
introduced by a Committee member.
Mr B Luther (34 Moray Place) objected to debating all resolutions on the point of principle that he believed feuars
had not been given sufficient notice of the resolutions. It was therefore unfair to vote on them now. Dr Vail Barker
replied that the resolutions were posted, with the AGM Notice, on the Moray Place Notice Board a week ago, in
accordance with the Rules. It was, therefore, appropriate they were discussed then voted on.


Resolution 1
It is proposed that the Committee be given the authority to seek grants, sponsorships, and donations to support
the Bicentenary programme.
Mr Dixon explained the background to the resolution briefly talking through some of the ideas and events being
considered for the bicentenary celebrations. He said a budget of between £50,000 – £70,000 was needed from
sources such as feuar and tenant donations, National Heritage Lottery Fund, other funders and corporate entities.
He added the legal status of the feu, and demonstrating public benefit, may make raising funds more difficult but
he believed the feu would still qualify for National Heritage Lottery Funding for several of the activities under
consideration. The Committee were therefore looking for the authority to seek grants, sponsorships, and donations
to support the Bicentenary programme.
Mrs V Glynn (7A Moray Place) supported the resolution but asked if any criteria had been set for commercial sponsors.
Mr Dixon replied this had not yet been discussed at full Committee level, however, the Bicentenary sub-committee
had considered it and were in the process of drawing up a list of local businesses to approach including estate agents,
builders active in the feu etc. Provisional target amounts had been discussed. Mrs Glynn suggested approaching the
Banks.
Ms G Durham (11 Forres Street) suggested that the Amenity Fund be used to fund the bicentenary celebrations.
Mr Dixon said there was £10,000 in the fund and referred to resolution 2 which will be discussed shortly.
Mr R Loudon (13 Moray Place) voiced his support for the resolution and agreed with much of what Mr Dixon had
said.
Mr R Hay (10 Moray Place) expressed his strong objection to the resolution. He believed it was completely
inappropriate to approach the Lottery which he viewed as a tax on the impoverished to fund those better off. A
group, such as Lord Moray Feuars, should be in a position to fund their own activities without going to 3rd parties.
He felt doing so only played into the hands of those who portrayed the feu of being elitist. Mr A Dickson (12 Great
Stuart Street) and Mrs P Sharp (8 Moray Place) agreed with Mr Hay.
Dr Vail Barker moved to a vote. 28 in favour, 5 against and 1 abstention. The resolution was therefore passed.


Resolution 2
It is proposed to close the Amenity Fund with immediate effect. The present balance of £10,000 will be used to
provide initial seed funding for Bicentenary celebration expenditure.
Dr Vail Barker explained the background to the Amenity Fund, that it had been started to fund legal costs objecting
to a proposal to convert Randolph Crescent into a traffic circle. For a significant number of years now there had
been no spend against the fund but it still accrued around £450 a year. The proposal was therefore to use the fund
that had now built up for the bicentenary then close the Amenity Fund. Mr Jeffrey added the Amenity Fund was
made up of voluntary donations, so was an unrestricted fund so was free to be used for any purpose.
No feuars had any questions so Dr Vail Barker moved to a vote. All in favour, none against and no abstentions. The
resolution was therefore passed.


Resolution 3
It is proposed that, in preparing and updating the long-term budget, the Committee should target holding nine
month’s cash reserves at 31st March.
Mr Jeffrey introduced the resolution, referring to the detailed explanation that had been given in the Summer
Newsletter. He explained the Committee had followed guidance from OSCR’s recommendations as tod what is
recommended for Scottish charities, applying the same principles to arrive at an appropriate reserves policy.
Mr R McLaren (16 Ainslie Place) asked what current reserves are and what the target is in monetary terms. Mr
Jeffrey replied current reserves are shown in the accounts Mr Cattanach had just taken the meeting through so
were £98,000 at the 31 March. Cash was, however, lower, at £64,000, but the important point not shown in the
accounts is that between the end of March the feu suffers from three months of significant cash out flow, of around
£9,000 a month, before cash comes in again in July as feuars pay assessments. The position shown in the year end
accounts therefor doesn’t show the full extent of the issue and why a nine month cash buffer is required. Mr Jeffrey
added he had researched what charities disclosed as their reserves policies, with 3 – 6 months expenditure being
a common measurement. Mr McLaren was concerned about assessment increases so wanted to see the forecasts
and know how quickly the Committee were proposing to take to reach the nine month target being proposed. Mr
Jeffrey said the forecasts were a management tool so it was not appropriate to release them in full to feuars. It was
expected the nine month target would be reached in around 2-3 years, however, there may be unknow items of
expenditure that would have to be incurred that may not be included in the forecasts, for example repairing
damaged railings as happened following a car crash at the Ainslie Place roundabout over the winter. Mr B Luther
(34 Moray Place) asked Mr Jeffrey to quantify expected assessment rate increases over the next three years to
achieve the stated policy. Mr Jeffrey replied the information the Committee circulated in last year’s Summer
Newsletter, together with what had been said at last year’s AGM, set out the principles for assessment increases,
and that an increase of at least 20% was needed, but this increase was not fully applied due to Covid-19 restrictions
not allowing full debate at the 2020 AGM. Last year assessments had therefore increased by only 7.9% and the
proposal this year was to increase them by 16.7%. A similar increase could be expected again next year, but
thereafter increases were expected to reduce to be around inflation, subject of course to any unexpected events.
Mr Jeffrey said that Covid related delays to receiving the VAT advice had made setting budgets and proposing
assessments more difficult, with two major expenditure items (painting Moray Place railings and boring weepage
holes in the Arches) being postponed for a year. Mr Luther questioned Mr Jeffrey’s reference to 20% increase being
highlighted last year as this was the first he’d heard about it. He felt increases of 7.9% last year then 16.7% this year
was over 20% so what is the total increase to be expected? Mr Jeffrey referred to his earlier response adding the
increases are required to maintain the gardens at the current standard. The Committee are currently preparing a
benchmarking exercise for the gardeners wages with initial findings suggesting they may be slightly underpaid
which will need addressed in the forthcoming years, trees fall down and there are other unexpected expenses. He
believes, therefore, the proposed assessment rates, and this proposed resolution to create an appropriate reserves
policy are essential to the long term future and health of the gardens. Dr Vail Barker added she had seen assessment
rates of £500 at London gardens as small a one acre that offered no amenities whatsoever; she believed what was
being proposed still represented excellent value for money. Mr A Dickson (10 Glenfinlas Street) felt there had been
poor communication of the message from the Committee as to why this was happening and for how long. Dr Vail
Barker agreed communication is critical but disagreed the Committee had failed to do so in this case. She referred
to last year’s Summer Newsletter, last year’s AGM, this year’s Summer Newsletter, various e-mails and social media
posts and that the Committee are available in person to discuss a matter with feuars. She explained that the
Committee had gone to some lengths to fully publicise and explain the reasons behind assessment increases.
After much debate Dr Vail Barker moved to a vote. 44 in favour, none against and 2 abstentions. The resolution was
therefore passed.

Resolution 4
It is proposed that, where current assessments remain outstanding after 31st December, a 10% surcharge be
applied, and that compound interest at 10% pa should be included thereafter.
Mr Baynham explained the Secretaries spend a huge amount of time following up unpaid assessments. Most
payments are received within a few months of assessments being issued. There remains, however, a small number
of feuars that refuse to pay so take up a disproportionate amount of time being pursued for payment. He explained
the lengths he had gone to in the first few months of this year pursuing around a dozen feuars with overdue
amounts but this was now down to one feuar owing £1,700. Mr Baynham explained the need to be harder on slow
payers and apply a surcharge for the additional costs they incur. This is why the Committee are proposing this
resolution. David Clarke (25 Moray Place) suggested removing keys from feuars that do not pay. Mr Baynham
replied the Committee have no power to remove keys and in practice it would be almost impossible to do in any
event.
No feuars had any further questions so Dr Vail Barker moved to a vote. All in favour, none against and no
abstentions. The resolution was therefore passed.


Resolution 5
It is proposed to close the Outside Subscribers program to new applicants.
Dr Vail Barker explained the resolution and reasons behind its proposal with the risks presented from Right to Roam
legislation putting our status as a private, jointly owned garden in threat. She said there are 449 feuars, some of
whom own multiple properties within the feu, 100 dogs registered and 49 outside subscribers of whom 27 have
dogs. The proposal is not to remove current outside subscribers now and get them to return keys but rather not to
accept any new applicants.
Ms G Durham (11 Forres Street) was greatly concerned with the proposal. She felt by removing outside subscribers
this only increases the perception the feu is snooty and elitist. We are lucky to have the gardens and they should
be shared and enjoyed, with outside subscribers encouraged to join. Mrs Durham said other private gardens have
outside subscribers and she was unaware of any of them proposing their removal. Dr Vail Barker replied Queen
Street Gardens only allow applicants from the surrounding streets and Drumsheugh and Royal Circus Gardens are
only for property owners. David Clarke (25 Moray Place) disagreed with the proposed resolution as he didn’t believe
the risk was significant enough to merit such action. He pointed out earlier discussions on finance and that outside
subscribers contribute almost £10,000 of income that would have to be replaced from elsewhere, most likely
through assessment increases. He was also concerned about the language suggesting feuars may not be allowed to
bring dogs into the gardens. Dr Vail Barker replied that outside subscribers currently have all of the benefits of the
gardens with none of the liability which all falls on feuars as owners. Mr Clarke said the outside subscriber
assessment should be increased to cover this if it was felt to be a significant issue. Mr Baynham explained this issue
was a question of risk. The basic principle of Right to Roam legislation is anyone can walk anywhere in Scotland but
there are certain exemptions so it is important to meet the exemption criteria. The feu falls into the exemption
where two or more persons have rights in common and the land is used by these persons as a private garden. This
protects us. If the gardens are not used as a private garden then the exemption may be lost. Charging a 3rd party to
access a private garden clearly increases the risk of falling foul of the exemption within the legislation. Mr Baynham
said if the matter went to court and the case was lost then that would be the end of the matter and the gates would
be open to allow the public free access. Mr Hay (10 Moray Place) strongly objected to the proposed resolution. He
felt there was no good reason to cease outside subscribers, they contributed £10,000 income to the feu and the
proposal amounted to treating existing outside subscribers as second class citizens within the feu. Mr Hay felt it
was essential the feu maintained a friendly public face so it was not viewed as elitist and stuck up, only for the
privileged few. He expressed concern a future left wing government may even force the gardens to be open to the
public. Mrs Hay (10 Moray Place) supported her husband’s view and referred to recent press articles and current
public opinion all moving towards increased openness and less exclusivity. Mr Henderson supported Mr Baynham’s
comments adding when the Committee drafted the Risk Register this was the highest risk on it. He reminded feuars
of comments made a year ago by two prominent politicians that the gardens should be opened to the public. The
Law currently protects us but only if the feu meets private garden status. If removing outside subscribers reduces
the risk then he believed it was the sensible approach to take. Dr A Waring (2 Ainslie Place) suggested making the
gardens more available to the public at different times of year. Mrs J Ashworth (12 Ainslie Place) had listened to
the various arguments but supported the Committee for the reasons given. Mrs G Raab (10 Ainslie Place) asked Mr
Henderson about the risks and if legal opinion had been taken? Mr Baynham said formal legal opinion had not been
taken, but his view was outside subscribers did present a risk to private garden status. There was no legal precedent
and no other cases. Mr Loudon (13 Moray Place) said in his profession his firm had looked at the legislation and
were aware of a number of private spaces now encountering problems so he supported Mr Baynham’s
interpretation of the law. He agreed capping numbers may suffice and was a proportionate response at this time.
He noted a number of similar gardens do not allow outside subscribers at all, he see’s the risk as real so supports
the Committee’s view. Mr C Rasb (10 Ainslie Place) disagreed and was not satisfied with the reasons given required
such action. He thought formal legal opinion should be obtained, ideally at no cost from a feuar with the appropriate
legal expertise.
After much debate Dr Vail Barker brought the discussion to an end, summarising the position and views of various
feuars. She moved to a vote. 26 in favour, 7 against and 1 abstentions. The resolution was therefore passed.
Election of members


Dr Vail Barker explained there were three current member of the Committee standing for re-election and three
new members being propose. She introduced proposed new member Frances Dobson to the meeting, noting
Felicity Griffiths and Ken Dixon had sent their apologies. Dr Vail Barker added biographies of each new proposed
member had been posted on the Moray Place Notice Board for the last week.
Existing members standing for re-election:-
Michael Baynham, 18/1 Moray Place
Proposed: Joan Hay, 10 Moray Place
Seconded: Bridget Cameron, 17 Moray Place
Gregor Henderson, 5 Great Stuart Street
Proposed: Lesley Suriven, 5/3 Great Stuart Street
Seconded: Andrew Dobson, 9/3 Doune Terrace
Blair Finlay, 14 Randolph Crescent
Proposed: Fiona Young, 49 Moray Place
Seconded: Kate Hayes, 14/1 Randolph Crescent
New members proposed for election:-
Felicity Griffiths, 42/2 Moray Place
Proposed: Morven Cooke, 40 Moray Place
Seconded: Susie Forrest, 14A Moray Place
Frances Dobson, 9/3 Doune Terrace
Proposed: Michael Baynham, 18/1 Moray Place
Seconded: Sheena Henderson, 5/2 Great Stuart Street
Ken Dixon, 2/f, 6, Moray Place
Proposed: Lucy Foulds, Garden Flat, 6 Moray Place
Seconded: David Clarke, 25a Moray Place
All appointments were approved en bloc.
Assessments
Dr Vail Barker explained that the assessments proposed were based on a forecast for 2021/2022 prepared by the
Committee as part of the longer term 7 year Maintenance Plan. VAT advise had been taken that initially indicated
it would be favourable to deregister for VAT, however, once this had been fully analysed by the Committee they
concluded there were various reasons why deregistration was not practical. Proposed assessment rates are
therefore presented in line with previous years to be VAT inclusive. Higher expenditure is expected in the years
ahead so increases are proposed, namely the Front garden rate increasing by 1.25p to 8.7p per £ of 1989 rateable
value, that the Bank gardens be increased 1.1p to 7.68p, Randolph Crescent increased by £115 to £150 per property,
Outside Subscribers increased by £49 to £276 per property with the annual dog subscription fee and Bike Shed fee
both unchanged at £34.50 and £50 respectively.
There were no questions so the proposed assessment rates were adopted, proposed by Mr B Luther (34 Moray
Place) and seconded by Mr R Loudon (13 Moray Place).
Re-appointment of Secretaries and Treasurers
Re-appointment of Whitelaw Wells was proposed by Mrs V Glynn (7A Moray Place), seconded by Mrs P Currie (13
Moray Place) and approved by all.
Any other business
Mr B Luther (34 Moray Place) asked if the Committee had reviewed the Secretaries fee as he had noted it had
increased by around 20% in recent years. He felt the Committee should test the market to ensure the Feu was still
receiving best value for money. Mr Baynham replied shortly after he was appointed to the Committee he had been
asked to review the Secretaries work to ensure best value for money was being received. He said the accounts
represent only a tiny fraction of the work the Secretaries do, as the volume of other work is huge. He noted the fee
actually charged was a significant discount on the Secretaries costs with recent fee increases only reducing this gap
slightly as the volume of work the Secretaries were being asked to do had also increased. It was valuable to feuars
that the Secretaries had an office within the feu so were accessible to all feuars. He concluded, therefore, the fee
did represent excellent value for money. Mr Dixon agree, adding he was surprised just how much work was involved
following his appointment to the Committee last year.
Dr Vail Barker summarised the current position in relation to gull proof bags and communal waste hubs as she has
been participating in a working group on the issue, and which had just recently begun to create campaign strategies,
including a flyer that will be distributed throughout the Feu. The committee is convened under the auspices of The
New Town and Broughton Community Council, and the Committee has held a listening brief there for some while.
This Committee has authority only to make decisions regarding garden maintenance and a practice to share
information; It has no mandate to campaign in the name of the feuars. The City of Edinburgh Council’s proposed
consultation with residents scheduled for December 2020 did not happened as proposed with the Council moving
straight to a vote on gull proof bags. Mr D Clarke (25 Moray Place) said his main objection is the failure of governance
within the Council which allowed a vote to be taken without the appropriate consultation having taken place. Dr Vail
Barker encouraged feuars who felt strongly about the matter to set up a group and register their interest with the
Council. Dr Keeling (9 Forres Street) felt the Committee could have done more and should have communicated more
widely with feuars on the matter. Dr. Vail did point out that there was a paragraph in the recent newsletter about the
CEC votes, and that there had been threads about this on the private Moray Feu Facebook page. She promised to
deliver a paper to the feaurs within a week that would describe the issue and the Committee’s participation and
position.
Ms C Kingston (25 Moray Place) wanted to make a brief point that the feu must be more child friendly. She was
alarmed with the communications over the winter prohibiting children from building snowmen during the period of
heavy snow. Dr Vail Barker acknowledged there should be a way to allow children to enjoy the snow in the gardens
but still protect the grass.
Ms G Durham (11 Forres Street) asked that the Committee examine the legal structure of the Feu to see if being an
Amenity Association was an option that could be put forward at the next AGM. She added she felt the increase in
cost to hire the awning from £30 to £60 was excessive. Mr Baynham replied the cost barely covers the gardeners
time to put up then take down the awning.
Dr Vail Barker concluded the meeting with a vote of thanks to all of the Committee members, our wonderful
gardeners, the Secretaries and all volunteers who have given their time over the last year in whatever capacity. Ms G
Durham (11 Forres Street) proposed a vote of thanks to the Chair and the Gardeners after which the meeting formally
closed.