21st January 2020

Chairman Report from The Common Hall 13.1.20

COMMON HALL OF NORWICH FREEMEN 2020

NTCEC & FC Chairman’s Report

As Chairman, I am delighted to report on the affairs of the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity for the last five years.

As you all know, the Freemen’s Committee is charged with the responsibility of managing all the affairs of the Freemen. As Michael has just said, the Freemen’s Committee also advises the 8 representative trustees of the Town Close Estate Charity on their views as to the distribution of grant monies. The trustee body is made up of 16 trustees, 8 representative Freemen trustees and 8 trustees appointed by the Norwich Consolidated Charity. It is this body alone that is responsible for all matters to do with the operation, management and governance of the assets of the charity.

Asset Position

During the last five years, there has been a steady increase in the net asset value of the charity, and it remains in a very healthy position.

Asset position          
    2018/19 2017/18 2016/17 2015/16 2014/15
    £’000 £’000 £’000 £’000 £’000
 

Investment properties

14,689 15,189 13,080 14,872 13,715
Quoted Investments 10,659 10,487 11,670 8,807            9,431
Fixed assets   173 178 182 186 190
Current assets 1,154 462 836 668 699
Creditors   (419) (539) (537) (555) (663)
Net Assets    

26,256

25,777 25,231 23,978 23,372
           

 

The asset value for the year 20014/15 was £23.3 million rose to £26.2 million in 2018/19, a rise of 12%, being 1% better than over the previous five year period.

The Trustees and our investment advisors are looking at the challenges and opportunities following the result of the December 2019 election but as ever are keeping our investment strategy under regular review.

Current and Future Beneficiaries

It is only by maintaining the long-term investment performance of our asset base that we can protect and conserve our capital base and so earn sufficient income to meet the needs of the current Freemen and their dependents together with the needs of those of future beneficiaries.

The charity makes payments to beneficiaries under the following categories: Pensions, EducationalGrants to Freemen and their children by way of fees and maintenance, Doughty’s Hospital Residential Maintenance, Grants for Relief in Need and Grants to Other Bodies. The detailed figures set out below in total over the five-year period highlight what has been achieved and how the amounts have changed to meet changing demands.

 

Summary 5 years to % 5 years to %
2019 2014
£’000 £’000
Pensions (incl TV Licences) 456 12 525 23
Education 391 11 368 16
Relief in Need 67  2    29   1
Other Bodies 2,800 75          1,408 60
Total 3,714 100 2,330 100

In the five years to the 31st March 2019, the total amount of grants paid out was £3,714,000, a 60% increase over the previous five-year period. Each year though the level of grant remains at or around 2.9% to 3.0% of the Net Assets of the charity. The strength of our asset base allows us to keep under pro-active review our grant-giving criteria, methodology and process, something which all trustees are keen to do.

The Freemen’s Apprenticeship Scheme outlined at the previous Common Hall in 2015 was overtaken by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy scheme and did not, therefore, take place. However, Trustees are evaluating new ways in which both our Freemen beneficiaries and those benefitting from grants made to Other Bodies can enable us to develop better ways in which we can make a structural difference within our area of benefit.

There are currently 93 pensioners receiving £20.00 per week – the maximum amount permitted without causing their loss of state benefits. Educational grants provide a considerable number of Freeman and their children with help to pay school, college or university fees or to provide assistance with vocational training fees and equipment. Currently there are no Freemen or their dependents residing in Doughty’s Hospital. As in previous years, large bills for the replacement of essential items can often prove very worrying for pensioners and the Trustees have been able to help with a number of one-off payments for ‘Relief in Need’.

Grants to Other Bodies

The largest category of expenditure remains the support the TCE provides for the people of Norwich and Norfolk. Included within this figure are substantial grants to the Norfolk Museums Service for their Medieval Project to restore the Castle Keep and the establishment of the Freemen Free Days at the Museum of Norwich and Strangers Hall, The Anglican Cathedral Music Appeal to renew the organ and support the choirs, the Theatre Royal’s development of their new Education and Skills Centre, the new educational spaces at the Writers Centre and The Hebrew Congregation Hall, the educational and support facilities at The Garage, East Anglia Children’s Hospice, Priscilla Bacon Lodge and the heritage refurbishment at Cinema City.

These one-off and large projects are infrequent leaving the bulk of our funds available for the support of music and drama in schools, youth employment, and other heritage and educational initiatives/projects such as the CreateNorwich initiative, the Norwich & Norfolk Festival, and the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. One of these initiatives is to complete the digitisation of the Old Free Book and Freemen Registers so that everyone can have free access to the database showing all the Freemen since 1317. This has already resulted in widespread interest from academics as well as families of Freemen keen to study their own genealogy. These and many other projects have generated a new enthusiasm amongst the Freemen for the work of their valuable charity.

Trustees

At today’s Common Hall the newly elected members of the Freemen’s Committee and their chosen Representative Trustees are to be confirmed in office for the next 5 years.

Thanks are due – None of all this happens without a great deal of work

As you will know, the management of the Town Close Estate Charity (TCE) Charity is contracted out to the Norwich Charitable Trusts organisation lead by David Hynes and supported by Becky Bird – Head of Finance and Vanessa Soer as our appointed Grants Officer. The team is based at the Norwich Charities office at Woolgate Court in St. Benedict’s. Our Steward, Mr Nick Saffell of Brown & Co, takes responsibility for managing our directly held property investments and Sarasins Investment Managers are responsible for the management of our other investments. We owe them all a considerable debt of gratitude as they continue to manage our affairs with great care and professionalism.

Conclusion

As you will see from these reports, the charity is a robust and focused organisation with an eye very much on the future. It is looking at devising even better ways to deliver significant change across all our areas of endeavour. All the Trustees are proud to serve because the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity with its depth of resources, its grant-making capacity and its freedom to act solely for the people of Norwich and Norfolk, can often take a lead and so make a significant difference.

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