The Masonic Halls Seminar 2019

The 2019 Seminar was held at Preston Masonic Hall with over 50 delegates in attendance. The event was supported by the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison accompanied by Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Stuart Seddon and Keith Kemp.

Tony welcomes the delegates to the seminar.

Tony welcomes the delegates to the seminar.

The proceedings were opened by the Vice Chairman of the Masonic Halls Committee, John Hutton, who began by thanking Tony Harrison for his support for this important event for Masonic halls. He recognised that Tony’s busy schedule meant he would not be able to remain until the conclusion of the event.

In turn, Tony responded by thanking John for his kind invitation saying it was a pleasure to be present and to be able to welcome everyone to what he was sure would be an interesting and informative occasion.

The first presentation, ‘Your Business Rates’ was given by Michael Williams. After giving a brief introduction to rateable values, Michael described how masonic halls are assessed and where the base rate value is reduced for certain areas of the building.

He went on to describe factors that affect valuations and gave a typical example of the valuation process when applied to masonic halls. Michael continued by describing the appeals procedure, including some cautionary notes, and concluded by giving examples of the various reliefs that, should the hall qualify, be applied. Click here to download Mike Williams Powerpoint slides

The second presentation, ‘From disaster to recovery of a hall’ was given by Paul Heathcote. Paul explained his actions in returning Eccles Masonic Hall from the brink of closure to profitability or, in his words: “The Eccles Masonic Hall Story.”

Paul began his presentation with a short history of the hall before giving an appreciation of the alarming financial situation facing the hall in 2017. It was a situation that demanded an immediate positive plan for recovery, if the prospect of the inevitable closure was to be avoided.

Moving on to his plan Paul went through the various steps he initially proposed to strengthen the income flow of the hall. This he did by segregation of duties within the hall and the production of a marketing plan slanted to bring income into the hall on a short timescale. Concentration was placed on reducing the hall outgoings by implementing zero hours contracts where applicable, renting out the hall flat and applying economies of scale with regards to payments. Refinement of the the plan included improvements to the communication system to make sure enquiries and calls were not missed and further cost savings in the form of investigating where charitable status could be gained among others. He continued by describing the inventory systems introduced to highlight stock levels etc.

As proof of the effectiveness of the measures taken, Paul compared the systems in place in 2017 with the revised arrangements introduced in 2019. Focusing on the effects of the changes, the income and expenditure accounts for 2017 and 2019 were compared to amply demonstrate the positive gains that had been made. Paul concluded his presentation by listing the factors he considered critical to achieving success. Click here to download Paul Heathcote Powerpoint slides

There followed a welcome coffee break to recharge the batteries and allow the delegates to discuss amongst themselves the information so far presented.

The second half of the seminar commenced with the third presentation given by John Hutton, entitled, ‘Why do we in West Lancashire need our halls to complete a review form?’

The delegates listening and making notes.

The delegates listening and making notes.

John opened by explaining the objectives of the review form and the reasons for its existence. He was conscious of the fact that some hall’s management teams may have considered some of the requested information to be private to their hall. He went on to assure everyone that such information contained in the returned forms would always be treated as strictly confidential and would not be divulged to third parties. The forms are to be assessed by the previous speaker, Paul Heathcote, who would apply his expertise to assessing possible additional ways halls could specifically enhance their current management methods.

Turning to the halls committee itself, John explained its objectives are to encourage better hall management and, among other things, make available all the available expertise and experience around the Province. He went on to give a brief history and achievements of the committee since its inception in around 2000.

He concluded by asking the questions: Can we work together to improve successful Halls and meeting places in our Province? and Can we leave a success story behind us and pass on a successful management team to the next generation of Halls management? Click here to download John Huttons Powerpoint slides

The final presentation, ‘Regulatory Compliance in Commercial Premises.’ was presented by Anthony Smith. Anthony began by explaining the terms, statutory building compliance, commercial property compliance and Health and Safety legislation.

He covered the critical compliance areas from fire through to gas and water and on to asbestos and air conditioning. In each of the seven areas being considered, he informed the attendees of what was required from them with regards to documentation and the necessary practical actions to comply with the regulations. Andrew also mentioned other areas of compliance, including access control and insurance regulations that may or may not be applicable to Masonic halls.

He concluded his presentation with the scenario ‘What to do next?’ and introduced an example of a Compliance Audit Template. The template was in the form of an excel spreadsheet that had been used to tabulate all the required compliance information. He also appended a list of reference guides on where to obtain further information. Click here to download Anthony Smiths Powerpoint slides and the Compliance Audit Template

Although there had been a question and answer session at the end of the individual presentations, there followed a further question and answer session encompassing the whole of the seminar.

At its conclusion, with Tony having to dash off to his next engagement, Barry Jameson thanked the presenters for their admirable contributions to the seminar and all the delegates for their attendance and attention. He felt sure that the seminar had been an informative occasion, providing not only reassurance for progress already made but ‘further food for thought.’

In closing the seminar, Barry reminded those, who had made an earlier booking, that an enjoyable buffet was available, having been admirably prepared by the hall chef, Alistair and his catering team.

Story and pictures by Phil Cragg, Provincial Masonic Halls Committee Secretary