Thursday, 23 November 2017

Over-60s social club faces £5,000 funding shortfall

THE Henley 60+ Social Club is running at a loss.

Treasurer Sue Bishop says it has a shortfall of about £5,000 in its budget this year but is just “keeping its head above water” thanks to grants and other donations.

The club, which is based in Greys Road car park, was founded in 1971 and has more than 100 members who each pay a membership fee of £15 a year.

It opens every weekday from 10am to 4pm and it holds activities such as bingo and computer lessons and arranges outings.

A key part of their offering is lunch three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which the club makes sure is “affordable”.

It is also supported by the Henley Handybus charity which picks up and drops off members at the club.

Mrs Bishop, who has been in the role about a year, spoke about the budget at last Tuesday’s (June 4) town council finance strategy and management committee meeting.

The town council owns the building and pays an annual grant of £10,000 towards its running costs.

Mrs Bishop said: “In terms of finances, we have the building, yes, but our major running cost is staff, about £36,000. That’s for the managers, chef and cleaner.

“Our utilities are about £6,000 a year and the rest, about £6,000, is in administration, telephone and internet and any repairs and decoration which we are responsible for.”

In addition to the town council grant, investment income brings in about £10,000, although this is down on the £20,000 it used to receive in 2008 before rates fell.

Businesses, such as Jewsons, Stuart Turner, the Henley Festival and the Henley Standard also support the club, which also holds events and can be hired out.

Mrs Bishop says the club keeps its prices low so as to not price out its members.

She said: “Our members often comment that this is their lifeline and they do not know what they will do without us.

“We try to pitch the cost of our lunch so it is affordable and so it covers the cost of the food and the chef. If we are lucky we get a surplus of £500 but that may go on a new dishwasher if that needs repairing.

“We have a small contribution from the hairdressing salon and we have social activities that make small profits and a small amount of income is used by people that come in out of hours, such as a bridge club which comes in.

“All of our social events are either self-financing or funded by donations and it is difficult for them to break even but we have been lucky to have some money from the Henley Festival and the Tony Lane Foundation to put on teas. If we do have to charge for things it is not very much.”

Mrs Bishop says it has been “very difficult” to break even over the last three or four years and so they have applied for grants. “We have had limited success but we have been able to keep our heads above water,” she said.

“We are always looking at what other groups could use our facilities but we wouldn’t want teenagers’ parties in there because we don’t want anything which could put wear and tear on the facilities. We have to be careful.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann described the club as a “thriving” and “valuable” service before asking what the club thought about the council’s pledge to replace the building to safeguard its long-term future.

Mrs Bishop replied: “The main fear is if we were to have a redevelopment, particularly at that site, as we consider the site to be of logistical importance. People can come into town on the bus and it is a short walk.

“If the site was redeveloped then we would have to relocate for a temporary period and if we were not based so centrally it could be the death of the club because members would not be able to attend as that period would be at least a year or two years.

“The building is old and not insulated well but it is comfortable and it is kept in good order. We don’t have any problems with it.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier suggested introducing a tiered membership so that the younger members pay more and the older ones less.

Mrs Bishop replied saying the club is looking at introducing new activities to appeal to the 60+ group rather than the 80+ age group.

“The activities going on at the moment have been going on for years,” she said. “There are other periods of the week where the centre isn’t quite so full and attracts new members.”

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