An exciting new course we will be offering at Highfields Centre from September 2016. Certificate in Social Welfare Advice and Guidance (Level 4, Certificate of Higher Education, University of Leicester.
An exciting new course we will be offering at Highfields Centre from September 2016. Certificate in Social Welfare Advice and Guidance (Level 4, Certificate of Higher Education, University of Leicester.
28th September 2016
Annual General Meeting: Highfields Community Association, 5.30pm, Friday 14th October 2016
You are warmly invited to HCA’s 2016 Annual General Meeting.
(available at the AGM).
The HCA Board (Governing Body) recommends that the current auditors (Watergates Ltd) be appointed for the forthcoming year.
The AGM will be followed by our two guest speakers, Professor Gus John (International Consultant & Executive Coach) and Cathy Stancer (Director, Equalities and Rights, Lankelly Chase), with the former speaking to his soon to be published report on Leicester City Council’s relationship with HCA over the last 25 years and the latter speaking about Lankelly Chase’s work in supporting multiple and severely disadvantaged communities.
As a member of HCA and if you are unable to attend the AGM, you are entitled to appoint a proxy to
exercise all or any of your rights to attend, speak and vote at the meeting. Notes about proxies and a
proxy form and notes to the form are enclosed. You can only appoint a proxy using the procedures set out in the notes. Proxy forms must be returned by 12 noon on Wednesday 12th October 2016.
Individual Members’ representatives
Individual members may, on the night, elect from amongst themselves up to one quarter the number of affiliated groups to go forward to the HCA Board (Governing Body).
Appointment of Directors
HCA’s current Board (Governing Body) comprises of the following people:
– Iris Lightfoote – HCA Interim Chair – The Race Equality Centre
– Esmail Esmail – HCA Treasurer – Individual
– Tirathpal Naute – HCA Secretary – Shanti Group
– Sil Jeffers – Viking International
– Rafique Patel – Highfields Business Association
– Sumiyha Ravat – Individual (co-optee)
– Andrew Walton – Individual (co-optee)
– Priya Thamotheram – Company Secretary
HCA’s constitution requires that (up to) four of the Directors stand down at the AGM each year (on completion of their 3 year term), with those longest in office retiring first and the choice between any of equal service being made by drawing lots but since none of the existing directors have served their 3 year term, none of them will be standing down this year. However, there are vacancies for new directors (see below).
HCA is now seeking nominations for elected Directors to fill the vacancies.
All full members of HCA (of 12 months’ standing) can stand for election – if you are unsure whether your organisation is a full member, please contact Pat Gardner on 0116 253 1053 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to stand or to nominate someone from your organisation, then please complete the
enclosed nomination form. All nominees must, at the time of the election, be employees, trustees or
management committee members of full member organisations or they can also be Individual Member representatives on the Board. Voting will take place at the AGM.
Nominations for the Elected Director vacancies must reach HCA in writing by 12 noon on Wednesday 12th October 2016. Please email the completed form to email@example.com and send a signed hardcopy to HCA, 96 Melbourne Road, Leicester, LE2 0DS marked for the attention of Pat Gardner.
The Board is keen to continue to improve balance in terms of age, ethnic background, disability and professional skills. We are therefore particularly keen to encourage applications from younger people, people with disabilities, people from White/Irish/Eastern European/African communities and people who have professional skills in higher/further education, human resources, finance and marketing.
Directors of HCA are company directors and also trustees of the charity and are normally elected for a period of three years. The Board meets six times a year and it also undertakes at least one strategic review which is combined with a Board meeting. In addition, Directors are invited to join Committees or working groups which reflect their particular area of skill or interest, and may be asked to undertake occasional meetings or speaking engagements on behalf of HCA.
If you would like to discuss the role of Trustee/Director at HCA or would like further information,
please contact me, Priya Thamotheram, Company Secretary and Senior Joint Head of Centre on 0116 253 1053.
Please complete and return the attached affiliation form, together with the affiliation fee by 12 noon on Wednesday 12th October 2016.
We look forward to seeing you at the AGM
Company Secretary and Senior Joint Head of Centre.
The Highfields Users Campaign meeting will be held at 5.30pm on Tuesday 8th September 2015 in the Balunda Lounge at Highfields Centre.
Attached is a copy of the paper that was presented at last week’s Scrutiny meeting, as well as two photos taken shortly before that meeting.
The Fifth Highfields Festival took place on Saturday 15th August between 12 noon and 6pm. Over 2,000 people attended a fun packed Festival. Highfields Centre had taken the lead in pulling together partner agencies from across the area to put on this major Festival.
The Festival was formally opened by Cllr Abdul Osman (Assistant Mayor and HCA Governing Body).
The community fair with over 40 stalls and the Children’s, Arts and Sports’ zones all proved to be major attractions, with the highlight being the music entertainment from the main outdoor stage which incorporated the Festival’s theme of Celebrating Diversity and Unity in the Community. Scintillating performances from Tanni Browne, Durgesh Parmar’s Indo-Fusion Band, Dreamettes, Zimbabwean Choir and Red Stripe were well supported by local young artists who enthralled the packed audience and it featured the cream of Leicester’s local young artists.
Some comments from this year’s Festival attendees:
‘It’s been fantastic, just can’t believe we’ve been able to get all the different communities together in one place!’
‘It’s really well organised and in comparison to last year, there’s so many more people here!’
‘Lots of fun activities for whole families to get stuck in to’
‘Yes, what a fantastic day. Really enjoyed it & it takes a lot for me to enjoy something let me tell you.’
‘Prices good and affordable, welcoming for all ages.’
‘Wonderful atmosphere of togetherness.’
‘Thank you to all the staff at the Highfields Centre for a wonderful festival.’
‘What a great day had a lovely time. Can’t wait for next year.’
‘Highfields Festival was massive, the best festival ever, looking forward to next year.’
For further Information: Please contact: Priya Thamotheram/Jay Patel 0116 253 1053
Mayor Soulsby states “It is a strange call in and there is absolutely no prospect whatsoever of me changing my mind on this.” Local councillors’ concern about the impact of his actions on the poorest part of the poorest city in the UK is being brazenly dismissed ahead of any reasoned consideration at the forthcoming Scrutiny meeting. Indeed and before the call-in is heard, teams of city council officers have continued to proceed with removing its services from Highfields Centre
We have said previously that “It’s deeply worrying that a centre of excellence such as the Highfields Centre can be subjected to the city mayor’s autocratic whims, without any democratic and reasoned scrutiny of his actions. We hope that exposure of his practice to a wider audience will, at the very least, lead to a more reasoned outcome.”
Priya Thamotheram (Head of Centre) said: “Whilst the city mayor’s depiction of HCA as a failed agency is disingenuously manufactured and it’s contrary to all known and objective facts, figures and national awards, it is clear that he is prepared to ignore the democratic scrutiny process of his decision. This is a deeply worrying practice which has potential implications for other agencies engaged in this city’s civic life. Indeed, in his quest to diminish HCA, there appears to be no thought given to the victimisation of the wider Highfields community.”
Furzana Khalifa (ex-HCA Chair) said: “Yesterday’s press article reveals the city mayor’s completely dismissive attitude to the call-in, prior to the arguments being considered at the Scrutiny meeting. These actions have placed our service users, staff and the wider Leicester community in a very invidious position.”
The Scrutiny meeting is being held at 5.30pm at City Hall (Charles Street) on Thursday 13th August and if you’re concerned about good governance in this city, we hope to see you at that meeting.
Note to editors
|Priya Thamotheram||Head of Highfields Centre||0116 253 1053|
|Furzana Khalifa||HCA Staff Representative||0116 253 1053|
Dear Friend / Colleague,
In response to some of the city mayor’s further claims in his radio interview with Jim Davis, we’ve set out below some factual points which will hopefully provide an even better understanding of the challenges the Association and the wider Highfields community is facing:
Why have you ceased the funding?
Sir Peter Soulsby (SPS)
The Council gave them the building about 5 years ago.
No, as the then Leicester South MP proclaimed, it was HCA that drew down the £5m funding to redevelop the old Highfields Youth and Community Centre into the new Highfields Centre!
I gave up on them about 12 months ago but council officers have continued to try and help them to help themselves and try to work with them, first of all to demonstrate what on earth they’re doing with the money but also, to plan sensibly for the future.
SPS wrote to HCA’s Chair on 10/12/14 stating “As this (ie. pension) now appears to be the only remaining issue, I urge you to provide this information to our legal team in order to avoid further delay.”
He was clearly being very economical with the truth, as he now confirms he had given up on us some 12 months ago.
Moreover and since that time, SPS has apparently intervened to stop LCC officers meeting with us on not only on the funding contractual issues but also the wider Highfields area issues and developments, resulting in there being no meeting with Council officers and further victimising Highfields residents.
It seems to me from what Priya was saying and from our reporter’s visit there yesterday, the Centre is well used but you’re saying it’s significantly underused?
……………they are relying very heavily on the council, not just providing them £300,000 a year to fund their staff but also be expected to rent their space for another £100,000 a year, so over £400,000 a year going in for very little coming out.
HCA has not only exceeded the city council related contractual targets but also, it has done so in relation to all of the other non-city council contracts over the last 4 years!
Providing us with less than 24 hours to agree a viable rental agreement is not good practice and it needed to include a contribution towards the service charges incurred at this Centre. Moreover, the city mayor’s cancellation of the only face-to-face meeting with Council officers to discuss the new arrangement was hardly helpful!
Our recent cost benefit analysis demonstrates the significant return and benefit that HCA is providing for the community and the city as a whole. Using the HM Treasury model and incorporating a Service Level Agreement cost to LCC of around £131,000 pa (2015-16), showed that there is a direct financial benefit to the public sector of around £4 for each £1 spent at Highfields Centre.
It also showed the wider economic benefits from HCA activity and this included the benefits to the local economy beyond the savings to the public sector. The overall economic public return on investment is £10 for each £1 spent at Highfields Centre.
The latest row seems to centre around the time frame over which you’ve given them to come up with a decent business plan? They’re saying they’re not simply well staffed enough to do that
…I’ve been in discussion with them almost since the day I was elected, trying to help them to help themselves…………
SPS’ first attendance here following his 2011 city mayoral election was to renege on the Council’s legally binding commitment to make good the building design faults identified at the time of the community governance transfer.
His subsequent intervention in November 2013 was to publicly broadcast we had failed in our quest for economic independence and to-date, he has refused to provide any documentation for his fictitious claim.
………….what you’ve got there and I have said it several times now, it’s the most difficult community group I have ever had the experience of working with.
Yes, we do challenge the monopolistic public sector agencies (Health, Government Office, Electoral Commission, etc) when they fail to discharge their duties to disadvantaged communities and divert monies provided for such communities to their ‘pet’ projects and developments.
Speaking truth to power is now widely regarded as a desirable objective for both local and national voluntary and community sector agencies but it seems our challenge to his decisions based on false and secret Council reports is not welcomed!
We’ve also got a hugely valuable asset to the community, well-loved and arguably well used
And scandalously under used and it really is
Nearly 400,000 users attended the Centre during the last four years (2011–2014)
In 2014, HCA sessions were attended by over 67,500 people and LCC sessions were attended by about 13,700 people
In 2014, HCA provided 3,878 arts, sports, advice and community sessions whilst the LCC managed services provided 1328 sessions.
They dispute that, they say 400,000 users
I’ve seen the building numerous times and I’ve seen the absence of people using it and also seen the fact and heard the fact that local people say “what do they do there?” “What happens there in this great big building, it’s not for us.”
Our most recent user survey identified the following:
91% said HC’s services were excellent to good, across a range of different features
98% said they would continue to use HC services
97% said they would recommend HC services to their friends, family, etc.
Our users’ major concern over the last few years has been about the absence of a responsive youth service and until last year, responsibility for this service rested with the Council.
They accuse you of a premeditated campaign to close them down
If it’s premeditated Jim, it’s taken four years to get to it, it really has. I’ve given them loads of support as a Mayor, previously as a MP and before that as a councillor for that area. I know the building well and I know its potential and I know its importance to the local people and I want to see it used by the local people and available for them
In January 2011 and as the local MP, SPS said “The Big Society doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists as community governance here (ie. Highfields Centre) I hope will prosper, it exists with support, with resources, with practical help, with a climate, a culture that gives the support that’s needed from the local council and in our case, the city council and other public agencies and there’s many that serve the Highfields area. They must all work together to make community governance and the independence of this Centre, something that sees itself continue to prosper, see it continue to be at the heart of the community , sees it continue to serve the community in the future as it has done in the past.”
Suffice to say his commitment did not transfer into any supportive actions once he was elected as the city mayor and the pace of his negative actions increased steadily from 2013 to the current desperate distortions!
They say they’ve been trying to meet with you but you haven’t been available?
It is true about 12months a ago, I gave up on them, I mean I really did
Our numerous offers to meet with him since January 2015 have been completely ignored!
But that doesn’t sound like you’re really opening the channel for communication?
Jim, I had three years face to face meetings with them and visited the centre
Since his initial election as the city mayor and following his now infamous public outburst in November 2013, we have had 6 meetings with him (including his attendance here in May 2014 to ‘re-acquaint himself with the Centre’s layout’), with the last one being in October 2014.
No other meetings before or since have been held.
But they’ve been trying more recently to meet your demands?
You say “them” but actually what you’ve got there is a Manager and a handful of people around him and that’s it. They’re not in any sense representative of the community that they are supposed to be serving and I want to bring it back into service for that community
This winning combination of a team of well established, experienced, knowledgeable and trusted staff at all levels of the Association’s service delivery and governing body, together with the widespread local recognition that many members of that team have been drawn from the local area makes it best and uniquely placed to help local people achieve a material and positive difference to their lives, as individuals, families and communities.
This unique blend is not readily found in Leicester, with last year’s HCA staff comprising of 60% Asian, 26% African/Caribbean, 8% White and 6% Other and reflected in its people usage pattern, with 76% Asian, 14% African/Caribbean, 3% White and 7% Other.
And it certainly is not found at the Council, with a wholly white chief officer team, over 4 years after his initial election as city mayor!
What about this issue of building up reserves, you’ve criticised them for that but they say that’s something the council do, it’s a decent business proposal?
Perfectly realistic for them to have reserves of course it is but £600,000 for a community group, with that sort of money in the bank. It’s not money that’s come from the public, it’s come through the council and it’s not their own money and it’s sitting there. It does mean of course that the final decision I’ve taken to say “that’s it, no more” doesn’t mean it’s going to close tomorrow. It does mean that it’s not a crisis. There is time for them to plan for the future and to return to some sensible discussions.
HCA’s reserves is largely designated, with £250,000 for the main hall and sports hall related work, £40,000 for programme support work and the balance providing the recommended six months operational costs.
This compares with over £50 million salted away in the Council’s reserves by the city mayor, including £250,000 for lighting up some city centre buildings and which he termed a comparatively modest sum in the latter part of his radio interview!
What is next then? I mean in terms of the city council’s involvement, are you washing your hands or at least guide them and assist them through this stage of transition?
The building is not going anywhere. It is there, it’s at the heart of the community and it deserves to be used by the community and I look forward to working towards the day where it can again be an asset to the community not a liability to the public.
We do not underestimate the challenge we face but in the spirit of our well established and battle hardened motto of ‘Be vigilant but move forwards!’ and for all our service users and especially those who have acknowledged the decades of our dedication and commitment to not only the people in Highfields but also the wider Leicester people, we will continue to do so to ensure the disadvantaged communities are provided with the much-needed and quality services that it deserves.
But you’ve walked away?
What I’ve said is no more blank cheques, what I’ve said is no more fat slugs of public money and I think what the overwhelming reaction has been from colleagues and from the public “it’s about time too”
See above response point 1.
Ultimately though, they’re going to have work incredibly hard to fund raise to keep this centre open as it is?
But that is what they set out to do. When they got community governance, they said they were going to be self-sustaining. Now, they had three years of very generous funding and during that period they made no progress what so ever. They expected us to write them the same big cheque year after year after year. No apparent progress at all towards self sustainability
See above response points 2 and 4.
Couldn’t you at least find a way to scale that down?
That’s exactly what we are trying to do for the last couple of years. They were offered £200,000 last year and instead of actually taking the money and building for the future, they started quibbling about the fact we put some reasonable condition on it
In April 2014, we provided SPS with a four year business plan in which we identified a tapering of the Council’s funding at this Centre.
We did raise concerns about SPS’ unilateral inclusion of contractual conditions which were not being required of other equivalent agencies the Council funded but in January 2015, we agreed to sign the contract, albeit under duress.
Members of the community will think you have turned your back on them?
I haven’t turned my back. I mean it’s very evident that I haven’t. I’ve spent all this time with them, I’ve offered them money last year which they haven’t taken up and we’ve tried to work with them in all sorts…….We have tried to work together.
See above response point 8.
It feels brutal though and that’s the point, it feels brutal?
Actually, wasting as they did £80,000 of public money, pulling their staff out of the pension scheme and having to pay the compensation for it, grossly irresponsibly. If I kept on writing the cheques, people will rightly say what on earth are you doing, what on earth are you giving them public money to continue to under use this public asset and to make such a mess of public finance.
Given SPS’ decision to slash our Council funding contracts by over 50% last year, our trustees (fully supported by our staff) agreed to effect the necessary cost cutting measures, including withdrawal from the increasingly expensive local government pension scheme and instead, set up a new pension scheme in line with the statutory requirement for a pension scheme for all employees.
Any sensible observer would be applauding our economically prudent approach at a time when we were faced with a massive £315,000 cut in the Council’s funding, especially when it resulted in only one part time employee being made redundant and ensuring all remaining staff benefitted from the new company pension scheme.
Dear Friend / Colleague,
Our previous communication hopefully provided a better understanding of the current challenges the Association and the wider Highfields community is facing.
Since then, there has been further media coverage of this issue in the Leicester Mercury and Radio Leicester – you can hear their interview with me and some Centre users via this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02x7844 …
and by dragging the cursor to 01.08.31 to 01.13.10 and the city mayor’s interview at 02.08.10 to 02.15.23.