Community Share Launch
The George Small Business Hub – Homeworkers Survey
WORKING FROM HOME? WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been working hard to raise money to buy The George for the use of the local community. Currently our plans are on hold because of the Covid lockdown, but with the country facing one of the worst recessions in its history, it’s vital we start to think NOW about what we can do to help restart the local economy when the lockdown is over.
It’s always been our plan to create a small business hub at The George with flexible co-working space for local freelancers and home-workers. With the enormous rise in home-working as a result of the Covid lockdown, this is more relevant than ever. That’s why we are urgently gathering information to support a major expansion of our provision of flexible – and socially distanced – workspace at The George.
IF YOU ARE AN EXISTING HOMEWORKER, OR INTEND TO WORK FROM HOME IN THE FUTURE, PLEASE HELP US BY FILLING IN AND RETURNING THIS SIMPLE QUESTIONNAIRE.
1. What is happening about our first Annual Members Meeting?
According to our Rules we must hold our first AMM within 18 months of first constituting as a CBS. That date will pass in mid-June this year. According to The Plunkett Foundation we have two options: a) to hold a digital AMM, or b), to postpone the AMM and reconvene it as soon as it is reasonable to do so.
Since not all members have access to the internet, we feel the wisest course is to postpone until at least September and to keep the situation under review
2. Submitting our Annual Return to the FCA
The FCA has granted an extension for organisations to submit these documents. As our accounts are quite straightforward we can ensure that our AR is submitted on time.
All our funds are safely held in the bank. There has been no significant withdrawal of investments, and The Cooperative Foundation, our biggest investor, have told us that as long as any new business plans align with their charitable purposes they have no plans to withdraw their £30,000 shareholding or their offer of a £50,000 interest-free loan.
3. ‘Building Back, Building Better’?
Right now, many of us are longing for a ‘return to normality’. However, it is clear that life is going to be very different for a considerable period of time. The question for members is: can we see a role for The George in the new post-Covid world?
When Bailey’s Stores first announced plans to move to The Ship it was obvious that our own business plan would have to be revised. Now, we also have to grapple with the realities of social distancing. But there could be a number of positives that emerge from the current restrictions.
•Working from home, or combining office-based and home working, is becoming a real option for many. This could be good news for our original idea of creating a small business hub at The George. Scaling down the café in the early stages and instead focusing on providing socially distanced co-working space for freelancers and home-workers could be a way forward and a useful means of generating income when we launch.
•Over the last few days we have been working on a short online questionnaire designed to test the market for co-working at The George. We have also been in contact with the Forest Economic Partnership, who strongly support our business hub concept, and they have agreed to circulate our questionnaire to their members.
The Homeworkers Survey is now available at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/8XPJ52F
. If you are a homeworker yourself, or are thinking of doing so in the future, please take the time to fill it in and forward the link to anyone else you know who may be interested.
•The café offer will need to be ‘socially distanced’ and therefore less profitable in the early months of trading. But other café development in the village will also be restricted, and this may mean that the village will need more, not less, café space overall.
•A community bakery at The George could still operate within the social-distancing guidelines. In response to an ad we placed online, an experienced artisan baker has expressed interest in working with us to develop a community bakery in Newnham. It is early days, but an exciting possibility nonetheless.
•Social events may be very different in coming months/years. However, a socially distanced gallery space would still be viable, and small-scale events in the village, including live-streaming of concerts, talks and other cultural events will become all the more important as options for public gatherings in the wider world are curtailed.
Flexibility is key. How we begin may well not be the final structure of the business in the medium or longer term. Social distancing is unlikely to last for ever, and community ownership of The George is still the best way to ensure a vibrant village centre in the future.
4. The vendors are reducing the purchase price!
In the last few days, CVT have let us know they are interested in negotiating a more realistic price for The George, which has been empty for over two years and on the open market for eighteen months.
Our valuation in January last year was £320,000. Unsurprisingly, with all the current economic uncertainty it is almost impossible to get an up-to-date figure, or to get any realistic sense of how the value of the building may have been affected by the Covid pandemic. The reality is that the building is worth what the purchaser is prepared to pay. In our case this depends on the amount of shareholder investment we can raise, and on the level of debt we can afford, based on our business plan.
5. Raising investment
Social Investment Tax Relief is a relatively new form of tax relief offered on investments in certain types of business, including social enterprises – and we believe it could apply to The George. In principle, SITR enables an investor to reclaim 30% of their investment from HMRC, but the criteria for eligibility are not straightforward. We are actively looking into it and will report back as soon as we have a definite answer.
6. Masons’ Car Park
After many false starts, we are now in regular communication with The Masons regarding the Station Rd car park, and there is a real possibility of negotiating a sensible arrangement based on shared use. Slow, tentative steps, but progress nonetheless.
As always, we need you to tell us YOUR thoughts. Please contact us with your views on any of the above or indeed any other thoughts you may have regarding the project and the future.
Keep safe, well and hopeful for a time when we will meet again; to smile and laugh, continue to support each other, enjoy good food and company, good music, good workspaces and wonderful entertainment.
With thanks for your continued support.
The NOSCBS committee.
Community Share Launch for The George, Newnham
You are invited to our launch event on the weekend of 1st–3rd March and to ask you to support our Share Offer.
From a small local pressure group, we have now formed ourselves into a Community Benefit Society, with a constitution and rules approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). With your help, we aim to buy The George and to give it a new lease of life as a multi-purpose community hub. Our Business Plan and Share Prospectus will be presented at the launch on Friday 1st March. This will be your chance to get involved and to have a genuine personal stake in the future of your village.
Our plans for The George are imaginative and wide-ranging. They include:
•An all-day café and bakery
•A gallery and performance space for music and live events
•Flexible short-term workspaces for small businesses and start-ups
•A home for the village Post Office and a retail space for cards, gifts, papers, magazines and stationery
•Meeting and function rooms for hire by local community groups
We are looking to raise a minimum of £150,000 from the share offer.
Shares cost £20 and just one share entitles you to the full range of membership rights and benefits. The remainder of the money we need will come from grants and low-interest loans. It’s a massive challenge, but with the kind of support we have already seen locally, we believe we can make
This is about much more than saving a building – it’s a chance to decide what sort of community we want to live in. With the lifting of tolls on the Severn Bridge and eighty new homes about to be added to the village, now is the time to invest in an amenity that will be open, inclusive and accessible to all. The opportunity to buy The George for the community is there for the taking – it will not come again.