Eightieth Anniversary Annual General Meeting
16th May 2022
The Chairman, Cdr Heather Rimmer MBE RN, opened the meeting by welcoming Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Guests and Members. She said that delivering 80 years of benevolence to those in need was a significant milestone, and that she considered it a great privilege to stand before those gathered today, especially on this special anniversary. She asked members to reflect on the many ladies who had preceded both her and the current team, and their selfless commitment and contribution over all those years, which had allowed the Trust to evolve and flourish into the modern and relevant organisation that it was today. She said that if Dame Vera (Laughton Mathews) was looking down on this event, she hoped that she would be pleased with what had been achieved (and continued to be achieved) by the Trust, following her own eminent personal drive and imagination which had brought the Trust into being in 1942.
Cdr Rimmer then invited Mrs Ollie Butler (Trustee) to present her Ode entitled “80 Years of Benevolence”. Her Royal Highness was then asked to address the Honoured Guests and Members.
Her Royal Highness said that the Anniversary was indeed a milestone; The inaugural meeting of the Trust was held at Westfield College, London in April 1942 and was attended by over 100 Members – and 4 Dames! Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother had graciously agreed to be the Patron and her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, Princes Marina, was elected President. Serving WRNS officers and ratings were asked to forfeit a day’s pay in order to provide funds for the Trust.
Her Royal Highness said that a review of the Trust’s records indicated that needs had not changed drastically over the following 80 years – grants continued to be typically required to provide medical aids for ladies in poor health, to help with household repairs, and to support education and training opportunities to allow personnel to enhance their employment prospects. Interestingly, fuel poverty had been a constant theme with significant grants being made in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s to pay for coal and utility bills; but who could have predicted that even in 2022 the very simple need to keep warm could still induce hardship and anxiety?
Her Royal Highness said that in 80 years the Trust had spent over £8m in its support of over 12,500 Members and their families, which she considered an amazing achievement, and one all Members should be rightly proud of.
Looking to the future, Her Royal Highness said that the work to determine how the Trust should function in the future to deliver its objectives to the very last eligible beneficiary, which could possibly be another 40-50 years, was reaching its final stages. This was probably the most important decision that the Trust would make in its 80-year history, and every care had been exercised to ensure that whatever arrangements were made, all those eligible for and needing support would always be provided for. Voting for the determined options was scheduled to take place very soon, after which the final option would be communicated and voted on by members at an Extraordinary General Meeting.
The Chairman then thanked Her Royal Highness for the close interest that she had always taken in the WRNS Benevolent Trust. She went on to say that while Her Royal Highness had first engaged with the Trust as President in 1974, 2022 marked the 20th year that she had been Patron. To express the Trust’s grateful thanks for her patronage, on behalf of the Vice Presidents, Trustees and staff of the Trust, Cdr Rimmer was pleased to present Her Royal Highness with a gift in the form of a donation of £600 to Her Majesty the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, in this her Platinum Jubilee Year.
Cdr Rimmer presented the 2021 Annual Report. She was pleased to report that case-working was largely back to normal in terms of process and various workarounds, having proved successful, had been retained.
Including those whose regular grants ceased during 2021 and for whom renewal applications were not required, the Trust had assisted 137 beneficiaries with one-off or regular grants in 2021.
Due to the loss of several regular beneficiaries and the Trust’s inability to complete on some larger complex one-off cases requiring input by Local Authorities, the total value of grants came in short of the original budget of £290k, at £169k, although it was anticipated that the current ongoing increase in the general cost of living and soaring cost of energy were now tipping many ladies into difficulties.
Cdr Rimmer drew special attention to the expenditure on Education Grants which remained historically low. The Trust’s Royal Charter allowed for those wishing to retrain, in order to be better able to support themselves and their families.
The Trust, as ever, remained extremely grateful to the members of the Association of Wrens and Women of the Royal Naval Services, for all that they did not behalf of the Trust.
Cdr Rimmer called upon Ms Maggie Bolam, Trustee and Honorary Treasurer, to present the Balance Sheet and Statement of Accounts, who started by saying that from a financial perspective, 2021 had seen good results for the Trust.
Income from legacies totalled £121k, In memoriam donations of £3,483 were slightly down on budget, while individual donations were up at £10,234. Sales of AOW Christmas cards, along with funds from collection boxes and fundraising activities, exceeded budget expectation, bringing in a total of £8,131.
As already advised, grants made to beneficiaries had amounted to £169k and general expenditure was underspent by £2k. Overall, the Trust closed the year with a balance of £4.8m, compared with £4.5m in 2020.
There was one new nomination for Trustee, as Mrs Ollie Butler had come to the end of her seven-year tenure. Cdr Rimmer thanked Mrs Butler for her commitment and significant contribution to the Trust. The newly nominated replacement was CPO Jenny Roe. Cdr Liz Walmsley RN, a past Trustee and Honorary Treasurer, was now welcomed as a nominee for the role of a Vice President.
The event was filmed and can be viewed via the Trust’s website https://wrnsbt.org.uk/2022-agm/
Sarah Ayton, WRNS BT
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