Present: Simon Lang (President), plus 11 members (1 more appearing during item 1 and another during item 8 and 1 leaving during item 9).
The Secretary asked for comments on the minutes of the previous AGM of 24th June 2021. None were raised so she proposed acceptance of the minutes. The minutes were accepted with 11 votes for and none against.
At the President's request, the Secretary signed the minutes on behalf of Council.
The actions from the 2021 AGM were:
Action AGM2020/1 Jim Brightwell to liaise with Paul Clements on the drive system.
No progress due to the Covid situation. The President hoped things would improve during the summer.
Action AGM2020/2 Simon Lang to ensure Martin Williams is involved in live feeds of video from the observatory.
No progress due to the Covid situation. The President expected to meet him during the summer.
Action AGM2021/1 Julia Daniels to enable David Woolley to check the Astronomy Accounts.
He had read the accounts and made several comments. He accepted the accounts with an amendment to replace 'BALANCE SHEET' with 'CASH AND BANK RECONCILIATION', and to replace 'Financial Examiner' with 'Checker'.
The President started by thanking Julie Atkinson and Jim Brightwell for keeping the ship upright during these very difficult times. He apologised that he had not been able to attend meetings due to domestic issues he was having to cope with. He was looking forward to 2022-23 being a much better year for the Society when we got back to face to face meetings, which he felt strongly that we must do. He felt that people were getting 'Zoom fatigue' which may explain reduced attendance at the AGM. He thanked all those who had contributed so much to keep things going, including the Secretary, whose apology for being late in arranging the AGM he dismissed, due to arranging extra zoom sessions.
He said that he was still having to shield from face to face meetings himself to protect his partner, but Kevin Devine had agreed to step in to chair face to face meetings when needed in the next session.
The Council's separate reports will be collated into a Trustees' Annual Report as recommended by the Charity Commission, and this year the sections will be presented at the AGM.
The Secretary went through the main body of the Trustees' report.
John Tennant presented the Treasurer's report as contained in Annex 1 of the Trustees' Report.
He noted that next year's electricity bill would be higher as we had only had six months of the new double price, but next year it would be for the whole year, unless they raised it yet again.
The President felt that the electricity cost was a bit outrageous considering that we hadn't been using the observatory. He intended to read the meter to show that we should only be paying the standing charge. The Treasurer said that was the major part of the bill anyway, and we are charged commercial rates rather than domestic rates which are regulated. The President said we shall have to see about getting in donations to cover that.
He asked if there was a rent relief for this year and the Treasurer said no. The President thanked the Treasurer for his report.
Julia Daniels report was very brief, as contained in Annex 4 of the Trustees' Report
She also said that it was time for the Society to start looking for a new archivist, preferably someone who would stay with the Society in the long term, to take on some of the role unofficially and take over officially next year, hopefully.
The President suggested Anne Watson who would now be staying in London. The Secretary said she had received apologies from Anne Watson who could not attend this evening.
The Secretary announced that Council had elected Simon Lang as President at the Council meeting on 31st March 2022, with the proviso that Kevin Devine would assist him when he was unable to attend a meeting, e.g. to introduce speakers.
The Secretary said that Council had announced its nominations for officers in the May newsletter. As there were no further nominations, the following officers were declared as elected:
|Hon. Secretary||Julie Atkinson||Hon. Treasurer||John Tennant|
|Hon. Programme Secretary||Jim Brightwell||Hon. Membership Secretary||John Tennant|
|Hon. Archivist||Julia Daniels|
The constitution requires at least one ordinary Council member to resign at the AGM. The Secretary reported that in the 2022-23 session, Kevin Devine was standing down as the longest serving member of Council, having served 11 years. Council thanked Kevin for his service.
The following nominations were made by Council for the 5 ordinary members of Council and distributed in the May newsletter:
|Nominee||Kevin Devine||David Brandt||Martin Williams||Nick Maslov||Jasmin Qureshi|
As there were no further nominations, these nominees were declared as elected to Council.
Council had failed to nominate a second independent checker this year. The first candidate David Woolley had only recently not received the Treasurer's accounts and had not received the Astronomy Treasurer's accounts, so they had not been checked yet. We had presented them unchecked as we were rather late in producing them. David Woolley has been kind enough to say he will check them this year. He had not received sufficient response to his comments on last year's accounts and so is not willing to stand again. That means that we don't have any candidates for independent checkers for this year, unless anyone present who is not on the Council would like to volunteer. No-one came forward.
A checker must not be a member of Council but must be a member of the Society. Last year we discussed whether being a member was necessary but have not made a proposal to change the constitution. We cannot make such a proposal now because a change to the constitution requires notice. We must either find someone in the Society or pay a professional auditor to do the checks.
The President said this would need to be discussed at the next Council meeting. Action AGM2022/1 The Secretary to ensure the independent checker issue is on the Council meeting agenda.
David Brandt suggested the he could resign from Council in favour of Kevin Devine, and he could then act as the independent checker. However, Kevin Devine said he would be unable to join this time and the President thought such a change could not happen quickly as it would need notice again, and was also reluctant to lose David Brandt from Council.
The Secretary apologised for not responding to the checker's comments in good time. Julia Daniels said she had not understood the comments and the Secretary noted that covid had prevented her from getting together with the checker to go through them.
The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Simon Lang, presented his report, as contained in the Trustees' report at Annex 2.
Julie Atkinson asked if the main Society could use the same technique for collecting donations as was proposed for the observatory. Simon Lang said that this was being looked into at the same time, as we ask for donations from non-members at meetings, and also having the card reader independent of a mobile phone
Jim Brightwell pointed out that the Astronomy Section kept its own bank account separate from the main Society account. Simon Lang confirmed that the Section raised and used its own funds and that therefore the accounts were kept separate. Julia Daniels explained the history of that decision, dating from 1970 when the Astronomy Section subcommittee was set up to manage the maintenance of the observatory and raise funds for that maintenance. The remit of the subcommittee was to keep the observatory and telescope in good repair using any funds they could raise themselves to buy materials and to run the astronomy section and its public open nights. They would do the actual work themselves where they could possibly do so. This is explained in the Society's history book.
David Woolley said one of his independent checker comments asked if this setup meant the Astronomy account constituted a 'restricted fund' in terms of the Charity Commission rules. If the funds are only for use by the Astronomy Section, then they would be and it should say so in the Society accounts.
Leo McLaughlin said as a former checker that there was one occasion when the Astronomy Section received a large donation and another when the main Society received a large donation. It was quite clear where each donation was going and they were ring fenced really. Martin Williams said the Society is one charity not two, and David Woolley explained that if some of the charity's money can only be used for certain purposes that has to be explained in the accounts. The President pointed out that the Charity Commission rules have changed over time said that the Council must address this issue with others issues raised on the accounts at the next Council meeting. He thanked David Woolley for raising points that the Society needed to address.
Julia Daniels said that she had not managed to complete the Astronomy Treasurer's report, but intended to shortly. She does them by hand rather than by computer. It should be presented in Annex 3 of the Trustee's Report. There were always urgent problems arising which prevent her from following her plans for the day and she was having difficulty keeping up. The Secretary noted that Julia Daniels had been suffering from health issues.
Simon Lang summarised the situation as with the observatory closed there has been no cash coming in, except for the very generous donation of over £460. He mentioned the expenditure on electricity, but Julia Daniels said that the Society had a meteorological section and shared facilities, such as rent and electricity, were not included under the Astronomy Section funds. Julia Daniels said that there had been no expenditure from the Astronomy accounts at all during the year, and only two items of income, one being the donation and the other being interest on the National Savings and Investments account.
David Brandt asked what using accruals accounts would imply. David Woolley said the Society probably does not want to use accruals accounts, but has used some terminology which only apply to accruals accounts, such as 'Balance Sheet'. We are not a company and so we are allowed to do income and expenditure accounts which are simpler and members probably understand better anyway The guidance for an independent examiner says that if you are presented with something labelled Balance Sheet you must process it as for accruals accounts. He is an independent checker rather than examiner, but the Society should beware of using those terms.
The Astronomy accounts had not been checked by the independent checker. The checking must take place after the AGM. Action AGM2022/2 Julia Daniels to enable the independent checker to check the Astronomy Accounts
The Secretary said that we were in a bit of a quandary on approval of the report. The Treasurer's report had been presented but had not been independently checked and the Astronomy Section Treasurer's report had not been formally presented or checked, so Council and the AGM only had a partial Trustees report here and now.If it were all here, then we could approve in two stages. The first would be for the trustees themselves to approve the report and the President or Secretary to sign it on their behalf. The second would be for the meeting to approve it. But approval was not appropriate when the report was only partial. The President agreed. David Brandt suggested holding an Extraordinary General Meeting once the report was completed. The President agreed and suggested after the August Council meeting, where we should sort out various problems. The Secretary proposed tagging it on to an ordinary meeting, at the beginning or end and notify members in advance. The President agreed.
Between 13-17 September, the British Science Festival 2022 will be taking over the city of Leicester with over 100 free, engaging and off-the-wall installations, performances, and activities.
Martin Williams said that the weather station had not been working at the observatory for a few years now. He took on the role to reinstate it. He has been getting feedback that a pollution station would be at least as useful as a weather station and intends to speak to one of our lecturers, David Rowley, to see what is involved and whether anyone could sponsor us for this because that equipment is more expensive than a simple weather station. He felt that any weather station should be calibrated and approved to Met. Office standards. To be complete it should have an anemometer and vane. He intends to link the station to the outside world using amateur radio, using packet radio onto APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System). He suggested that we then provide an APRS node with an internet connection via 4G or 5G. That could also be used by a credit card machine and also potentially for video from the telescopes or other uses. This is not a simple project and he asked for anyone willing to help in this to get in touch with him. David Brandt said he was interested in the pollution monitoring. Martin Williams said the whole thing would be done as a package. Simon Lang said he also knew people who would be interested. He suggested setting up a Meteorological Section, rather than just having a Meteorological Secretary. David Brandt asked if it should include Climate or Climate Change in the title, but the President thought meteorology included this connotation and added that funding of the meteorological station had been discussed at a Council meeting and so a proposal should be passed by Council. The Secretary recommended presenting costs.
Martin Williams asked if the Society had had an internet connection at the observatory or just a telephone line for sending out meteorological readings. Simon Lang confirmed it was just a telephone line. Martin Williams recommended getting a fibre line, Another way to achieve good connection would be to have a 4G or 5G base station with antennas pointing at the cells, rather than having what a mobile phone could achieve as the location is poor for reception. However, it would require more hardware and be more obvious. Simon Lang said that given the work to prepare for visitors in September, fibre connection would not happen in the next year, but seeing that it would be simplest, he then suggested that the Society approach fibre companies to see if they would connect us as a charity.
Eric Morgan said that a meteorological station would need a Stevenson screen and asked what other equipment we had. Simon Lang said we had a Stevenson screen donated by the Met. Office. They had left other equipment but he was not sure what was what. Martin Williams said he had looked at it and it was not viable to re-use. The Met. Office had paid for a commercial packet radio to transmit the information, whereas the Society has several amateur radio hams.
At this point the meeting became not quorate and so no further official business could be decided but discussion continued.
Martin Williams said that the first speaker in the next session would prefer to speak to a live audience. Counncil may also consider additionally putting the meeting on zoom or recording it for YouTube. That again will not be a simple job and he again asked for volunteers interested in helping.
Martin Williams said that there is a danger of low attendance and it would not be good if a speaker came some distance to give a talk. If we have zoom operational they know they are at least talking to a wider audience. He would look into it, though it would be difficult because of the size of the room.
The President asked if we should poll membership to see if meetings would be viable or not. Martin Williams recommended waiting. The Secretary felt we would need a publicity drive. Martin Williams said that Hillary Press would still be able to print our cards. Simon Lang said we could get both local papers on board. The Observatory Facebook page could also share other Society activities. He is concerned that only Julie Atkinson and Martin Williams are able to post on the website, and we need a way for anyone to put out a post straightaway. Some people who have reservations about Facebook would be happy to view a blog.
David Brandt suggested asking Jasmin Qureshi about starting a Twitter account. Nick Maslov suggested that he could do an Instagram page for the Society, as in his generation, no-one reads a blog, some use Facebook but not regularly, and everyone uses Instagram. It is focussed on pictures, and space pictures would draw people but one could also then add information about the latest Society event. There was discussion about Social Media and Simon Lang suggested the next Council meeting should have an item to sort out our Social Media profile. The Secretary suggested preparing something, perhaps a demo, in advance to give an idea of what it would look like.
The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and then there was a general chat rather than a scientific entertainment.
Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 0118 977 5192
Last updated 23–Aug–2023