The Comrie Development Trust AGM is being held on the 11th April 2023 at 7pm.

All members of the community are welcome, irrespective of whether you are a member of teh CDT or not.

This is a message from the chair of the CDT – Jeremy Spurway:

In summary –  finances are desperate; the Board needs revitalised; continued project delivery needs active working groups

Hopefully you’ll have seen that we co-published the ‘Comrie Housing Needs’ report in conjunction with the Community Council, and now we need to press on with developing an informed strategy for how we address the issues that the report highlights.

Also, in mid-January we signed a contract with STAR consultants – funded by PKC – to prepare a ‘Community Action Plan’ and to guide us through the required community consultation to inform this. STAR have extensive experience in this area (they pretty much wrote the book on it) and you can see examples of their work for neighbouring communities ( Crieff ).

Since there is clearly overlap between these two projects, and to avoid (or at least reduce) ‘consultation fatigue’, it makes sense to run these two projects in parallel, running joint public events where possible.

Financially, we’re in a fix! As I alluded to before Christmas, we face a critical shortage of in-hand funds, particularly with respect to making repayments that are now due on loans that have funded our major development projects at the Camp. I have still to fully understand how we have come to be at this point, but clearly the revenue we had anticipated from commercial hut rental, event hosting, heritage visitors, and – more recently – the self-catering visitor accommodation has not created sufficient surplus (after operating costs) to service the payments on our debts.

Arguably, we should have done as (all?) other charities do and actively seek benevolent donations from supporters of our causes. If we had done this from the outset we would’ve built a ‘central fighting fund’ with which to cushion our financial predicament. Instead, our fund-raising has been project-focussed and we have found it difficult to ask for money to support running CDT administration and the Camp. Until now!

We have a five-point plan for tackling our situation, but first I want to outline why I think we haven’t asked for donations for CDT before now. Despite huge initial support for purchase of Cultybraggan Camp, our operation of the Camp is poorly perceived by a significant number of people. I believe that this is – in part at least – because we have not been good at highlighting the many benefits that the Camp affords, its potential, and, importantly, the many other positive projects that the Trust has enabled within the village. Our decision-making may not have been transparent (or, at worst, outwardly rational) which, quite reasonably, erodes faith in our competence. Furthermore, there is a disconnect between the village, the Trust membership, the Board, and the staff. I believe this is due to a lack of visibility and – at least in part – due to a misapprehension of the various roles.

The Trust is its members; it exists for the benefit of the village; on whose behalf the Board operates as a steering group and a focus for policy and strategy development, of which the Chair is the mouthpiece and conduit to the staff who, in turn, provide continuity with respect to _day-to-day administration and operational delivery. The working groups are members, whose volunteer effort provide the impetus and delivery for the majority of the Trust’s projects.

The plan 

  1. clarify the Trust’s role in the village – highlight the benefits delivered to date, and the future potential;
  2. re-frame the Trust’s charitable purposes – focus on access to, and delivery of community benefits;
  3. increase the membership – make the Trust’s voice more representative, recruit volunteers;
  4. revitalise the Board – diversify the membership and close the skills gaps;
  5. make our financial management more robust – only commit to serviceable debt, and improve income forecasting.

To this end I’d like you to consider the revised charitable Purposes presented in the proposed Articles of Association – these don’t materially alter the areas in which we can work but they do clarify how we work, so we’re hoping that this will attract new engagement.

Management strategy (or ‘Belt-tightening’)

I’d like to take the opportunity, after the formal business of the AGM, to invite discussion of how we manage our asset (Cultybraggan) and CDT itself to enable existing and future projects to succeed. The key points to consider are, I believe, as follows:

  • we have failed to generate sufficient revenue to support the CEO role, so we need to find another way to oversee and direct the development required to make CDT financially sustainable;
  • as a charity, with no cash, we need to rely on volunteer effort, or get better at sourcing funding;
  • to reduce/avoid burn-out and the potential for omission or neglect, we need to spread the management burden more widely;
  • in addition to the project-focussed working groups, we need to consider setting up management groups to tackle:
    • Finance Operations
    • Cultybraggan Estate
  • we need to fill a number of key roles on the Board with fresh faces, namely:
    • Chair
    • Company Secretary
    • Treasurer
  • we also need to expand the breadth and depth of key competencies within the Board, particularly with respect to financial management and business strategy development.

Finally, I found this note in a presentation from the EGM of 2016-10-25:

“it has become clear that the Trust Board and Trust Working Groups need to be enhanced, and additional volunteers are needed for a range of essential tasks.
Current CDT Board Members are all motivated by a wish to see the work of the Trust extended towards village developments. But, there is a general appreciation that the primary focus needs to be on Cultybraggan Camp as the main asset of the Trust, and an asset which has great potential for development, which will benefit the village in various ways.

Trust Board Members believe that an enhanced board could make a major contribution to ensuring a successful development programme by:

  • Enabling the Trust Board to become more fully representative of the different interest groups involved Cultybraggan Camp, and committed to making the site a success;
  • Involving people with a range of relevant knowledge and experience directly in decision-making about CDT matters;
  • Creating the possibility of sharing the workload of Board members across a larger group”

Essentially, with more support we can achieve more!

We look forward to seeing you in the White Church on April 11th

best wishes – Jeremy

Jeremy Spurway – Chair