UNI-NEWS 165th Issue 20th May 2016

1. Rev Patricia Shaw

It was with sadness that we learned of the death of Rev Patricia Shaw on 16 May 2016. She served as Minister at Manchester Wythenshawe, Manchester Gorton, Lincoln Group, Stalybridge and Mossley.

Funeral services, conducted by Rev Bob Pounder and Rev Andrew Parker, will be held on Wednesday 1 June 2016 at 12 Noon at Stalybridge Unitarian Church, Forester Drive, Stalybridge SK15 2HX followed at 1.00pm at Dukinfield Crematorium, Hall Green Road, Dukinfield SK16 4EP. Refreshments will be served afterwards at the Astley Arms, 1 Chapel Hill, Dukinfield SK16 4BT (next to Old Chapel Dukinfield).

Family Flowers only – any donations should be made to Mossley Christian Unitarian Church. Please send cheques to made payable to “Mossley Christian Unitarian Church” to their Treasurer: Mr Alan Barber, Deseholme, Spencer St, Mossley, Ashton-under-Lyne OL5 0LY

For further information, please contact Janet Ford on 0161 330 2970

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer

2. Executive Committee Key Messages 13 and 14 May 2016

1. From Vision to Action – “The Next Steps”
The Executive Committee spent considerable time reviewing the 15 priorities set out in the document “The Next Steps”, which was accepted by the Annual Meetings. The EC went on to decide on the key outcomes required. An initial plan for each priority will be developed for consideration and discussion at the next EC meeting in July.

A new three-minute video for seekers  “What is a Unitarian?” has been produced. It uses relevant footage from the longer 18 minute video presented at the Annual Meetings as well as some material not previously seen. It can be found on the GA website.

2. Volunteer Pool
A report was received on the response to date to the request for volunteers to join a Pool of people who would be prepared to be involved in various projects or to carry out discreet pieces of work as we take forward “The Next Steps”. The creation of a 'Volunteer Pool' was one of the suggestions which came out of the Sheffield meeting last November which resulted in "The Next Steps" document.

Joan Cook has been asked, on behalf of the Executive Committee, to collate the names and contact details of people who are prepared to have these details included in an open list of possible volunteers, along with any special skills or interests they have which could be used to the benefit of the wider Unitarian movement. It is envisaged that such a list would provide a pool of people from which we could draw as and when the need arose, and could be updated as required. Anyone interested in joining the Pool should contact Joan Cook.

3. Financial Update
Peter Hanley, Honorary Treasurer, presented a range of investment plans for the future in light of the substantial donation from the Bowland Trust. A process for review of the investment management arrangements was agreed.

4. Annual Meetings
A report was received on the Annual Meetings and the results of the feedback survey were presented. Overall, the Meetings were considered to have been well organised and the survey showed that they had been overwhelmingly well received by attendees. All those who completed the survey were thanked. 

5. Ministry
Rev Daniel Costley, Chair of the Ministry Strategy Group, attended the meeting to discuss the progress made with the review of ministry training, particularly in light of "The Next Steps". It was agreed that the General Assembly would continue to work collaboratively with Unitarian College Manchester and Harris Manchester College, Oxford and seek to broaden and deepen these relationships. The General Assembly will encourage them in the task of filling any gaps in the provision of  ministerial competencies, utilising outside providers as needed.

6. Annual Meetings Resolutions
The Resolutions approved at the Annual Meetings were reviewed and an update on actions received:

  • CIO status – referred to the Constitutional Review Committee
  • Constitutional Changes – reported to the Charity Commission by the Chief Officer and reply awaited
  • Surveillance – Chief Officer and Penal Affairs Panel members are attending the Liberty AGM on Saturday 18 June 2016.
  • Syria Appeal – an update on financial contributions is to be obtained from the Red Cross
  • Climate Change – Buildings Advisory Group is to circulate to congregations in the next Mailing an Annual Energy Consumption Form for completion.

7. Ministry Strategy Group – membership
Kay Millard was appointed as a member of the Ministry Strategy Group.

8. Director of Ministry
The Executive Committee thanked Rev Linda Phillips, who was retiring at the end of June 2016, for all her work as Director of Ministry.

3. Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme

On 20 April 2016 HMRC opened the formal consultation on the review of the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS), along with a summary of the responses received in its call for evidence. The overall picture is positive; and the Government appears to have taken into account a number of the key concerns raised by representatives of the charity sector.

The key points
1.    A relaxation of the Gift Aid history requirement so that a charity would only need one year of successful Gift Aid claims (and for that to be the year previous to making a GASDS claim).
2.    Willingness to explore the extension of GASDS to contactless payments – but not to cheques or direct debits.
3.    Recognition that the current community buildings/connected charities rules do not fulfil the original policy intention. The Government proposes amending the rules to allow charities or a ‘group’ of charities to claim either under the main GASDS allowance or under the community buildings allowance, but not under both.
4.    The Government is also considering a relaxation in the definition of a community building to allow collections received outside of the building (ie, in the community) to be included.
5.    The Government is not prepared to relax the 10-person element in the community buildings rules because of its concerns about fraud.

The new £8,000 cap on donations seems likely to remain, while eligible individual donations will continue to be capped at £20.

Responses should be e-mailed to charitypolicy.taxteam@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk before 1 July 2016. CLAS will almost certainly be making a corporate response; and it would be enormously helpful if, as an aid to compiling it, we could be copied in to any individual responses.

The House of Commons Library has produced a helpful research briefing paper on the Scheme.
[Churches Legislative Advisory Council based on HMRC press release – 20 April]

4. Media Coverage

Marmen String Quartet – Warwick Unitarian Chapel (Leamington Observer, 9 May 2016).

“One of the reasons why the towns of Warwick and Leamington have a national reputation for putting on chamber music originates in the Unitarian Chapel in High Street. It goes back to the discovery in 1984 that the then recently renovated building was a brilliant venue for this intimate music.”

Stand Chapel, Whitefield "Sixty years on from humble beginnings and £63,000 later the last cup of coffee has been poured at a Whitefield volunteer Group” (Bury Times 12 May 2016).