WCoFF Bulletin No 6

Worshipful Company of Firefighters – COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Dear Members and Friends,

At the time of writing Bulletin No 6 we are at the end of week 19 since the “lock-down” commenced on Monday 23rd March 2020. It seems a long time ago although there has been much to consider and develop over this period of time to keep the Company’s business progressing. We must not forget that in the life of the Company it is a very short period of history but that it will probably not be forgotten for many years to come.
Since the last Bulletin, Peter Cowland, Honorary Almoner, continues to be busy contacting those Members who have been identified with a number of different types of issues. He has located by various means two of the five of those whom we have not been able to make contact with so far, supported by the Emergency Strategic Coordination Board (ESCB).
We have three Members who have recently undergone surgery and are now successfully recuperating at home, and another Member is due knee surgery, hopefully next week. Please let Peter know if you or a member of your close family have any matters we may be able to provide assistance with and we will do our very best to help in whatever way we can.
At present we are not aware of any Members or their close family who have suffered from a positive COVID-19 test or illness since the last Bulletin, which is a small but positive sign for the future, although ESCB are not complacent about the dangers and the effects that this virus poses for a very, very, long period of time to come, before we are able to return to a “new normality”.
Just as a reminder, the contact details for Peter Cowland are pcowland@hotmail.com, or the Honorary Chaplain, Reverend George Bush, on georgerbush@stmarylebow.org.uk.
The key items to keep you briefed on and some for consideration are set out below:
1. COVID-19 Update on Progress
As the “lock-down” guidance continues to change and more freedoms emerge we must remain vigilant, alert, disciplined in taking the hygiene precautions suggested, the latest being the use of face coverings in most enclosed public, transport, retail, and commercial spaces. Despite the changing guidance, as far as Company activities are concerned, the following still applies:
  • Use of public transport maybe relaxed soon but, at the moment, avoid use unless necessary.
  • The revised 24 hour London Congestion Charge, plus parking charges, make the use of private transport expensive.
  • There is no indication of timescales for when larger public gatherings held in enclosed spaces will be considered safe, such that our meetings or functions could recommence in any normality.
  • There is no indication when The Wax Chandlers’ Hall will reopen along with what preventative measures will be applied, so The Clerk will continue to work from hom
ESCB are aware of the increasing number of small functions (30-35 maximum) being arranged during September and October 2020 which are taking place in various Livery Halls normally seating 250 plus. We will monitor the outcome as these plans go ahead. ESCB remains mindful of the effect of this virus on Members, families and households and that it remains in the community. The Board will continue to monitor and assess the situation so that the Company can move forward at an appropriate and safe time.

2. Outcomes of Common Hall 2020
The Clerk has asked that this be included, and that if you have any problems regarding the information, to see his note at the bottom of this item. The membership may wish to know that following the different format for this year of the Company’s Common Hall, the statistics obtained have highlighted some interesting data. You may also be aware that all the group emails that are sent out via the Company’s preferred choice Mail Chimp returns information, such as who opened the email, thus allowing the statistics like those below to be collated.
From this, it is possible for The Clerk to inform you that of the total membership emails sent, only 59% of the Company actually opened this particular one. At first glance this may be deemed as disappointing, but when you consider that in the past the Company has normally achieved a 25-30% attendance of members, the data shows that actually more of the Company membership had the opportunity to take part than before. The information received also goes as far as informing ESCB as to who opened the email, which documents were read most, and where read from – for example UK, USA, Germany, and Egypt!
A process worthy of more debate for the future but, if you are reading this but have no recollection of receiving any emails from the Clerk regarding Common Hall, Members Directory request, various bulletins etc., can I ask you to please email The Clerk with the email address that you constantly use, so that he can, along with the IT Manager, check and ensure that all is correct.

3. Progress on Financial Matters
With the appointment of Geoff Fall as the Company’s Finance Manager/Assistant Clerk and with the retirement of Ian Parlane as Honorary Treasurer during the “lock-down” period, there have inevitably been changes to the Financial Management and Membership Administration within the Company, all discussed and agreed by ESCB (which includes the Chair of Membership and Admissions Committee).

With change comes the quest for improvements and effectiveness and efficiencies in the way the “Report of Finances” is carried out. Although the Finance Committee has not been able to meet, the ESCB have implemented a revised reporting procedure. Therefore, Monthly Accounts are now produced as well as reports regarding unpaid Quarterages, normally within a few days after the period ends.
Before reports of unpaid Quarterages are submitted to the Membership Committee, the Finance Manager will now take responsibility for attempting to secure unpaid sums directly with Members first, with a simple email to any Member whose Quarterage has not been received.  In the past, it has not been possible to complete this process until after the Direct Debit or Tele Debit transactions have been received in hard copy via the Company Office, which could be some months after Quarterage was due. Often, this has resulted in payments being rejected in the bank transfer process, unknown to the Member.
Many of those who have had constant issues with this process have opted to move to GoCardless which, on the whole, has been very successful in resolving payment problems. We would encourage any member who wishes to opt to move to this method to contact Geoff Fall on fmac@wcoff.org who will help you to achieve this change and provide early warning of any issues which can be quickly addressed.
An analysis into the June 2020 Quarterage showed outstanding sums still payable was in excess of £6,500. A trial of the new system by Geoff Fall has already substantially reduced this outstanding sum to manageable levels, and further good progress has been reported week-on-week to ESCB.
So, may I ask for your cooperation and patience and please do not get upset if you receive an email into your inbox, it is all part of our revised system. It is better to advise you as early as possible if payment has not been successful, rather than months later when larger sums of money could be involved. Also, we can place you on the best possible payment system to remedy what is more than likely a dysfunctional payment system, to the benefit of all.
As a reminder, Quarterages are due in September, December, March, and June of each year.   
The financial position of the Company at the end of June 2020 is sound, nearing £91,000 in credit. However, before you start thinking that this is an excellent position, we must remember we are in “unchartered waters” and pre-planning for the future has already indicated a steep rise in many costs due to what maybe the “new normality” of working and costings for our functions in the future.

4. Result of the Great Fire of London 1666 Quiz – Livery Company Members
Many Livery Companies have entered into the spirit of providing quizzes and other such thought-provoking ideas, to all those in the City of London Livery movement during the period of “lock-down”. The Worshipful Company of Firefighters has been no exception.
The “Great Fire of London Quiz” organised and distributed by The Clerk, compiled by Liveryman David Rogers, has been circulated to all the Livery Companies and received a good level of response.
On behalf of ESCB it gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the quiz are:
Winner:        Dr David Wright - Worshipful  Company  of Chartered Secs
2nd Prizes:    Andrew Dyke – Worshipful Company of Fletchers
                     Peter Blincow – Worshipful Company of Masons
3rd Prizes:    Deborah Malins – Worshipful Company of Apothecaries
                     Stephen Robbins – Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers                
                     Mark Fox – Worshipful Company of Apothecaries
                     Katharine Dallas - Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers
The winners have been informed and their prizes are on the way.

4. The Becket Pageant for London – GUILDHALL YARD 18/19 JUNE 2021
The Company has been informed via our Clerk about this spectacular community and Livery event taking place next June, supported by the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor.
Focusing on the life story of St Thomas Becket and his close relationship with the City, on the 900th anniversary of his birth, The Becket Pageant for London is centred around a specially commissioned musical theatre production - re-imagining the pageant staged by guildsmen in 1519 - with participation from Livery members, City schools, and leading professionals.
The Pageant will also feature a Tudor styled Livery Crafts Fair, to highlight Becket’s identity as the son of a City Merchant and the huge contribution his cult, and the Livery, have made to London’s prosperity. C16th themed food and drink will be available, as well as costumed entertainers mingling amongst the audience. Tickets for the four matinee performances (two on each day) will be on sale shortly, together with details of how we might if appropriate participate in the production and/or the Livery Crafts Fair.
The Becket Pageant for London is a not-for-profit enterprise and is supporting local schools and ‘Youthscape’, a charity nominated by Becket’s successor, The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

5. The Charitable Trust – Member Giving
Members may recall receiving a “Giving Pack” in early March 2020 for the Charitable Trust, now that it had received Charitable Incorporation status and the old Charitable Trust arrangement had been wound up. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 returns from 210 members have been received. This puts considerable pressure on the Trust to be able to consider any Grant Awards for the future.
With the unprecedented circumstances that we all found ourselves in soon after the issue of the “Giving Pack” it maybe that this was not a priority at that time and has been mislaid. Alternatively, you may have thought that your annual donation, normally taken on 1st July every year, would still apply. However, as the old Charity is currently being closed all Direct Debits/Standing Orders were cancelled earlier this year so, under the previous arrangements, no annual donations have been taken in 2020.
It has always been the tradition of all Company members to make a donation towards the work of the Trust, so if you are not one of the 50 members already donating would you please, please, complete the documents sent to you and return them in the pre-paid envelope.
It has been a number of months since this documentation was dispatched so if you cannot find it do not worry, please contact Stephen Sanders, Honorary Treasurer to the Trust, on wcoffct20@outlook.com who will be happy to assist you with a replacement application pack and take you through the process. If you are a UK Taxpayer signing up for Gift Aid will help the Trust considerably. As there is no Charitable Trust Dinner this year this will be the Charitable Trust’s only source of major income for 2020 until late 2021. For your information we have moved all Charitable Donations to GoCardless, with a number of flexible options for payment as an alternative to one annual payment.
6. Emergency Strategic Coordination Board (ESCB) – Summer Recess
During August the ESCB Meetings will cease until 9th September 2020. However, a number of items, including monitoring and assistance to members, development of the new IT System and Financial Administration will continue unabated. Contact with the ESCB Members below is at hand anytime it is required.
When ESCB returns to formal weekly meetings a priority will be to assess the latest situation with COVID-19 based upon the view of the science, the advice from HM Government, City of London Corporation and Livery Movement activity, as well as the Wax Chandlers’ Hall position.
The availability of ESCB members is shown below.
Name and Position Contact Details Availability
Graham Maltby
(Chair of ESCB and Upper Warden)
Email graham.maltby@redmail.com  
Steven Tamcken Tel: 0207 600 1666
Email: clerk@ wcoff.org
Geoff Fall Email:fmac@wcoff.org Continuous
Peter Cowland Email: See above Continuous
David Holt Email: dwholtchaldon@gmail.com



7. Company Membership News
It is with great delight that I can announce that congratulations go to Liveryman Dr David Crowder and partner Helen who have welcomed into the world their 1st Child Emily.
Both Mum and baby are doing well and the Company have sent a card and flowers to Helen.

In the meantime, as always, to you, your families, and friends whatever you have planned during August 2020, stay safe and keep well.
Graham Maltby
Chair of the Emergency Strategic Coordination Board
and Upper Warden