Lompit! Time for change!

Unmoderated comments follow here

The PotBoilers' Moor is a beautiful 400 acres of managed wilderness (map here) note the thickness of the boundary lines covering yards some of which has now arguably been registered under private ownership, this land was given to the poor in the 14th century reputedly by John of Guant, “I, John of Gaunt, Do give and do grant , Hatherleigh Moor, To Hatherleigh poor, for evermore!”  as reported in “The History of Devonshire, by R N Worth 1886”) there has been some doubt that he never came to Hatherleigh his daughter Elizabeth was Duchess of Exeter so there is a good chance!

This was later superseded by the Ministry of Agricultural on September 14th 1951 when it was returned to the PotBoilers of Hatherleigh after the Second World War (as shown in the (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) at the time this was all the households in the Borough of Hatherleigh. Later in the mid 1960s the Potboiler Households were redefined by the Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee to just be the houses that wanted the Potboilers rights (which were then registered under the “The Commons Registration Act of 1965”), so all future homes or their inhabitants could not become PotBoilers’. During this time, allocations were made on people’s means therefore the rich were given big allocations and the poor much smaller ones, contrary to the wishes of John of Guant.

The current Treasurer/Secretary joined the committee in September 1952. (as of May 2020) and his family have been at the helm of the Committee since its inception, both his father and grandfather were previous chairmen.

All the households in the borough of Hatherleigh were contacted by the Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee in the mid 1960’s so the moor could be registered under the “The Commons Registration Act of 1965”.

The Moor and some surrounding land was registered by The Lord of the Manor in 2012, which makes no reference to the PotBoilers’ or their rights regarding the use of the Moor. see the Government Land Registry Website.

Due to grants given by the Rural Payments agency, which was amounted to £56,375.73 (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) .

These accounts also show the Treasurer’s son received large sums as did the Chairman, who was also paid for maintaining the moor in good condition as laid out in the Original Constitution shows here) , (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS)

Over £100 000 has been given away to outside groups, (The committee’s choice without any reference to the membership)

At the AGM in 2018, a New Constitution was pushed through the meeting with no meaningful debate, (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS)

The Hatherleigh Moor Management committee should be elected by PotBoilers in an open and Democratic manner. The money it collects belongs to the PotBoilers and should only be distributed to whom the PotBoliers have approved. At present it is distributed by the committee to the Graziers, the Committee’s good causes, and a token payment to the PotBoiler households.

Election of members to the committee is made by the existing committee members by co-opting new members then being elected on mass at the following AGM (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS)

The Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee is run as an unincorporated organisation which means they are not a legal identity and the implications that implies to the committee. Due to the committee not registering as a Charity they have had to pay £10,400 in Corporation tax. See the Governments recommendations here

The concerned PotBoilers contacted a solicitor who recommended the issues were brought to mediation this was refused by the Committee. Evidence available.

The 2017 Account Sheet shows a return of over £100 to the Potboiler account.

At the 2018 AGM The Treasurer admitted that he had purchased the bonds with Potboiler Funds and that they had won various prizes amounting to well over £1000 pounds. There is no record of the winnings coming back into any of the 4 account sheets that are available. A solicitor therefore asked that the Treasurer provide proof of the winnings coming from The treasurer’s own bank account because winnings are paid to the individual.

The main changes we would like to see, to make the running of the committee transparent and open are:-

a.      The name of the committee should be changed to “The PotBoilers’ Committee” for the management of Hatherleigh Moor. To reflect the true situation.

b.     All monies given away should be agreed by all the PotBoilers either at the AGM or an EGM not by the committee. (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) .This will also avoid any conflict of interest issues.

c.      The association should be registered as a Charity with all the safeguards that in-corporates. At present it is NOT recognised as a legal identity as an unincorporated organisation (see Newlawman.co.uk here) i.e. they cannot be sued or sue. Therefore is not accountable as a legal body. They are acting as a charity by giving monies away therefore should register as such this would also exempt them from tax.

d.     Their accounts should be audited by a registered accountant.

e.      The registration at the land registry of the moor should reflect the boundaries of the moor (map here) with the Rights of the PotBoilers as it is was given to them see (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) and is best practice for Common land throughout England, see Torrington Common on the Land Registry website. The registration should include a map of the moor reflecting the boundaries as identified by the Ordnance Survey.

f.       Every position on the committee should be elected individually if another PotBoiler wishes to stand, not re-elected on mass, this is standard practice.

g.     The constitution should reflect the normal practice that is a vacancy occurs, the membership as a whole should be given the option to stand unless no one comes forward. The practice of co-opting friends and family to the committee should cease.

h.     The constitution should reflect no-one on the committee should gain financially from their position except for reasonable expenses (people should be on the committee because they want to keep the moor in good condition, not for personal gain.) (The graziers, 5 of whom, are committee members get significant payments to graze their stock, (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) . )

i.       The constitution should reflect no one person should hold more than one office on the committee which is standard practice.

j.       The constitution should reflect no monies belonging to the organization should be in the control of any individual, as has happened in the past. Premium Bonds were held by the treasurer.   (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS)

k.     Any changes should be made by Standing Orders so all major decisions are recorded and referred to if required which is best practice. These changes must only be made at the AGM or an EGM. As recommended by (REGISTER/LOGIN above to see DOCS) )

There is a case to be made that the Moor should be set over to rewilding this would remove any risk of conflict of interest.

What is a PotBoiler?

 

Potboiler, by definition, is someone who stirred the pot on an open fire to provide food for their family. Potboilers were primarily the poorest families at the time. In 1951, the agricultural rights to Hatherleigh Moor were returned to the Potboilers, following a period of time when it was used for food production during the war. Hatherleigh Moor consists of approx. 425 acres

A Potboiler household has a specific allocation of the number of cattle and\or sheep that you can graze on Hatherleigh Moor for a small weekly fee.

They also are entitled to claim the Token Payment annually from HMMC, this is currently £65 a year. There are approx. 100 households who are not claiming their token payment – this is something that should be looked into.

Every year HMMC give away large amounts of Potboiler funds to “good causes”, a lot of these are non-Potboiler good causes and the wider community in Hatherleigh benefit. Whilst it is wonderful to help out these “good causes” would it not be prudent to consult with Potboilers how they want their funds spent? And not just causes that are affiliated to the committee members? It has been suggested that Potboiler Hardship Grant could be set up for Potboilers to apply for or perhaps a Potboiler Education Bursary. What do you think? Have you suggestions as to where you would like to se this money spent? Please feel free to send your feedback here “Have your say” using the button at the bottom left of the screen, only available after you Register/Login.

 

Conflicts of Interest

Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee

 

When the agricultural rights were handed back to the Potboilers in 1951, the constitution that decreed this stated that a committee should be formed to keep the land in good grazing condition link see original constitution

This committee was originally formed and the Cleverdon family have been at the helm since its inception. In fact, Mr Geoffrey Cleverdon, the current Secretary & Treasurer, has been a member of the committee for over 65 years and is the last remaining Founder member. As was the way many years ago, original members were known to attract relations and close friends & business allies to join them on the committee.

The 1951 constitution states that graziers should pay a voluntary amount per animal – this currently translates to 10p a week for a sheep and 2 lambs or 75p a week per cattle.

From 2015 grants have been paid from Defra, which have been held in the Potboilers account. The yearly amount of government grant gained is currently. £41,949.12. 6 Graziers were paid a total of £18,509.11 in 2018/2019.

In October 2016, a motion was put to HMMC that graziers should receive half of the yearly government grant. A concerned committee member states that”named graziers voted in favour of the motion without declaring a conflict of interest and no member left the room during the vote” When asked about this HMMC tried to justify their actions by producing a Defra instruction. However this gives no clear statement that only graziers are entitled to receive grants. In fact the BPs Active Farmer Test received from Savills clearly shows that even farmers with NO STOCK can claim the grants. This has been confirmed by Stags.

HMMC, acting for the Potboiler community, is the Active Farmer link here.

 

Constitutional Change

1951 vs 2018

When the grazing rights of Hatherleigh Moor were returned to the Potboilers in 1951, there was a constitution in place. This remained the same for 67 years and was only changed in 2018 following several years of the Committee blocking questions from concerned Potboilers. It is obvious that the new Constitution was brought in swiftly to act as a gag to anyone who challenged the Committees decisions.

 

In laymans terms, the committee don’t have to answer to anyone in relation to their handling of Potboilers monies, government grants, grazing rights, Potboiler yearly token payments or indeed monies paid out to members of the committee. They have decided that the committee is established as an Unincorporated Association and in doing so, cannot be held accountable under law as they are not considered a legal entity. They cannot sue or be sued. In deciding to be an Unincorporated Assoc, they are now liable for corporation tax and have recently had to pay out £10,400.00 plus accountancy fees of £2,392.80

 

Government Grants

Defra

Since 26th June 2003 HMMC have been able to apply for government grants, on behalf of the wider Potboiler community. The amounts made available to HMMC have varied over that time and currently approx. £40,000.00 is claimed annually. This is good news? You would certainly think so, however, in October 2016, a motion was put to the committee suggesting that the active graziers should receive half of the government funding. The committee then voted on the motion in a private meeting and without any consultation with the Potboilers. In a report from a concerned grazier they stated that” not one member of the committee declared a conflict of interest and no one removed themselves from the room or voting process.

When challenged about this decision, HMMC have stated that only graziers can apply for the government funding. THIS IS NOT TRUE. The BPS Active Farmer Test clearly shows that even with no animals grazing, farmers can still avail of the grants. We know of local farmers that claim but do not have any stock. In this situation, HMMC, acting on behalf of Potboilers, is the Active Framer.

 

Committee Interests

who is rolling the dice?

Since 1951 and the establishment of Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee in 1952 the position of Secretary/Treasurer been held by Mr Geoffrey Cleverdon. The Committee was set up to oversee the grazing condition of Hatherleigh Moor and the interests of the Potboilers.

It is clear for everyone to see that Hatherleigh Moor has indeed been kept in good grazing condition, however, can the same be said for the interests of the Potboilers?

The graziers benefit from the Moor being kept in good condition – they graze their cattle and sheep there at low cost and now they are being paid large amounts from the government agricultural grants awarded to HMMC on behalf of the Potboilers. To add salt to the wound, the committee voted this motion in without consulting the wider Potboiler community and which involved serious conflicts of interest.

 

It was uncovered in the accounts that some £150 from the Potboiler account was held in Premium Bonds. On further investigation, it transpired that these Premium Bonds were actually held in the name of Mr Geoffrey Cleverdon and it remains unclear how long these were held for and how much income they generated. Were any winnings paid into the Potboiler account? At best this was very unprofessional. See solicitors letter under Nitty Gritty, you will need to log in first.

 

As previously discussed in Monies Management, large sums of money from the Potboiler account are distributed to “good causes” It really must give the Secretary/Treasurer and the Chairman such a great sense of generosity to be handing out these sizable donations. The concern here, is that these “good causes” have affiliation with the committee. For example, in 2016/2017 accounts it shows that The Allotment Association, of which Ms Deb Laing-Trengrove is the Town Council representative, was given £7696.00. Also in 2018/2019, the Town Council were awarded £2000.00 from the Potboiler account. There many other instances.

 

As there are only accounts available since 2015/2016, it is impossible to know where any monies have gone prior to that date. In all the years, since the committees inception, they have never once consulted with the general Potboiler community on how they would like their funds spent.

Potboiler Monies Management

How are your funds spent?

It has been very problematic to find out how Potboiler funds have been spent over the past 65 or so years. Concerned Potboilers have made many attempts to engage privately with both the Secretary/Treasurer and the Chairman, without success. It was only 5 years ago, in 2015, that the first set of yearly accounts was permitted to be viewed and handed back during the AGM that year. Since then accounts have been made available at each AGM.

So how are funds spent? Since 2015, over £100,000.00 has been distributed to Non-Potboiler causes. These are, in the main, causes which the committee are affiliated which include the churches, Football and Cricket clubs, Carnival amoung others.

Potboilers have never been consulted as to where these funds are allocated. Yes, as a resident in the town you may well see some benefit from these donations, however, only if you also have a link to the benefiting cause. We consider all outgoings should be decided at the AGM on a vote when all PotBoiler Houseolds can be represented.

The Chairman receives a yearly amount of £750.00 and is also paid for any work he does on Hatherleigh Moor as well as £5,976.19 for grazing his stock!

The Secretary/Treasurer receives the yearly amount of £1500.00 for his services

The accounts also show that yearly £5,000.00 is paid The Secretary/Treasurers son, for grazing his livestock on the Moor

As noted in Government Grants section, the active grazier potboilers receive half of the monies gained through government’s single farm payment scheme.

The HMMC have spent Potboiler funds on solicitors fees, instead of entering in meaningful debate with the concerned PotBoilers.

 

 

Charity verses Unincorporated Organisation

Reasons why the Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee should become a charity.

1.     HMMC will save tax. HMMC paid £10,400 in 2018/2019

2.     HMMC will be able to give money away legally as they do.

3.     HMMC will have to comply to the rules of the charity commission.

The concerned PotBoilers believe he reason it is not a charity is because of the third.

 


Who owns the Moor?

The Lady of the Manor, Deb Laing-Trengrove owns the mineral and shooting rights on the 425 or so acres of Hatherleigh Moor. It was first registered in her name with Land Registry in 2012 and the value of these 425 or so acres is shown to be £25,000.00

She has recently made claims to strips of unclaimed land, for example, at Yollberry at the top of Hatherleigh Moor, to add to the acreage of the Moor

Deb Laing-Trengrove is also a committee member of Hatherleigh Council and a former Mayor (link to town council page about Deb)

Other documents (Access available after YOU login/resister above)

A. Solicitor's letter here received by the committee's solicitor which the committee refused to read out at the AGM. Their Solicitor's reply is not available here for copyright reasons, please ask the Hatherleigh Moor Management committee to show you a physical copy.

B. Draft Constitution as we consider it should be

C. The report regarding the Mal-Administration of Hatherleigh Moor Financial Affairs. Prepared by a retired CID officer.

D. Questions to Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee and responses here

E. Items written in the local newsletter here.

F. We are in possession of a three page statement and documentary evidence provided by a committee member who in effect is a whistle blower. Which will be produced if necessary to the relevant authorities along with item A. above.

G. Report from Open Spaces Society.

H. For those that are interested see the Fraud Act 2006 legistration.gov.uk here