Minutes of the 16th Annual General Meeting of PlantNetwork

(1)    Welcome

Dr Matthew Jebb, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PlantNetwork, welcomed all to the meeting.

(2)    Minutes of the Fifteenth Annual General Meeting

Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 12 July 2011 at University of Bath were approved and signed as a correct record.

(3)    Report for the year to 31 March 2012, by Matthew Jebb, Chairman of the Board

Meetings: the following conferences and training meetings had been held in the year, with presentations and reports posted on the website.

  • Propagation Challenges and Successes
    PlantNetwork Propagators’ Group at Knightshayes Court Gardens, Devon, 6 April 2011
  • Volunteers in Gardens and Arboreta
    PlantNetwork Conference at University of Bath, 12–14 July 2011
  • Can’t see the Trees for the Grass?
    PlantNetwork Tree Forum at Castle Howard Arboretum, 14 October 2011
  •  University Botanic Gardens
    A discussion day on relevant issues, at Ness Botanic Gardens, 29 February 2012
  • Mowing, Watering and Weeding: sustainable practices for public gardens
    PlantNetwork Conference at University of York, 27–29 March 2012

The conference on volunteers had been particularly well attended and included much topical discussion. Staff from 11 university botanic gardens attended the meeting at Ness, the first meeting of this group.

Membership in the year had totalled 208, with 92 institutional members and 116 individual or personal members (including free membership for 25 Trainees on placements in gardens as part of the Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme or the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme). There were 35 personal members within institutions that are already members of PlantNetwork (at the special rate of £15/year; they receive their own copies of newsletters and other mailings). There were 8 student members; the Board was seeking to encourage more students to join. Institutional membership included all the staff at that garden or organisation. Subscription rates had last been increased in 2008; the Board had decided not to increase the rates for this year; but gave notice that rates would increase from 1 April 2013.

Communication: the website https://plantnetwork.org) continued to be a useful resource, with information accessible to all. Christopher Weddell was thanked for managing it well. Members were asked again to check the entry for their garden in the PlantNetwork Directory of Botanical Collections in Britain and Ireland on the website and to send in their updates. Some entries had not been updated since 1999! Information on PlantNetwork meetings and other matters had been sent out to members on the email distribution list and in PlantNetwork Newsletter 42 (published in Dec 2011 and sent out in Jan/Feb 2012).

Plant health had remained a concern; several members of the Board had participated meetings with the Food and Environment Research Agency, Forestry Commission and others, giving information and advice from the historic and botanic garden sector.

The Board had a duty of care and a duty of prudence in running PlantNetwork: policies on risk, financial reserves, and internet and email usage were reviewed regularly. Charges for meetings had been deliberately kept low, to enable people to attend. Places at greatly reduced rates had been given to volunteers for the conference on volunteering and to students at the conference in York.. Student membership of PlantNetwork was offered at the low rate of £10/year.

(4)    Treasurer’s report

The Chairman presented a report based on information from Hugh Angus, Hon. Treasurer.

Subscriptions cover just over half of basic running costs; they are set at low rates, to encourage as many botanic and historic gardens as possible to become members, it was recognised from the outset that subscription income alone would not cover expenditure. Conference budgets include a contribution towards PlantNetwork overheads and administration. A sufficient amount had been set aside in reserves for PlantNetwork to run for at least a year should there be no further income.

Accounts for the year to 31 March 2011 had been audited by Critchleys and approved by the PlantNetwork Board in December 2011. Total expenditure, including conference and meeting costs, was just over £38K; office expenses were again lower than in the previous year. Income was more than £29.5K. There was a deficit for the year of £8.5K, partly a result of only one conferences falling within the year (there had been three in the previous year) and no external funding awards being received. At the end of the year (31 March 2011),
£48 339 had been carried forward in reserves.

Accounts for the year to 31 March 2012 had not yet been audited. In summary, a shortfall of about £13K between income and expenditure had been only partly offset by donations and income from meetings and emailing. A deficit on the year of around £1000 was expected, despite two conferences being held in the financial year. The deficit would be covered from the reserves, but the need for continual fundraising was evident.

The Board gave notice that subscription rates would increase by a small amount from April 2013, the first rise since 2008.

Critchleys, of Greyfriars Court, Paradise Square, Oxford, was appointed as auditor for a further year.

(5)    Election of officers to the Board of Trustees

The Board for 2011–2012 had been: Matthew Jebb (Chairman), Pamela Smith (Vice-Chair), Hugh Angus (Hon. Treasurer), David Rae (Hon. President), Stephen Ansdell, Simon Goodenough, Alistair Griffiths, Stewart Henchie, David Knott, Edwin Mole, Harvey Stephens, Ian Turner, Tim Upson, Christopher Weddell and Rupert Wilson.

The diversity in experience of Trustees brought a range of skills and expertise to the Board. The Articles of Association of the Company require one-third of Board members to retire at each AGM; they may stand for re-election. Hugh Angus, Stewart Henchie and Pamela Smith stood down from the Board. The Chairman paid tribute to Stewart, who did not wish to stand for re-election, thanking him for all his help and advice in two periods as a Trustee on the Board (1996–98 and 2006–12). Hugh Angus and Pamela Smith, nominated by the Board, were re-elected, unopposed. No other nominations had been received.

(6)    Matthew thanked members and the Board of Trustees for their support to PlantNetwork over the past year.

The meeting closed at about 5.30 pm.