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Whittlesey social club refuses new members as it considers its future

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Eight days after a social club appealed for new members, its chairman has blocked recruitment.

Mark Smith, chairman of the Ivy Leaf Club at Whittlesey, announced the decision yesterday (Thursday).

“For clarity the club are not taking new memberships at the moment,” he said.

“The reason being it’s not fair on our current members if we have to close that people who join now benefit from a windfall.”

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But he added that “we are looking for new people to use the club, so the process is, come up, sign in a few times, use the premises and become active and then apply for membership.

“The committee will consider it in line with the usual process and then everyone should be happy.”

Three days earlier, Mr Smith had issued a statement in response to what he termed “some rumours today that the club has closed.

Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

“This is not true and as a result if you have been told this then you shouldn’t believe the idle malicious gossip merchants trying to hurt further a business which is already struggling.”

He added: “For clarity, we are still open, the officers and the committee are still working hard to make it a success.

‘Stop gossiping’ plea

“For those people with too much time on their hands stop gossiping and structure your free time in helping us please.”

The week before the club had advertised for new members with joining fees of £20 a year for full membership and £10 for honorary membership for those over 65.

As CambsNews reported earlier this month Mr Smith has warned the club is under threat as numbers fall and costs rise.

He issued his warning ahead of the club’s annual meeting later this month or in April.

In a statement to members, he listed five reasons why the financial situation at the club has become serious.

Mr Smith says:

1: Membership has fallen considerably

2: Teams playing at the club are down

3:  Attendance at club functions has dropped massively

4: As a result, revenue is also down “quite a bit”

5: The Ivy Leaf club “has been hit, like most businesses, by rising utility costs, brewery costs, food, beer and gas and ongoing maintenance to a building that is over 100 years old”

The only bright note, he reports, is that function room bookings “remain at a constant level”.

The Ivy Leaf in Gracious Street is a social club that it owned by its members and since March 2020 has been registered as a Co-operative Society.

In its latest published accounts – for 2021 – the club reported a turnover of £192,039, with seven employees and 384 members.

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Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

In its annual accounts Mr Smith noted that 2021 “has been a difficult year for us due to Covid, loss of members through death and people just not returning.

“Things are starting to improve and now and I believe this is by us providing a safe environment through rigorous risk assessments and enforcement of public safety.
“These measures have helped us meet the members aspirational requirements”.

However, and fast forward to March 2023, Mr Smith warns that “the club has been running at a loss for a number of months and its long-term continuance needs further exploration”.

Improve or we ‘cease trading’

He wrote: “Sadly I must bring it to the attention of our members and the community that things need to improve over the next few months otherwise we will have no alternative but for us to cease trading.

“Whilst we haven’t put an official time scale on this yet, it’s important to be transparent and highlight the current situation so everyone is fully sighted.

“Whilst the officers, committee and staff continue to work hard to make the Ivy Leaf a success, sadly a lot of it seems to be in vain.”

Mr Smith added: “The purpose of this notice is to highlight the situation and to ask the members and community to support us more. It would be remiss of me not to explore all avenues and ask for help on behalf of the club before we are forced to close.”

Financial updates, he said, will be reported to the AGM “when we have documents back from the accountant”.

In 2020 the Ivy Leaf Club was registered under the terms of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014

It became, officially, a co-operative society.

Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

Extracts from most recent published accounts of Ivy Leaf Club Ltd

Mr Smith told the Financial Conduct Authority(FCA), the regulatory body, that The Ivy Leaf Club Whittlesey Limited was previously registered as Whittlesey Ivy Leaf Club Ltd “but the previous chairman failed to submit accounts and the club was de-registered I believe last year.

“Having taken advice from the FCA a new application is needed; this status is imperative to us for general functionality.”

He told the FCA: “ I have amended the name to show fully the new business and will ensure that all accounts are provided to the FCA in the future and this will feature as a committee agenda item to ensure there are no future issues.

Club recently had ‘about 1000+ members’

“We are a members social club and membership is available to all the community, we currently have about 1000+ members who are from all social and cultural backgrounds.

“We strive to provide a safe place for people to meet, greet and form strong social bonds in the local community.”

Mr Smith explained: “The club doesn’t make much profit as we keep our prices quite low to attract new members and retain those that we already have.

Letter from club chairman Mark Smith

Letter from club chairman Mark Smith

“The Ivy Leaf is quite and old and large premises and as a result takes a lot of upkeep and the repairs are quite frequent and costly.

“Any monies made after staff wages, taxes, overheads etc are generally spent on building upkeep.”

In support of it being a bona fide co-operative, he explained that The Ivy Leaf has been a social club for 98 years and all the founding members have passed.

 

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