Thursday 7 April 2022

Response to misrepresentations over proceedings at MPF Management Committee mtg

Mapledurham Playing Fields (last year) 
Tonight I made a statement at the Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) Trustees Sub-Committee meeting to set out a couple of facts regarding last week's MPF Management Committee meeting which I chaired on 29th March.

These related to posts on social media which have falsely represented what I and other members said and agreed at our meeting. Below is my statement, which includes a link to an extract of the initial draft MPF Management Committee minutes for the relevant part of the meeting.

Good evening

Thank you for the opportunity to make a statement.

I’ll start by sharing feedback on the completed works at Mapledurham Playing Fields. I’ve heard much praise for the vastly improved accessibility which has opened up the playing fields to wheelchair users. Now mobility impaired grandparents are able to enjoy watching their grandchildren play football, and children’s buggies and wheelchairs are able to reach the new playground. Added to this, the lighting up of the central avenue, together with the fact that there are more people about, has made residents feel safe to walk their dogs alone.

The Pavilion’s major rebuild and partial refurbishment has transformed it beyond recognition into a fabulous facility for everyone. A few finishing touches still need doing - you have already seen and approved the request to buy and install sound proofing panels, plus the need for more kitchen storage, but the building is nearly there. Some residents who originally opposed the building of the school have changed their minds. They’ve acknowledged the massive benefits achieved. As Trustees, I hope you will be as pleased as I am that this highly controversial project has been such a tremendous success. We, along with officers, can all hold our heads up high.

I’d like to turn now to the meeting I chaired on Tuesday 29th March of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management Committee, at which we discussed officer reports about the playing fields and pavilion.

Madam Chair, as you will be aware, the following organisations each have a representative on the Management committee: Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club, Caversham Trents Football Club, Mapledurham Parish, The Heights Primary School, User Groups, and WADRA.

In addition, the Council has three councillors including me on the Committee. Three officers were present to support the Committee, one of whom took the minutes.

I have had confirmation back from the majority, that my recollection and account of the meeting is correct.

One of the topics discussed was rental charges, including the charges to WADRA for use of the Pavilion for their Thursday afternoon Community Café. 

WADRA appear to have taken for granted that, unlike all the other voluntary user groups of the Pavilion on the discounted community rate, they are entitled to its free use. The Council does have a process for groups to apply for funding and I have provided this to WADRA. The Community Café is in itself a good thing and I hope they are successful with their application.

Tonight, to set the record straight and to correct the inaccuracies and misunderstandings that some on social media have displayed – I set out the facts.

Point One: Because the representative of Caversham Trents Football Club was unable to attend, I read out the statement he had sent me, expressing support for the principle of WADRA being given a fee reduction/waiver for the Community Café but said that WADRA should provide attendance numbers and look at funding opportunities. Hardly a misrepresentation or misinterpretation of Caversham Trents’ position.

Point Two: There was no vote. There was no vote on whether to waive the charges or otherwise. Instead, it was noted that WADRA had believed they were getting free usage, but that that hadn’t been officers’ understanding. It was agreed that officers would investigate further the exact situation and evidence in terms of what had been agreed to be charged, and come back to the next Management meeting with options for resolving the situation.

Following the meeting there’ve been several posts on this topic on Caversham’s social media. Specifically, I am alleged to have misrepresented the views of Caversham Trents Football Club, while Committee members and I are alleged to have voted against WADRA getting free usage of the Pavilion, resulting in closure of their Community Café. These allegations grossly misrepresent both the proceedings and the outcome.

I ask that you note my statement, which is corroborated by the relevant section of the initial draft minutes that I forwarded to you in advance of this meeting.

In closing, it’s obviously very disappointing, indeed a matter of great regret, that some posts online, have chosen to criticise my handling of the Committee meeting and to denigrate me and other members of the Committee. Now that the facts are in the public domain, inaccurate posts should cease. I reserve my right to institute legal proceedings.

A YouTube recording of last night's meeting is here.