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Issue 313 – Age Concern Frome set to close its doors

A CHARITY office in Frome is due for closure after not being able to find a suitable replacement premises.

Age Concern Frome has been running from St John’s Cottage since 1990 and under the management of Dianne Carter since 1997.
The closure has came as a result of the landlord, St John’s Church, wishing to sell the property. A letter dated the 9th of June from St John’s Church stated, “There was unanimous support from the PCC for the Vicar and Churchwardens to take appropriate steps to sell the Church Cottage property.”
In a letter sent to the Frome Times, manager Dianne Carter wrote, “At a recent general meeting of all members of Age Concern Frome, it was decided to close the local office permanently. The date set for closure is 17th December 2010, with the accounts being finalised at the end of the financial year – 31st December 2010.
“The charity stall planned for 20th November will still go ahead. The meeting was also assured that Age Concern Frome would honour its commitment to ensure the Winter Warmth awareness day would go ahead – this criteria being that proceeds from the Big Knit – to which local people have responded so readily, would be spent in Frome and ACF’s area of benefit. Tins of soup, packets of porridge, tins of drinking chocolate or similar will be purchased and handed out to all people of pension age who visit the office on the chosen day.”
At a general meeting on October 22nd Age Concern Frome chairman Martin Vining said, “After receiving the letter from St John’s Church about their intent to sell the premises we started actively looking for new premises. But despite tirelessly searching for affordable and suitable premises, we have so far not been successful. The only affordable property limited our services and did not lend itself to a “drop in” situation as at present due to lack of easy accessibility. If this venue was taken up, we would have to share desks with another charity, forfeit our privacy (or spend £10 each time for a room) and no longer be able to supply “mobility aids” though lack of storage space. In effect, the whole culture would have to change to a phone line only situation.
“Suitable commercial premises had been considered but this would have entailed paying rent at commercial rates, plus business council tax, heat and light. All this is pretty much covered, at present, within our current rent of £2075.00 per annum. As of now, we have sufficient funds to operate at our current levels of income and expenditure for a further 15-17 months.
“A deputation attended a recent Frome Town Council meeting to request a grant of £5,000 which would enable us to pay rent, at commercial rates, for one year. The meeting stated this would have to be applied for during the usual grants round, application October/November – outcome April. Although they indicated they would look favourably on an application, receiving confirmation in April and having to vacate present premises by May 11th was not satisfactory. This would, however be a “respite” period and further funding would be uncertain. It is worth noting that as an incorporated body of trustees the personal liability is limited, but as an organisation ACF can be sued.”

The Future

“Based on information provided by our treasurer, we would require a reliable annual income of some £14,000. Another factor to be taken into consideration is that Dianne is retiring at Christmas, which poses an almost impossible task of finding a manager for an unspecified period, if “temporary” premises were found.
“Owing to the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged, Age Concern Frome will not be able to use that name in the foreseeable future but neither will it be allowed to use AgeUK Frome. There will be major restrictions placed upon ACF who can only be classed as a local service provider.
“Taking all these factors into account, the majority of the trustees at their last meeting, came to the decision that Age Concern Frome should close in December of this year.”