Community buildings update from Action Hampshire – fuel and electricity costs


The team at Unity have recently received correspondence from Action Hampshire as to community buildings and the increase in fuel and electricity costs.

Fuel and electricity costs – what can we do?

Many of you have already experienced painful increases to your fuel and electricity bills, and more of you will do so over the coming months.  Practically speaking, there are two things you can do:

Reduce your usage

I’ve sent information before about how to reduce the amount of fuel, electricity, and water your community building uses.  The Centre for Sustainable Energy has a range of freely downloadable resources including a self-audit checklist to help you identify energy saving measures.  Some of these will need planning and funding, but others will be low-cost and easy to achieve.

Get the cheapest rates

As with domestic bills, it can pay to shop around.  Also, some organisations use an energy broker to do the hard work for them and get access to bulk-buy discounts – here is a list of energy brokers.

Our [our%20national%20partner%20charity]national partner charity ACRE is running a survey to get a better picture of the national situation for rural community halls, in partnership with energy brokers Utility Aid.  See ACRE’s website for a news item on rising energy prices or go directly to the survey – it closes on 19 Aug. 


We can also make some noise about the impact that energy costs are having on our organisations, and the risk to our vital community facilities.  Tell your MP and local councillors about the help you need to get through the coming months.  And add your voice to the national campaigning efforts.  Action Hampshire will be joining in soon, and our counterparts in Norfolk are already there – see Community Action Norfolk’s website.  We’ll have three main requests:

  • For utility companies to bring in a special tariff for charities
  • 5% VAT on all utility supplies to premises run by a charity
  • More national funding for community halls (please note your interest in the Platinum Jubilee Fund if you haven’t already!) 

Volunteering and covid-19

National charity sector support body NCVO has released a report on the impact that covid-19 had on volunteering.  It starts by noting how a surge in volunteering sentiment was partly frustrated by the fact that so many organisations that use volunteers had to stop, or at least greatly reduce, running their activities.  The report’s conclusions are very interesting – I was particularly struck by this comment: ‘the evidence from this research has consistently shown an elevated level of anxiety and fatigue among pandemic volunteers as well as their strong sense of guilt’.

I have a booklet about recruiting and retaining volunteers (including committee members) so please email me if you’d like to see it.  Do also get in touch with the Council for Voluntary Service that covers your area and seek their help with filling your volunteer roles.  

Hallmark quality standards scheme

We are looking into relaunching the Hallmark quality standards scheme which is overseen by our [our%20national%20partner%20charity]national partner charity ACRE.  The point of Hallmark is to help you check that you’re running your building and organisation effectively, and to give you a way of demonstrating this – to hirers, the general public, potential funders etc.

The scheme normally runs using a group of volunteer ‘Hallmark Visitors’ who go to an applicant community hall and check how it operates, referring to a checklist and sending a report back to me.  The Visitor role is voluntary, not paid, although we would be pleased to pay travel expenses.

Please let me know if you’re interested, either in becoming a Hallmark Visitor or putting your village hall through the process.  There might be an admin fee to cover some of the costs to us – we still need to work these details out.  We’re also checking with ACRE about what kind of buildings can be assessed using Hallmark, in particular whether it is open to community centres in urban areas.  In the meantime, though, any of you are very welcome to use the checklists as a self-assessment tool:

Hiring charges

I’ve recently had some enquiries about a survey of hiring charges.  I last did this in 2018 but a lot has happened since then!  National community engagement charity Community Matters is preparing an England-wide report on hire charges, so I’ll see what they produce before carrying out a Hampshire survey.

Basecamp – sharing ideas and issues with fellow trustees and managers

Our online message board (run using the Basecamp system) is an ideal way of sharing issues and ideas with your fellow trustees / staff of community buildings.  We’ve got over 200 subscribers, all involved with managing a community hall or centre.  If you’d like to know more about Basecamp please see their short how-to video.  I’ve also got a simple beginners’ guide which I’ll send to new joiners.  To get started, just email me and I’ll set up an account for you.

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