It is a pleasure to render my Annual Report for Financial Year (FY) 2015/2016; tinged with sadness as it is my final as Chairman, and also with relief that I pass on the Club in good health to a very safe pair of hands.
It has been a most satisfactory year for our Club, during which a gentle touch on the helm brought some sensible and modest changes to its governance. A successful dinner programme was delivered, although dining numbers were lower than is usual, with June 2015 on board VICTORY a particular highlight. Membership remains strong and above 800, yet very gently declining annually as it reflects the size and shape of the Service. Our charitable objectives were met fully with 6 memorialists supported, and both the Surplus and Club Funds remain in good shape.
Governance. The new secretary has settled well in the re-located Club office. Both proposals approved at last year’s AGM have been implemented i.e. a programmed reduction in Committee size from 23 to 9, and a simplified application and joining process for potential members.
Membership. I’m pleased to report that membership continues to be strong and well above 800, although sadly we encountered a “sickly season” with a number of deaths, compounded by a high number of direct debits in doubt as members continue to cancel them without informing the Secretary. Each of the latter will be chased as there will undoubtedly be a proportion of banking errors. Applications for membership continue but at a lesser rate and some initiatives should bear fruit in the next year or two. Despite the trend gently declining, consistent with a shrinking Fleet and officer corps, we should remain optimistic for if we recruit just half of those eligible each year the downward slope in membership should level off and balance those departing. For members who may be considering their membership, I would appeal for consideration not to resign:
“when members are no longer able to dine, either through infirmity, geographic location or inclination, they will bear in mind that their modest subscriptions do help to support the Club’s charitable work and will not therefore resign”.
Dinners. Total attendance at our dinners in FY 2015/16 at 209 was slightly lower than average and the previous year, the latter mainly due to the superb 250th anniversary dinner in February 2015 attended by over 330 members and guests. Based on the previously agreed 3 dinners per year, the FY 2016/17 dinner programme started with a magnificent June evening on board the RY BRITANNIA with 94 diners including wives and partners of those who wished, and next year will see dinners in London, Portsmouth and BRNC Dartmouth, clearing the way for another dinner north in perhaps either Liverpool or Scotland in 2018 or 2019.
Surplus Fund. I’m delighted to report that the Surplus Fund continues in excellent shape, finishing the FY with an unusually large surplus due to a re-alignment in the timings of investment income receipts. Investments are performing satisfactorily, managed by Quilter Cheviot in their second year with us. Support for an average of six memorialists has been maintained, with scope for more. I urge all members to bring to the notice of the Secretary anyone who is in need of support and eligible to be a memorialist.
General Fund. The General Fund is equally healthy, with expenditure under tight control, and all dinners are continuing to achieve a high standard with costs to members cushioned by Club subsidies. There was a minor surplus of circa £200 at year’s end, a touch lower than planned due to an unexpected need to change office computer software, and the funding of Chairman and Secretary’s presence in the Orkneys for the Jutland Commemorations in support of 7 of our former members who lost their lives in the Battle. With dining and socialising together our main raison d’etre, I would ask that you support one dinner at least each year if at all possible.
The approved and signed Independent Examiner’s reports on both the accounts are accessible through the Club web site.
Another pleasing year in which the Club achieved both its general and charitable aims in full, and remains financially well founded. All three dinners were blessed with excellent speakers. Some modest changes to the governance will ensure our Club remains relevant and in existence for its members’ benefit; a well-balanced dinner programme of 3 per year will allow Founders’ day to remain in London and the other 2 split between Portsmouth and the regions to ensure a good spread of location.
Members are asked to report to the Secretary changes of rank, address, (especially email addresses), deaths of brother officers etc in order to help him in his support of you. Additionally, he continues to make more use of our excellent web site with regular notices and useful information, at www.royalnavyclub.org. Please view it as often as possible - perhaps monthly. Email correspondence continues to be expanded to those who have access in order to further reduce office costs and to communicate more effectively with members.
In summary, our Club is in very good order and I will be pleased to hand over the chairmanship to Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, who is well known to many, at this AGM. I very much hope that the sensible and timely proposal to include spouses and partners at one dinner per year (i.e. June) will be implemented, and I know that the Club’s focus will continue to be on encouraging the maximum possible membership and high quality dinner evenings. I much look forward to re-joining you “below the salt” in the future, and thank you most sincerely for all your support during my time as chairman of this rather precious, ancient and venerable club. It has been a great honour and one I have enjoyed immensely.
Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement KCB OBE