The Chairman, Kevin Newell gives us a few words following a response from Mid Sussex District Council.
First, may I say a huge thank you to all of our supporters who backed our campaign to encourage Mid Sussex District Council to allow our club a moratorium on rent payments whilst all football is suspended. Thank you also to Burgess Hill Town Council and the other Councillors who have expressed support for our request.
“However, I am very disappointed with the response from Mid Sussex District Council, which I feel is rather disingenuous.”
However, I am very disappointed with the response from Mid Sussex District Council, which I feel is rather disingenuous. It also perhaps shows that the Council do not fully understand the nature of the clubs’ role in the community. Let me take you through it:
Councillor Judy Llewellyn-Burke, Deputy Leader of Mid Sussex District Council said: “The £10,000 support grant we have provided to Burgess Hill Town Football Club is specifically to help businesses meet ongoing costs during the coronavirus outbreak” This gives the impression that MSDC paid the grant: in fact it came from public funds made available by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 17th March, paid out through the conduit of local rating authorities. This grant hasn’t cost MSDC a penny.
Councillor Judy Llewellyn-Burke goes on to say, “we have encouraged Burgess Hill Town Football Club to apply for all the support that’s on offer to them but should they still be experiencing difficulties after applying for this support then we’d be happy to engage in further discussions about how we can help”
The response was put out over social media, without any attempt to speak to the club. What in fact MSDC sent to the club was an unsigned circular refusing to allow a rent holiday and referring to the available grant initiatives of which we were of course already aware. No mention is made of my letter to the council setting out the reasons for requesting suspension of the rent. I’ve had no answer to that letter, and no other contact from the Council, so where the idea that there would be ‘further discussions’ comes from is again rather misleading. I have tried to have a dialogue with the Council on several occasions over the past year, principally to do with the future of our ground, but MSDC have failed to answer any of my communications.
“There does not seem to be a recognition that the Club is not a commercial undertaking but a community based enterprise which does not seek to make a profit (it doesn’t) and which is set up as a Limited Company only to protect the volunteers who make it work.”
Whilst the Council says it wants to be fair in its treatment of all small businesses, there does not seem to be a recognition that the Club is not a commercial undertaking but a community based enterprise which does not seek to make a profit (it doesn’t) and which is set up as a Limited Company only to protect the volunteers who make it work. It is in fact waiting for FA approval to convert to a Community Interest Company. Moreover, whilst it may be quite possible for trading businesses to start work again once the lockdown is relaxed, the football club cannot operate until such time as large social gatherings are permitted, and that does not seem to be in the foreseeable future. I do not expect the Government to make further grants available every few weeks, so how long does the Council consider £10,000 can last when by September they will have taken over half of it back?
Since I wrote this, I have heard from the Council suggesting a conversation. I will take up that offer straight away. I will keep you posted on what transpires.
Thank you once again.