What an amazing turn of luck! At the moment the society pays £550 per calendar month to rent a downstairs office that can just fit four people. Out of the blue, last week, I had a telephone call from a firm of property managers who specialise in short term lets. At first I didn’t take it seriously. I mean, when somebody ‘phones you up and asks you if you would like to rent an enormous office for just £1 per month what are you going to think – it’s a scam right? Well, Victoria went ahead and told me all about it. She told me that since April 1st 2008 landlords had to continue paying Business Rates to local authorities on all vacant or unoccupied premises. Before that date owners of factories and warehouses didn’t pay any Business Rates on empty premises and landlords of vacant offices only had to pay 50% of the Business Rate after a three month free period. Now, empty offices are still liable for full Business Rates – and the bigger the office the more landlords have to pay. So why was Victoria so eager to speak with me? Get this. If a landlord allows a registered charity to occupy any free office, the Business Rate is immediately reduced by 80% and there is also a further 20% reduction at the discretion of the local authority. So, by allowing us, the society, to occupy the offices the landlord pays only 20% of the Business Rate at the most and 0% at the least. So – we’re moving.
Now, as it stands, the society employs two young ladies to carry out the admin – Kirsty and Kim. Then we have Jan who volunteers two days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday), Lyn who looks after the accounts on Monday mornings. Then there’s Sue who pops in when she has time and tidies up (moves things) and Jane who likes to help out when she can. So as you can imagine, the office is a busy place most days. But even with everybody in there is still some spare room. We have 344 sq ft. of space. The new office we have been offered (for just £1 per month) is – wait for it – a staggering 4,700 sq ft. That’s over thirteen and a half times bigger than what we are currently used to. We have to give a month’s notice to our current landlord but I hope that he won’t charge us for the notice period. This will be my first job on Monday – telling the landlord we will be leaving.
There are already plans for the new office. Because it is so big it has three foldable room dividers that can be used to partition off whole sections. One such section would make an ideal Seminar room, and if all the partitions are opened there is enough room for a small conference to be held. It is certainly bigger than the room we hired for the Spring Conference held this year in Bryngarw House. It’s an excellent resource that we will only have to pay for the cost of heating the room. I have already instructed Kim and Kirsty to buy some thick wooly jumpers in prearation for next winter.