June 19, 2020

Following spectacular £1-million+ renovation, RSPBA HQ now valued at … £500k

Questions about the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s decision to spend more than £1-million of members’ money on the renovation of the organization’s headquarters at 45 Washington Street aren’t likely to go away any time soon after the building was valued at only £500,000 in an “external revaluation of the property … carried out by DM Hall Chartered Surveyors” – an impairment loss of £585,553.

The information comes from the financial statement issued to member bands in advance of the association’s June 27th annual general meeting and obtained in full by pipes|drums.

The renovation has been fraught with controversy before it even started. The association insists that it received unanimous approval from voting member-bands to spend its cash reserves at the time of more than £900,000 on the refurbishment. Critics have complained that the strong majority of bands were not on hand to have their opinions heard or votes counted.

The RSPBA headquarters in Glasgow.

The headquarters are in Glasgow. Bands from outside the Central Belt of Scotland, and particularly those from Northern Ireland, have said that they would have little or no use for the building. The RSPBA has also asked bands to pay for the use of the space.

The organization’s annual general meeting had initially been scheduled for March 21st but was postponed until June because of the pandemic. In place of an in-person meeting, the association has opted for an online format, where RSPBA representatives and the secretaries of member bands can attend by video. Voting on motions is being done in advance with a deadline of the morning of June 25th. Questions also may be submitted only in writing in advance.

The organization said in a statement that “Relevant Questions and Answers will be published as soon as practicable following the AGM.”

Section 15 of the RSPBA’s Standing Orders & Rules, under “Rights and Obligations,” state, “Each Member upon being admitted to membership shall be entitled to attend and speak (in accordance with the Rules and the Articles) at any general meeting, and shall have one vote. … Your entitlement to attend and speak at the AGM is not optional, it’s a requirement granted by the payment of your band’s membership fees.”

The RSPBA states in its financial report that on January 1, 2020, it had a cash balance of £64,522, approximately £56,000 of which is from dues paid by bands for 2020.

The RSPBA lists a total of 451 bands in the United Kingdom that have been recent members, but only 265 have paid dues of between £252 for a full new membership of £208 for a renewal for 2020.

Some 264 “international” bands from outside the UK have been recent members, with only 38 having paid 2020 dues of £105. International member bands are not permitted to vote and may attend the AGM by invitation only.

Unlike the rest of the world, the RSPBA requires international bands to become members, rather than honouring their membership with their home association.

With no competitions and virtually none of the same value that members would have derived from their dues when they paid them, some have wondered if cash-strapped bands will ask for their money back.

The RSPBA’s paid staff, including Executive Officer Ian Embelton, have been on the UK’s government furlough program since about the time that the coronavirus pandemic lockdown began. According to the law around the UK’s plan, paid furloughed employees cannot conduct work for their organizations.

Under the furlough scheme, which was recently extended until October, the government pays 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Approximately 8.7 million UK citizens have been furloughed since the start of the crisis – more than a quarter of the UK’s entire workforce.

At publication time, Embelton had not answered a request for comment.



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