Thursday, 7 November 2013

No-one said it would be easy

But why oh why does life have to be so damned complicated at times?

I seem to have acquired three particular jobs - or at least become involved in them - in connection with the Lions Housing Society that are, each of them, proving more and more complex, far more so than I would have ever dreamed possible. Take the first of them, for instance. Granted, I took this one on myself so I have no right to complain - not that it does me any good moaning about it anyway. This seemed at first a simple enough matter. The rules, or constitution, of the Society needed to be amended. In fact, we (that is, the management committee) had been acting for many years in contravention of at least two of the rules. One of them was that the Society could borrow a maximum of £6,000. Given that only a few years after the Society was founded it borrowed £50,000 - this was back in 1970 or thereabouts - you will appreciate that this rule has been ignored for many years. There was a time when the borrowing reached close to £3 million, and there is still over £1 million outstanding!

So, I checked through the rules completely and found several that really needed updating. I drafted what I thought would be acceptable alternatives and even thought to send them to the Society's solicitor to make sure they were satisfactory. Yes, he said, they were. But . . .

That's was when he told me about all the red tape to be fought through and the hoops to be jumped. We had to hold a special general meeting of shareholders to approve the changes. Simple enough. Having done that, we need to get clearance from the Financial Conduct Authority before the changes can be brought into effect. This involves printing out several copies of the proposed new rules, each having to be signed by three members of the Society and the secretary, and so on and so on. But thank goodness for the solicitor, who will do most of he work - for a fee.

Then we have been trying to negotiate with the Council to buy the freehold of a piece of land we currently rent from it. We have built two blocks of flats on the land and at the end of the lease, the land and all that stands thereon will revert to the Council. It took us rather more than two years to fix a meeting with the appropriate council official. Then he left and his successor denied that it was his responsibility. Then he left as well. His successor at first denied responsibility but then agreed that it was his baby after all. He arranged for a valuation to be undertaken, but we heard no more until, about a year later, we finally managed to get a response, only to be told that as we had not commented on the valuation (which we had not been informed of) they assumed we had pulled out. This seems to have landed in my lap now as well.

On top of that, I had a call yesterday from a local estate agent about another piece of land we have been trying to buy for two or three years. The current owner has obtained planning permission for five houses with the rest of the land to be leased to the Council for use as allotments. We have been trying to meet the appropriate Council officials to discuss obtaining permission for a block of flats and altering the way in which the land is to be split between buildings and allotments by swinging the whole thing through 90 degrees. We only have until the end of the year to get this change agreed (for some planning reason I don't understand) but the council officials are playing hard to get. Now I am told that the mortgagee has appointed a receiver and the sale is being put to tender, tenders to be submitted within just over two weeks. The successful bidder will be liable to pay the Council nearly £70,000 on top of the purchase price and will also have to hand over the allotment land set up and ready to go. I have a feeling we shall be pulling out of this one.

Oh well. A friend is taking the Old Bat and me out to lunch so I will be able to let it all go for a couple of hours.

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