Minutes of April 2013 meeting

Minutes of meeting of the Board of directors of The Autscape Organisation

Meeting date: Sunday 21st April 2013

Meeting time: 2.00pm BST

Meeting Chair: Martijn

Present:  Elaine, Martijn, Stephen and Yo

Apologies: Trish

1.      The directors waived their right to formal notice of this meeting (4
for, 0 against)

2.      Ratification

2.1.   The board ratified the decision to set the professionals' fees for
Autscape 2013 to £210 (shared) / £250 (single/en-suite). (4 for, 0 against)

3.      Proposals

3.1.   Accountancy.

3.1.1.      The board decided to increase the agreed budget for accountancy
services to £700 (from £550 previously) [See Appendix A for rationale] (4
for, 0 against)

3.1.2.      The board decided to rescind its previous decision to not have
an independent examination of the accounts. (4 for, 0 against)

3.2.   Programme proposals voting. The programme coordinator (Martijn)
acknowledged that Autscape is behind schedule on this and outlined his
intentions to organise a vote on the board list before the next meeting.

3.2.1.      Delegate scheduling programme. The board decided to work
collectively on the schedule with the programme coordinator leading the
project (nem con)

3.3.   Day fees. There was a brief discussion of the feasibility of coping
with the administration involved in day registrations, but the chair
(Martijn) expressed faith that the existing registration system and the
registrar will allow this to function. The board decided to set the day fees
specified in Appendix B. (3 for, 0 against)

3.4.   2014 venue.

3.4.1.      The interim treasurer (Stephen) advised that the proposed price
that Belsey Bridge are offering looks viable and shouldn't result in a
significant increase in fees compared to all previous years. Additionally
the comparatively low child rates would help address the concern raised by
Debbie about an above inflation trend in Autscape's child fees. The chair
(Martijn) thanked members of the research subcommittee (Elaine and Debbie)
for their work on this proposal and commented that, in his view, regular
attenders will like returning to Belsey Bridge as it was quite popular. Yo
commented that, while all venues have their pros and cons, Belsey Bridge has
a lot going for it and she favours the proposal. In her view, the only
remaining significant downside was location (in terms of travel time for
participants and their willingness to attend, as well as the difficulty of
arranging venue visits - but the Elaine pointed out that these are probably
unnecessary now that we are familiar with this venue). Martijn also pointed
out that, as a previous venue, this choice now also has the advantage of
easier organisation over an unfamiliar venue. The board decided to book
Belsey Bridge for Autscape 2014. (4 for, 0 against) (See closed Appendix C1
on board list for detailed cost information and Appendix C2 below for
background and rationale).

3.4.2.      Dates. The board considered whether to select: (a) 4 - 7th Aug
2014; or (b) 11 - 14th Aug 2014; as the dates for Autscape 2014. (Link to
2014 calendar in Appendix D for reference). The date of August bank holiday
(25th) and UK school holidays (late July - early September) were considered.
Yo and Elaine slightly preferred the earlier dates as they are more towards
the beginning of the school holidays, leaving the rest of
the summer holiday open for personal holidays. Martijn slightly preferred to
later dates, feeling that they may be less likely to clash with other
conferences/conventions. There were 3 votes for (a) and 1 vote for (b). The
board decided ask Elaine to book (a) but also approve her to book (b) if
there is any reasonable reason why she needs to change to that in the course
of making the booking. (nem con)

3.5.   Co-options

3.5.1.      Rangesh Nallan (see 16/4/13 'Fw: #log' and 7/4/13 'Rangesh'
thread for further information).
The board decided not to co-opt Rangesh Nallan (4 against the proposal to
co-opt, 0 for). The company secretary (Yo) requested help with drafting an
email to him and the chair (Martijn) volunteered.

3.5.2.      Debbie F. (see 9/4/13 'Fw: Trustee'  for further information).
The board decided to co-opt Debbie F. (3 for, 0 against).

3.6.   Storage. This item was deferred to the board email list at Yo's
request and with the research subcommittee chair's (Elaine) consent.

4.      Follow ups

4.1.   Submission of accounts/annual report by accountants and signing
engagement letter inc. independent examination issue raised by Peter
(Stephen). The interim treasurer (Stephen) reported that coordination
between the former treasurer (Peter) and the company secretary (Yo) is
ongoing, culminating in proposal 3.1 above, due to CASE offering the same
fee with or without independent examination. At this point either the
interim treasurer or company secretary needs to sign the relevant engagement
letter. The company secretary (Yo) asked for clarification about whether it
is the former treasurer (Peter) or the interim treasurer (Stephen) who is
actually in contact with the accountants and the interim treasurer (Stephen)
clarified that the former treasurer (Peter) is. The company secretary (Yo)
stated that she is happy to sign the letter now the board has approved the
expenditure and will send it to the former treasurer (Peter) to pass on to
the accountants.

4.2.   Director recruitment (Yo). The company secretary (Yo) reported that
the current picture is complicated but attempted to summarise. The board has
talked to and now turned down one potential candidate (Rangesh). The board
has co-opted another candidate already known to the board (Debbie). There is
another potential candidate still to talk to (Liz). Even if the board
decides to co-opt Liz, we would still be lacking some key skills,
particularly financial. So she intends (on the basis of previous authority)
to pursue a more expensive recruitment option and use a service that will
actively seek to match us with potential candidates to find those skills.
However this will take longer (their forms are incredibly demanding on her
resources and time which is why she hasn't done it to date and there are no
guarantees of success. The chair (Martijn) thanked the company secretary
(Yo) for the clear summary and enquired if anyone could help with the forms.
She responded that unfortunately, probably no-one can because it would
likely take her just as long to explain the ins and outs to another person.
But if she keeps getting stuck she'll reconsider. Mostly it's just a
question of reworking and rewriting everything she has already put in the
job description and ad into the questions they ask. The chair (Martijn)
asked the company secretary (Yo) to let the board know if she runs into

4.3.   Insurance.  Elaine reported that the former treasurer
(Peter) has sent her the insurance details. The company secretary (Yo) asked
whether this means that Elaine is on top of talking to the insurers about
this year. Elaine said that she hasn't yet had a chance to act on the
information but will get to it after the meeting. The chair (Martijn) asked
Elaine to please report on the list when it's done or if there are any

4.4.   Potential sponsorship offer (Martijn). The chair (Martijn) reported
that he had emailed the person from the organisation who inquired about
sponsoring us, clarifying what Autscape is (i.e. autistic run, not your
regular parent-run autism conference) and asking them what specifically they
had in mind. He has not yet received a reply, except an automated notice
saying the person in question will be out of the office until April 22
(tomorrow). If he doesn't get a reply soon after that, he intends to resend
that email.

4.5.   Outstanding 2012-2013 minutes awaiting approval (Martijn). The chair
(Martijn) apologised and reported that he hasn't made any progress on this
since last meeting.

4.6.   Collecting powerpoints/handouts from 2012 presenters (Trish). Martijn
reported that he has received a group of these from Trish, which either he
or the IT systems manager (Stephen) should put up on the website. He thinks
that Trish's part of this job is done. The company secretary (Yo) asked
whether Martijn is sure that he has received all of them, because Trish's
part of the job is following up to make sure we get all of them out of the
presenters. Martijn undertook to check if he has them all, but thinks so.
The company secretary (Yo) commented that getting them up (on the website)
seems a low priority job, but it's bound to be helpful to people considering
coming to be able to see what past presentations were like.

4.7.   Amendment to gender question on registration form for equality
reasons (Stephen). The IT systems manager (Stephen) reported that he has no
received a response from the former IT systems manager (Peter) on this issue
and had let the company secretary (Yo) know this but as far as he knows
no-one has followed up on this. The company secretary (Yo) apologised and
undertook to post on the list about this. She asked the IT systems manager
(Stephen) to send the former IT systems manager (Peter) a reminder email in
case he's overlooked it.

4.8.   Appointing an onsite transport coordinator (Elaine) - deadline 22nd
April. Elaine explained that she has a bit of a dilemma here. She would like
us to provide transport because she thinks it is necessary for some people
getting to Autscape. However, she can't think of anybody who can be at the
station except herself, but is concerned about the conflict with her
responsibilities at the venue. She asked for help in deciding which task it
would be best for her to do. After some discussion, the board decided to
make a final decision on this after considering the likely make-up of the on
site team under item 4.9. Following that, the overall consensus was that the
strain on the remaining likely members of the onsite team from Elaine's
absence at the station is manageable if all goes to plan, whilst
acknowledging that it could become very difficult to cope if there are
significant train delays or other transport problems. The board decided to
appoint Elaine as onsite transport coordinator. (4 for, 0 against)

4.9.   (Handled out of order) Onsite team. All 4 directors present (Yo,
Elaine, Stephen and Martijn) expressed willingness to serve on the onsite
team. Elaine commented that she has some ideas about how the on-site team
might work more effectively. Yo wanted to let the board know that she is not
willing under any circumstances to serve as coordinator (and hoped the board
would understand her reasons). However, she is willing to be on the team in
a somewhat limited capacity, just *not* as a frontline person with a lot of
direct contact with venue staff and participants. Martijn expressed some
reluctance to serve as he is likely to be tired from the start due to other
commitments immediately before Autscape. There was a brief discussion of
potential non-board candidates for the onsite team, but no conclusion was
reached at this early stage.

4.10.   Autreat/Autscape overlap possibilities (Martijn).
The chair (Martijn) clarified that, given that Autscape and Autreat will
happen on the same days, we are thinking of setting up an internet video
link and use that in some form or another. This could be ad hoc, just for
contact between participants, or more formal, like sharing a presentation or
lecture between the conferences. He reported that he isn't sure whether it
is going to be realistic to manage anything on this but is willing to try.
He felt that it's something that doesn't need to have a very high priority
and that could, in a pinch, even be done ad hoc. He intends to propose it on
the autreat-info list and see if they would be open to the idea. The board
was supportive of this provided Autscape isn't making a huge commitment
beyond our ability to manage or giving participants any guarantees that
anything will come off.

5.      Subcommittee progress reports

5.1.   Programme (Chair: Martijn) (proposal voting arrangements and summary
of subcommittee comments on proposals, proposed invitations including
progress on benefits adviser, assessment of whether there is an adequately
strong programme in place or in prospect, other issues). The programme
subcommittee chair (Martijn) reported that Yo is dealing with inviting a
benefits adviser. Yo reported that she had invited one possible benefits
person and got a 'yes but only for substantial fee'. She is working on an
alternative and will report back when she gets a reply. The programme
subcommittee chair had nothing else to report that hadn't been discussed

5.2.   Fundraising (Chair: Elaine) (fundraising strategy - deadline for
presentation to the board in some form, assistance required, other issues).
The fundraising coordinator (Elaine) reported that she had put some of the
fundraising strategy on the board list. She undertook to put the rest on
after this meeting.

5.3.   Research (Chair: Elaine) (childcare providers, transport providers,
future potential venues - providing information to the board, any
outstanding points on storage, other issues) On childcare, the research
subcommittee chair (Elaine) reported that she is waiting for one of the
childcare providers to send me their policies and then it can go to a vote.
The company secretary asked when she expected this to happen. The research
subcommittee chair stated that she expected it to be this week and agreed
that if she hasn't heard back from them but the end of this week she will
drop them from the vote. The company secretary asked her to also post the
information she has already got to the board list in the interim to allow
the board time to consider it. On transport, the research subcommittee chair
reported that she has the name of the company we used last time and some
alternatives. There was a brief discussion of the pros and cons of
integrating transport booking into registration and a tentative conclusion
in favour of charging via registration and refunding if necessary was
reached, along with an intention to discuss the issue further on the board
list once the research subcommittee chair has the quotes available.

5.4.   Publications and publicity (Chair: Martijn) (poster/flyer, NAS
directory, adverts in other publications, updating website text esp. from
2012 to 2013 venue/fee/registration information, information pack, other
issues). The publications and publicity subcommittee chair (Martijn)
informed the board that no progress has been made in this area since last

5.5.   Purchasing working group (Coordinator: Stephen). The purchasing
coordinator (Stephen) reported that we have 150 pens for this year and a
handful of merchandise already. He still needs to obtain pads of paper
(we've run low), folders, name badges, interaction badges, etc. He intends
to work on a budget for this over the next couple of weeks. The merchandise
isn't a priority, and he is not treating replacement sensory equipment as
one either; commenting that we've got enough for some sort of sensory room,
even if it's not as fully featured as in previous years.

6.      Key position progress reports (matters not covered earlier)

6.1.   Registrar (Kalen) (registration system, are we on course to open
registration on 23rd April?) The company secretary relayed the registrar's
(Kalen) comment that she doesn't think she is going to have anything to
report as registrar until registration is opened, which is not under her
control at all. The chair (Martijn) reported that we are not on course to
open registration on 23rd April. The registrar is waiting for something to
happen. He hopes that any minor changes necessary in the registration system
(e.g. see 4.7) will be able to be implemented soon and hopes we will be able
to open registration in the next couple of weeks.

6.2.   Venue Coordinator (Elaine) (matters arising, obtaining plan of fire
doors, special diet discussion/draft menu) The venue coordinator (Elaine)
reported that her priority is to get the venue info on the website but that
she needs technical help to do so and to locate the venue text from the 2011
information pack (last time we used Ackworth). Martijn undertook to find
them for her. The venue coordinator also reported that she has the name of
the chef/catering manager and will now be able to start work on the menus.
She reported receiving calls on the Autscape mobile and asked whether people
can register by phone or post. The chair was unable to answer this
immediately. He comments that he doesn't believe the registrar is likely to
have the resources to manage this, but that an alternative might be for
someone else to receive information in these ways and manually enter the
data into the registration system. Further discussion of whether offering
this is manageable was deferred to the board email list.

6.3.   IT systems manager (Stephen) (handover, website updating - especially
venue information prior to registration opening (Last month Martijn offered
to find the Ackworth information and email it to Elaine for checking - has
this happened?), registration system, anything else). The IT systems manager
(Stephen) reported that website updates have been done semi-regularly
over the past month, there are a couple of urgent ones left over from
last month he needs to get done including updating the cancellation policy
and putting up the 2012 presentations. He believes Martijn is in
communication with Peter about the registration system. Martijn responded
that he isn't but will be.

6.4.   Interim Treasurer (Stephen) (actions taken under delegated authority,
paypal handover, are we ready to take payments from registration in all the
likely forms?, handover progress, training needs - including consideration
of how the current year's accounts are going to be compiled, contact with
bank/accountants, anything else). The interim treasurer (Stephen) reported
that Paypal handover hasn't yet happened, due to difficulties with his ID
documents and suggested that someone else might take control of the Paypal
account in the interim. Other than Paypal, he believes that the likely forms
of payment should be easily handled, though he needs to check with Peter
(former treasurer) on how to pay cheques into our account before they start
arriving (he intended to do that later that day). Given the delay in
recruiting a potential treasurer, Stephen sees the need to request guidance
from the former treasurer on compiling accounts (and intends to do this in
the next week), since it seems likely that he will have to do them himself
for this year.

6.5.   Company Secretary (Yo) (bulletins, situation re 2010 and 2011 accounts
from old organisation, follow ups from previously delegated actions, actions
taken under delegated authority, outstanding issues). The company secretary
(Yo) reported that she had sent out a members' bulletin and requested
confirmation that others had received it (several directors confirmed
receipt). She undertook to post to the board email list about the 2010 and
2011 accounts as the issue is complicated. She reported that the venue
coordinator is checking on the PVSL documentation with the venue. Finally
she noted that she is up to date with minutes and agendas.

6.6.   Chair (Martijn) (road map, actions taken under delegated authority,
board functioning and communication, progress so far in 2012-2013 and next
The chair (Martijn) had nothing much to report, but felt that the entire
meeting had given a good indication of our progress so far.

7.      Other business

7.1.   Elaine (who has undertaken to run a snack bar during Autscape 2013)
queried whether she should request a budget for it or underwrite it herself
and just send the profits to Autscape, as she did last year. The interim
treasurer (Stephen) explained that Elaine underwriting it shifts the risk
from Autscape to herself personally, which is advantageous to Autscape but
which Elaine should not feel obligated to do unless she is entirely
comfortable doing it. Elaine stated that she actually finds it easier to
take the risk herself.

Meeting closed 16.26


Rationale: Back in November 2012 we decided not to request an independent
examination in order to save money. However interacting with the accountants
it has become clear that they are in fact unwilling to provide us with
accountancy services for less than £700, which is their standard fee
including an independent examination. Consequently we may as well have the
independent examination for the same price. The only alternative would be to
shop around for cheaper accountancy services and my advice to the board as
company secretary is that (a) it is unlikely we would be successful in
securing cheaper services; and (b) the potential saving is not worth the
demands of time and effort to try to find suitable alternative accountants
and establish a working relationship with them. Yo

For reference "November 2012 minutes
2.1.   Independent Examination. The board considered a proposal (deferred
from last month) not to have Autscape's accounts subjected to an independent
examination henceforth (see Appendix A). Some mild concerns were raised
about the potential for a negative reaction from some members, but there was
a consensus that the sum saved (£300-400) was significant enough to outweigh
the likelihood that a relatively small number of members may be less than
comfortable with the decision. The board noted, as last month, that an
independent examination is not a legal requirement for Autscape due to our
small size and that the process is largely redundant since Autscape's
accounts are, in any case, prepared by external accountants. The board also
noted the possibility of having an independent examination less frequently
that every year if that was felt to be of benefit and the importance of
explaining this decision to the membership in advance of queries being
raised. Yo volunteered to write the explanation and Martijn offered to
proofread and simplify. The board decided not to have Autscape's accounts
subjected to an independent examination henceforth (unless it becomes
legally necessary or the board sees fit) and to communicate an explanation
of this decision to the membership. (5 for, 0 against)"


Day fees proposed:

Adult Standard    £75 1 day / £150 2+ days
Adult Low cost  £65 1 day / £130 2+ days
Child standard  £60 1 day / £120 2+ days
Child low cost  £50 1 day / £100 2+ days
Child 0-4         £30 1 day / £60 2+ days
Professional   £90 1 day / £180 2+ days

1 day - £30
2 days - £60
3+ days - £90


We're charged GBP 30 per day compared to GBP 40 a day for full attendance,
so I've aimed at a reduction of GBP 30 for a 3 day attendance, based on the
corresponding residential fee for a shared room.

I have made the two day attendance be the same as three days, and the one
day attendance be half of that, as we have been doing for the past few

The result is that, for standard income adults at least, our day rates are
slightly lower than the day rates for the past two years.

The exceptions are:

Child 0-4: Unreduced. Whether the venue charges us for young children is
based on if the child needs a bed or not for overnight attendance, and I
have literally no clue how they'd do it for day attendance.

Carer: The cost isn't the same for 2 days as 3 days to allow us to charge
only what the venue is charging us.




I have been working extensively on venues recently with help from Debbie. A
lot of the venues we had on the list have had to be eliminated for one
reason or another after closer scrutiny. E.g. Sneaton Castle at Whitby has
always looked promising. However, during a phone call, which also sounded
promising it suddenly emerged that whilst we could have exclusive use of the
living accommodation we could not have exclusive use of the conference rooms
as they are used by various groups on a
regular basis throughout the week. As a result we are left with 2 familiar
venues (Ackworth and Belsey Bridge) and 2 possible new venues, one of which
Debbie is visiting (King's Park conference centre near Northampton) and one
of which I am visiting (Cloverley Hall near Whitchurch). There are other
possibilities but they have yet to be investigated fully and are not so easy
to arrange a visit because of the
distance involved.

However, bearing in mind that at the September 2012 board meeting, item
2.1.3, we had a discussion in which we were all keen to return to Belsey
Bridge but were put off by the increased price quoted, I decided to call to
see if I could negotiate a better price. Details of the response I got are
available to the board in Appendix C1 on the board list but cannot be made
public due to the commercial sensitivity of the financial information.
Unfortunately they won't hold this offer open very long and I have to let
them know next week if we are going to accept.

If the board decides to wait until the outcome of the planned venue visits
before deciding it runs a very strong risk of losing Belsey Bridge. There is
also no guarantee that the two planned venue visits will be successful and
therefore we might be left with just Ackworth to choose from until other
venue visits can be made. I also think it is worth considering that they
might not offer us a good rate again should we turn them down. By choosing
Belsey Bridge now this also takes the pressure off trying to find a venue
for 2014 with such a small board and lots of other tasks. Hopefully the
momentum started can continue but without the urgency to find us a new venue
for 2015.