I would describe the last 12 months as a recovery from the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused a substantial drop in Group activities, in recruitment, observed runs and events. The majority of our Observers have now returned to observing. Over the last 12 months we have trained two new Observers. Mark Hemans passed the Local Observer assessment managed by the Group and then Mark and new Observer Garry Maddocks and existing Observer Andrew Farrimond all went on to pass the National Observer Test, conducted by an IAM RoadSmart Examiner. This means that our Observer team (12 Observers) is now only one short of what it was pre-pandemic.
In September last year the Committee took the decision to offer 100% cashback to any Associate who does eight observed runs or does the Advanced driving test – irrespective of a pass or fail. We did this for two reasons, to stimulate recruitment and re-energize the Group and to financially help Associates for the cost of living crisis that was looming and that is still here. Due to generous donations to the Group over many years we have sufficient funds stored away for a ‘rainy day’. The rainy day is here. This strategy has paid off. The Group is very active now with recruitment high, Observers busy and events being attended. We will continue to review the 100% cashback policy.
Events have been re-established over the last 12 months. A walk to the Dream statue in Sutton took place on the 18th June last year, we had a visit to the Western Approaches Museum, Liverpool on the 29th October and very well attended meals at the Lymewood Farm, Haydock, on the 19th January and Red Cat, Crank on the 30th March. Some Observers and Committee members also went Go-karting on the 27th May.
As you will recall, in April last year we had to leave the Ibis hotel, Haydock, our Sunday morning meeting venue for many years due to a government take over of the hotel. We re-located to the Mercure Hotel in the St. Helens Town Centre. Unfortunately, in April this year the Mercure Hotel told us to stop meeting there on Sunday mornings due to an increase in Sunday morning activities at the hotel, mainly weddings. A new Sunday morning meeting venue had to be found urgently. As I mentioned in the current newsletter, I’m pleased to report that our new Sunday morning venue is the St. Helens Community Fire Station, Violet Way, St. Helens Town Centre - only a few hundred metres from the Mercure Hotel. It’s a great venue, a modern building, a decent car park, a spacious community meeting room with a large white board and IT capability and even a kitchen that we can use to make hot drinks! I’d like to thank Merseyside Fire and Rescue for approving our use of the building on Sunday mornings and at other times should we need to.
We have many talented individuals in the Group, skilled and dedicated Observers and a hard working Committee. It’s the people that take the Group forward and we look for ways to encourage involvement through the recruitment of new Observers and Committee members. Andrew Farrimond was co-opted onto the Committee in September last year. Andrew adds a wealth of experience to our Committee decision making. To facilitate a broader people involvement in our Observer team, as of the Committee meeting last night I have stepped down from the role of Lead Observer. I’m please to announce that Mark Hemans is our new Lead Observer and will join our Committee should you vote so later. Mark brings to the Observer team a vast knowledge of advanced driving, training and administration from his Police work of some 30 years.
I’d like to thank all the Observers and Committee members for the time they give to support the Group. The Group is in a good place, skilled and dedicated Observers and Committee and a high level of Group activity. I’m optimistic and excited about the future of the Group.