The Barlow Institute User Group and Room Rental price increase

8 Feb, 2024

Like all of us individually and other organisations The Barlow Institute has faced significant operational financial challenges in recent times and this has been discussed by the Trustees extensively over the last few months. After due discussion and debate at last week’s Trustee meeting we are confident that with our plans for 2024 we expect to be back creating a small financial surplus by the year end and have created an acceptable level of reserve funds that would see us through six months of zero income, which has always been our goal and is in line with Charity Commission guidelines.

To achieve this we have made many changes to the way the Barlow Estate is run, we have cut our outgoings to a minimum and reduced staff to sustainable levels. However cutting expenditure is only half of the equation and raising income also has to be on our ‘to do’ list. We have not raised our room rental charges since before Covid and have kept rates artificially low to help with our whole community’s recovery from the Pandemic but now I’m afraid that we are left with no choice but to raise our Room and Storage Space rental rates with effect from April 1 2024.

In recent years The Barlow and its associated Estate have undergone a whole series of major improvements.

No one can fail to have seen the extensions and improvements to the Cricket Club, the new Multi Use Games Area (MUGA), the new Children’s Play Area, the restoration of Barlow Woods and the surfacing of the car park.

Equally, no one can fail to have seen the huge improvements that have been made to the Barlow building itself.

All these improvements have only been made possible thanks to some very generous donations, grant awards and the efforts of the volunteers that give of their time for the benefit of the local community.

In relation to the Barlow building, extensive improvement and refurbishment works have so far included:

● New roof in the style of the original to make the building weatherproof;

● New double glazed windows to the front and side elevations to improve insulation and reduce noise intrusion;

● New external doors to the Main Hall and entrance;

● New energy efficient heating and hot water boilers;

● Refurbishment of the veranda and new decking area to provide external seating areas for the Reading Room Café;

● New/refurbished guttering and drain pipes;

● Cleaning of external stonework and external painting;

● Internal refurbishment and decoration works, including, to date, the entrance hall, the snooker room, the Poppy Room (lift area room adjacent to the snooker room) and the Main Hall (including new stage lighting and sound system).

GOING FORWARD

Whilst much has been achieved there are still more repairs and maintenance to be done.

We cannot escape the realities of what is going on in the wider world and, as everyone knows, we have recently seen an unprecedented period of inflation and rising costs.

The Barlow’s running costs have of course also been impacted and it is for this reason that we have to increase our prices and charges for Barlow users. In particular, our energy costs have risen massively, other costs have also increased dramatically and implementing the necessary refurbishment works has exhausted our financial reserves.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR BARLOW USERS

Approx 30% increase in hire charges from 1st April 2024.

Revised terms and conditions, where applicable. E.g. cancellation conditions, storage provisions, use of kitchen etc.

In return:

The Barlow will work with Users to better help promote their activities – we are looking to improve our website and social media coverage of activities and events and would like to produce regular newsletters.

The Barlow will continue to roll out its programme of refurbishment works to further help improve the facilities available to Users.

The Trustees have not taken this decision lightly but we have a responsibility to seek to ensure the continued viability of the Barlow Charity so that it continues to meet its objectives of supporting the physical and mental wellbeing and recreational needs of the community.

Whilst we Trustees understand that the increase in charges is significant, and some Users may have concerns, we believe the increases are necessary but will still mean that The Barlow charges are comparable with similar facilities and provisions elsewhere.

In Summary

● Approx 30% increase in all hire charges.

● Levelling up of hire charges, where applicable. 

● Review charges for storage provisions.

● New cancellation and late payment conditions. 

● Implementation date of April 1st 2024.

Each User Group will be informed of what it specifically means to them. 

Mike Fay

Chair – Trustees

FRIENDS OF THE BARLOW

Blackburn with Darwen Council handed over the running and upkeep of The Barlow to the community in 2013. Since then The Barlow Charity has relied upon the generosity of benefactors and income from users of the facilities, plus the efforts of volunteers to sustain this much valued community facility. Significant improvements have been carried out to help ensure a long-term future, including a new roof, replacement windows, new hygienic worktops in the coffee shop kitchen and a new hot water & heating system. Most recently (summer 2022) the renovation of the outdoor veranda has been completed and a new adjacent decking area has been installed. In addition the snooker room has been restored to its former splendour by a small group of volunteers.

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An important source of funding that has contributed to the above mentioned improvements is The Friends of the Barlow scheme.  By becoming a Friend you can contribute to a fund that is used for repairs and renovations to the structural fabric of the building and pathways etc, and to upgrade, refresh and improve facilities e.g. now that the building is once again weathertight there are plans being drawn up for the main hall can be deep-cleaned, re-decorated and refurbished and other water-damaged areas such as the main stairway & its beautiful large, stained glass window to also be restored to their former glory.

As a Friend of The Barlow, your regular donations provide a much appreciated, steady income stream that to date (summer 2022) has raised in the region of over £40,000, which has been mostly used contributing towards paying for the roof, windows and heating system.
We intend to soon publish the overall list of improvements/tasks and from that you will see that there is a significant amount of expenditure still needed to achieve all of the identified tasks and improvements. We would welcome donations/sponsorship for specific items that may be of particular interest to individuals or families or groups, but the regular donations by Friends of The Barlow are also crucial. Therefore, we welcome any and all new donors and are grateful for whatever amount you choose to donate.

We are of course also very grateful to all of our existing Friends of The Barlow and if you are able to increase your monthly donation by any amount, that would be hugely appreciated – you can either make the increase to your standing order directly with your bank or you can complete a new form and send it to your bank or give it to us to process.

Please also consider increasing the value of your donation at no extra cost to you by using Gift Aid – as an example, an £8 donation from you becomes £10 with the Gift Aid add-on!

If you wish to donate please click on the link below, complete the form and either send it to your bank with an email copy to our email address fotb@thebarlow.co.uk  or return the completed form to the Barlow’s office in a sealed envelope addressed to Friends of The Barlow.  Paper copies of the form are available from The Barlow.

For any further information please email fotb@thebarlow.co.uk or contact the office via info@thebarlow.co.uk or 01204 852216.

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