News from Hitchin Bee Centre by Robin Dartington

Following North Herts decision that Hitchin Bee Centre should be a new organisation, HBKA was consulted through its Executive Committee on how HBC should be related to HBKA – possible a new branch? ExCOM was also asked if it would support establishing the Centre , in particular over making grant applications. North Herts representatives reiterated that NH did not want to be involved in any way and no decisions were taken.

A new organisation cannot apply for major grants without a parent. As no part of the beekeeping system in Herts is willing to support the new organisation, the project will switch emphasis from a beekeeping site with a bee garden attached to a bee garden with an apiary attached. Hitchin Community Bee Garden (HCBG) will join the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens who accept new members with no fuss. FCFCG also understands funding projects – it gets only £10,000 pa from members’ subscriptions and raises another £490,000 by its own efforts.

Despite its tiny size, HCBG will strive to be a fully-fledged association for beekeepers, so offering an alternative to BHKA and its branches. This is in line with modern thinking that the consumer should have choice – competition increases efficiency and drives down costs. The scope of services HCBG will aspire to offer its full members (The Partners) and associate members (‘customers’) is outlined in a separate article.

The Constitution of HCBG will enable it to co-operate with other organisations that share its aims, so opening the way to re-joining beekeeping in Herts. HCBG does not want any unnecessary friction within the craft of beekeeping – but the condition ‘share its aims’ must be applied strictly. There is a problem. The representatives of at least two of HBKA branches have stated flatly that their members are interested only in keeping bees, not educating the public. This is of course absolutely fine as the position of an individual beekeeper – anyone can join a rugby club but decline to play for the team. It is another matter however when this becomes the official position of an association affiliated to BBKA and trading on its name. The Objects of BBKA are and always have been ‘promoting the craft and educating the public’. The education objective makes BBKA charitable – and public subsidy can be claimed as Gift Aid. An association that has dropped its charitable objectives can be seen as acting fraudulently if claiming Gift Aid – and that could affect HBKA as a whole. So should such branch associations be allowed to remain affiliated to HBKA /BBKA? Expulsion would not mean members had to give up beekeeping – DEFRA estimate there are far more beekeepers outside BBKA than are members. It would however be a step towards revitalising beekeeping in Herts – and enable HCBG and HBKA to negotiate a co-operative relationship at some time in the future.

There is some urgency as HCBG will want to refer visitors to local associations for example beginners’ bee courses (and not send all to Bedfordshire) – so the problems with HBKA branch associations has been raised with the General Secretary and the Chairman of BBKA. A request for an investigation will be discussed at the BBKA Trustees Meeting on 7 July.

No comments: