End Of An Era And A New Beginning
Debbie Turner, President of the Eastern Counties District Council explains why the district has decided to go branchless.
At this year’s AGM it was agreed unanimously that our Federation branches would be closed and we would move to a simpler district council structure.
There are many reasons for this move but it is principally that times have changed and the relevance of a branch structure is no longer viable.
In the past there were local publishers who supplied direct to stores. There were wholesale houses in all major towns who supplied news and magazines, with a manager that controlled the process and could be contacted by branch presidents or secretaries when a problem arose. Now we have moved into the digital age and while news is packed at a relatively local level, every magazine distributed in Eastern Counties is packed at Maidstone and sent to the more local branches for the final miles of their journey.
Even our other trade partners have changed dramatically, with us now dealing with national or international companies rather than local suppliers. Within the Federation we have NFRN direct which aims to provide a source of suppliers who are prepared to give discount to members.
We have for some time in recent history merged branches that had become Unofficered but even then the merged “Super branches” in the case of two of the three had just one Member as President, Secretary and District Councillor and when trying to arrange anything had the support of a maximum of 3 – 4 regular supportive Members. Times have changed and the necessity for meetings have become less with complying with NFRN rules the main reason for holding a meeting. This change has taken a long time to evolve and we aim to retain what was good about the branch structure but bring it into the 21st century. We want members to be able to share experiences and seek out the best commercial opportunities but do it in a more professional way.
We already have the problem solving resource in NFRN Connect (0800 121 6376) which has senior contacts in all wholesale houses and a professional staff able to commit full time to resolving any issue.
We already have facilitated events with trade partners where all members could come along over a period of time in a day, and it would be the intention to run these events around the country to help members to improve their profitability without travelling too far.
At Eastern Counties District Council we are working on a procedural file that will allow members to apply directly to become a member of Eastern Counties District Council without having to go through a branch AGM. We want to ensure that all areas are equally represented and will seek out members who may have never had the opportunity to make full use of what the Federation has to offer.
All branches have voluntary funds, much of which has been accumulated from the Membership of those unfortunately no longer with us to which have now been resolved by donations to worthwhile causes within their own communities for the benefit of all. This District has been very lucky to have such upright stalwart Members whom have taken on the branch roles and to which right up until this new era have ensured the safe keeping of monies and overseeing that this money did not get lost over time by losing signatories to the accounts. I would like on behalf of myself and District to put on record our gratitude for the sterling work and commitment these Branch Officials have done on behalf of all their Membership.
Each branch Member will have had notification of whom the funds were awarded to from their own Branch Secretaries.
This article is to let you know that the branches will be closing this year and a new formula will be in place for Eastern Counties AGM 2021. A lot of work still has to be done and we hope that you will understand what has driven this major decision.
Can I finally assure you that it is business as usual with your District Council undertaking the role of assisting its Membership. Why not contact us or come along to a District meeting to see what we do. Just contact myself or NFRN Connect (0800 121 6376) to give us prior notification of your intention to visit. You will be made very welcome.
Debbie Turner, NFRN Connect
Eastern Counties District President.
07496 974740 0800 121 6376