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Statement regarding Caston Remembrance Book

by Caston Parish Council - 17:43 on 03 November 2020

Part 1 - Why is the Book in the Church at all?

  1. The Book was created in May 2005 using grant funds of £4997 from National Lottery/Awards for All. There may have been further funding and larger private donations from the Author and or other sources, but there is no documentation remaining in the PC files of the day which to confirm this one way or the other. Generally, the Book seems to be referred to as having been ‘funded by a grant from Awards for All’.
  2. According to an article on Caston Online, the book was ‘dedicated to the church’ in November 2005.
  3. When most of the current members of the Parish Council arrived in Caston, the Book had been housed in the Church for more than 5 years. We assumed this was an agreeable situation.
  4. In 2017 when the Church was closed for refurbishment, The Author offered to provide safe storage for the Book. The Parish Council of the time accepted their offer, and applied for a limited term insurance extension to cover damage to the book and stand.
  5. In Jan 2020 the PCC contacted the PC requesting the return of the Book & Stand.
  6. The Author found that the new location for the book in the church was unsatisfactory, and declined to return the book to the PC at that time. After further discussion the Author did allow a councillor to collect and replace the stand in February 2020. The PC were reminded that The Author is the only person permitted to handle the Book.
  7. The PCC placed the stand in the available location in the Church in February 2020.
  8. The Book was not replaced in the church at that time.
  9. In the belief (See point 3) that the Book was intended to be sited in the Church, the PC once again requested of the Author that the book be replaced in the stand in the Church.

Part 2 - 2020 and the effects of the pandemic

  1. The Covid-19 Lockdown came into effect on March 24th. The Book remained with the Author.
  2. On June 15th the government allowed Places of Worship to re-open subject to restrictions.
  3. On July 7th a member of the PCC advised the Chair of the PC that the Church had re-opened, and enquired about the status of the Book’s return.
  4. Regrettably, in the event, the Chair took the statement of re-opening to mean that relatively normal access would resume, unaware of the details of the various Covid-19 related restrictions as applicable to places of worship. Consequently the PC once again asked The Author to replace the Book.
  5. At some point on/around 1st-2nd August The Book was replaced in the stand in the Church. On 3rd August a churchwarden advised the PC that the Book was in the stand.
  6. At the August PC meeting issues of sanitisation affecting the Book and the stand were raised, and a member of the congregation suggested placing an advisory notice on the case, which all felt acceptable. However, the PCC later advised that such measures were not compliant with the Diocese Covid regulations. The PCC taped off the stand and Book as required by the Diocese. (Refer to the guidelines issues by the Diocese for details.)
  7. On 9th August The Author approached councillors, in a state of distress, to complain about the taping off of the Book and being unable to turn the pages of the Book. The Author subsequently informed members of the PC that families of the fallen were, themselves, distressed at effectively being denied access to the Book.
  8. In an effort to combine a solution acceptable to the Author and the affected families, with the limitations posed by the pandemic, councillors conferred on the matter consulting by telephone with among others; 
Awards for All, 
The Royal British Legion (whose own Head Office Book of Remembrance is not accessible to the Public),
The War Memorials Trust. 
However, all advice received led us to conclude that for reasons of health and safety and the PC’s public liabilities in that regard, it should remain in the Church. A resolution to that effect was proposed and seconded at the October meeting of the PC.



 

Part 3 - Recent developments

  1. Since the October PC Meeting, the PC have received;

    A freedom of information request.

    Calls from local press for comment on the ‘Dispute over a Book of Remembrance in Caston’

    14 letters or emails from parishioners and the families of the fallen, requesting that the Book held in the Authors home where, we are given to understand, they will be permitted unrestricted access to it. 

  2. We have received a statement from our insurers that we would not be covered for public liability or property damage or loss claims in a private home.
     Excerpt from their statement:
    1. In terms of the Public Liability Insurance; your policy would not extend to provide cover at the author’s home unless the loss was caused as a result of a defect/negligence relating to the book or stand. The author would need to ensure that they have Public Liability Insurance and Property Owners Liability as part of their home insurance and ensure that the home insurer is satisfied to cover the nature of the premises occupation. 
       
    2. In terms of the property damage, there would be no cover. Our policy would not deem the author’s premises to be ‘occupied’ by the Parish Council and therefore if a loss were to occur at this location it would not be covered.
       
  3. On 16th October, the Chair of the PC had a telephone conversation with Mr. Lord at Awards for All, requesting further advice about what is and is not permissible for grant-funded items. He explained that;


a.) It would be the view of Awards for All that the grant funded item is ‘owned’ by Caston PC BUT

b.) given the time elapsed since the award, Awards for All would have no issue with our reassigning the ownership of the item.



Conclusion



Caston Parish Council has no fully accessible public space of its own in which to display the Book, but our insurance will not cover us displaying the Book in a private dwelling.


Representatives for more than half of the men memorialised in the Book have written to inform the PC that it is either not desirable or not acceptable to them to locate the Book in the Church, and that they want the Book to be held at the Author’s private address where they will have unfettered access to it.


Through a combination of circumstances, not of the making of the present council, we find ourselves caught between the pandemic regulations applying to our Parish Church, and the families of those who gave their lives for that same Parish.
We have tried to act logically, fairly and with social responsibility in this matter, in the current times. However, in the event, we have been accused of Bullying and Intimidation and described as Petty, Nasty, Shameful and Disgusting in the communications received about the Book. We councillors are all unpaid volunteers, who live in Caston. We are strongly disinclined to let this issue escalate any further.

This Parish Council therefore propose to fully relinquish its ownership or claim to the Book of Remembrance, and to legally reassign the Book and the Stand to the Author.


Addendum: At the Virtual Parish Council meeting of 2nd November 2020, Councillors voted four to one in favour of the proposal.

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