I would like to begin this address by thanking all our Branch Officers, Members and Volunteers for all your hard work and dedication in supporting the work of the legion here in Wiltshire.
This has been achieved against a backdrop of organisational change and challenges for the wider membership. Changes to processes and procedures are always unsettling but most of our branches are now comfortable with new ways of working and things seem to have settled down.
Despite problems, your support to our beneficiaries, the Poppy Appeal, our ceremonial events and the County Executive has remained as resolute as ever, thank you!
The new Corporate Strategy is making a difference and has raised the role and the profile of the membership within the organisation.
The new strategy also introduced the National Service Gateway and a new closer working arrangement with other charities seems to be reaching a steady state. It also introduced the Branch Community Support Initiative which has been successful in Wiltshire with over 65% of branches now signed up and I would like to thank branches for their involvement over the last two years. The process is neither onerous nor bureaucratic and it is a great way of showing how active your branch is. For those not signed up I urge you to have a chat with registered branches here today and join as it would be wonderful to have 100% County participation.
2018 has been marked by many special events commemorating the end of the First World War. However, there have been many other events such as RAF 100, Armed Forces Day, the Festival of Remembrance, Fovant Badges, two major ceremonies in Salisbury Cathedral and of course GP90 where we had representation from over 50% of our branches at this memorable event.
At the forefront of all of these were our Standard Bearers and the Ceremonial Team and I extend the gratitude of the County for your work and continued support throughout the County and beyond.
Our members continue to be the life blood of the organisation, contributing to the many varied activities and events. The decline in membership has slowed over the past year and currently stands at 3600, down about 2% on last year. We have 46 branches and 4 sub branches in the county. Despite the decline slowing it is important to focus on getting members involved in branch activities and recruiting remains a key priority for us all.
Our six legion clubs continue to operate but all are facing uncertainty in challenging trading conditions. Please support them where you can.
You will see from the County Report that there have been a number of changes to the County Executive over the past year. Several longstanding members including Danni Walling, Brian Mitchell, Brian Kingscote and Roger Kingshott have left and I would like to thank them for all their hard work and support over the years.
Fortunately replacements have been found and during the year the Executive welcomed Callie Neil as Treasurer, Kevin Toft, John Mann and Eddie Edwards as new members and we look forward to their contribution in the future.
The Executive have met regularly throughout the year and we have tried to move meetings to different parts of the county. Meetings are open events and I would encourage branches to come along and get involved in the work of the Executive and communicate any branch issues.
Communication is key to what we do but it only works if it is two way and acted upon. I would urge branches to pass on the information from County and to make use of the County website and newsletter to publicise your activities.
Over the past year fund raising has remained as strong as ever and following the launch at Longleat the Poppy Appeal achieved a total of in excess of £740,000, a rise of 3.5% on the previous year. This is down to the hard work of all our Poppy Appeal Organisers and their teams of dedicated collectors. Well done all.
Looking to the future the County Executive remains committed to developing a strong and active branch structure throughout the county. Priorities for the remainder of the year include: continue improvements to communication, support to branches via training courses and information sessions.
Members recruitment remains a priority and we are looking to have at least three major events during the year. 15% of the Wiltshire population is from a service background providing an ideal base for recruitment if we can reach out to them.
I look forward to what 2019 can bring for the County with the National Armed Forces Day having being hosted in Wiltshire it looks to be a great year and I would once again like to thank all our branches for their hard work and commitment to the RBL along with a thank you the County Executive Committee Members and our MSO fo the valuable contributions throughout the year.