A lack of transparency with members and ‘financial mismanagement’ have left the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) in a precarious position as it looks to its future, a former president of the organisation has claimed.
Lionel Hill, who has been involved in NFYFC for 65 years and led the organisation from 2006-2011, accused the board of managements of imposing unnecessary bureaucracy on under-resourced county officers and staff and not giving members value for money.
And axing the annual convention would have serious, long-term ramifications for NFYFC and Young Farmers, he said.
“The convention generated so much money for the day-to-day running of the organisation, I am not sure how they will manage financially without it,” said Mr Hill, adding the annual get-together was a valuable opportunity for members to socialise but, just as importantly, to network.
“I would not have started my own business if I had not met similar like-minded, ambitious Young Farmers 65 years ago.
“The death of the traditional AGM has been caused by decision makers failing to realise that by keeping increasing the cost of members’ packages, it has been less affordable to them.
“This has resulted in many members who still travelled to the host town to congregate in bars and clubs where incentives are offered to go in.”
Several years ago, Mr Hill had suggested arranging a YFC rural festival instead of a town centre event – an idea which was never accepted by the NFYFC Council.
He also accused NFYFC of failing to put measures in place to address its ‘serious’ financial situation.
The body recently embarked on a fundraising initiative to help pay for the refurbishment of its offices at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. Mr Hill was told this would cost £470,000.
Mr Hill added: “Approximately eight to 10 years ago, NFYFC was gifted a large sum of money which the chief executive at the time had proposed to use to purchase a more modern, fit-for-purpose building which would consist of surplus capacity to let out to third parties to produce a rental income. This was never expanded upon.”
Statement from chairwoman of the NFYFC’s Board of Management Heather Black.
"NFYFC’s Board of Management discontinued the annual convention in order to protect the reputation of a long-established rural youth organisation and to safeguard its future.
"The Board ensures the organisation meets its regulatory requirements in all areas of its operation, including employment, safeguarding, equality and financial management.
"As with any organisation or business, there are areas which need constant review and reform, with new processes put in place to improve operational efficiency.
"NFYFC’s accounts are transparent and its financial reports are in the public domain and made available to Council members and YFC members.
"Rather than focusing on the past, NFYFC is now looking to the future and the whole membership has a clear opportunity to take an active role in shaping their national body.
"So far, we have had a positive response to our survey on this topic with more than 1,000 YFC members responding, which will help to steer the organisation in the direction the membership want."