PGM's open letter regarding Grand Lodge Problems

The Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother David Nelson writes to all members of his Province on the problems of Mark Grand Lodge.

Dear Brethren

Re Grand Lodge Levy

I am well aware of the very strong feeling within Somerset in respect of the dire financial situation at our HQ in MMH St James’s, London.

Having had various representations and comments directed to me I would wish to clarify the situation regarding the increases in fees that Lodges are required to pay to Grand Lodge in addition to the imposed Levy.

Previously the annual dues to Grand Lodge over the period from 1992 to 2001 only increased by 80 pence as shown below:-

1. In 1992 Annual Dues payable were £8 per annum.
2. In 2001 Annual Dues payable were £8.80 per annum.
3. After 2002 Annual Dues payable were increased gradually to the present level of £16 plus VAT.

It must be conceded that there was some complacency at Grand Lodge regarding the need to keep the fees in line with inflation due possibly to the level of interest from investments and deposits in the bank. In hindsight this was possibly an error and has partly resulted in depletion in Grand Lodge reserves which has led to us being exposed to the dramatic effects of the recession and downturn in the investment markets.

I was not present, as Brethren are aware, at the Grand Lodge meeting in June when the following was proposed, agreed and approved:-

1. Increase in Annual dues from 1st September 2010 from £16 to £21 an increase of £5 which attracts VAT, the increase becoming due for payment 1st September 2011.
2. Grand Lodge also approved a levy payable on 1st January 2011 to inject cash flow and this does not attract VAT.

The increases in subscriptions are, I know an unwelcome financial burden that Mark Brethren nationally have to accept which has been brought about by:-

1. Loss of income from investments.
2. Mis-management in the catering.
3. Mis-management in the running of Grand Lodge as a business.
4. Poor operational practices at MMH not being addressed over many years.
5. Lack of financial and managerial controls over expenditure at MMH.

As the representative of Grand Lodge here in the Province of Somerset I can only say how sorry I am, and express my personal regret at the financial situation that we find our selves in. This has resulted in the need for the substantial increases in subscriptions and the unacceptable levy imposed to improve cash flow at Grand Lodge.

However we are where we are and I can assure all Brethren that the very grave concerns have been strongly represented to Members of the General Board. Assurances have been given to the Provincial Grand Masters at the PGM’s Forum that the problems have been recognised, have been addressed and I can list what has been achieved to date:-

1. Catering Salary bill has been cut by £300,000.
2. Staff have been released from Grand Lodge saving between £80Kto £100K per year with further redundancies to be announced.
3. The staff at Mark Masons Hall have been on a wage freeze for the last 2 years.
4. International travel has been suspended until 2011.
5. The catering has been reorganised.
6. Financial controls put in place to curb excessive expenditure.
7. Other Orders that are managed from Mark Masons Hall have had to substantially increase the contributions they make.

Having had these assurances we must be mindful of our obligations to our Order and I would ask that you work with me to continue to influence those who manage Mark Masons Hall to improve our financial situation for the future. However Brethren withholding subscriptions is counter productive and does not help me to exert the necessary pressure to achieve good management and financial stability that we all desire for the future of our wonderful Degree.

Brethren this is not a situation I would wish to be in but having accepted and apologised for the disgraceful state of the financial affairs that the management of MMH has produced I am seeking your help and support to enable me to continue to apply the necessary pressure on those making the decisions in London. We cannot do that unless we our selves play by the rules we all have signed up to and agreed to abide by.

Yours sincerely and fraternally

David B Nelson
Provincial Grand Master