ACRE guidance available for community buildings

Things have moved so fast in the last couple of weeks in response to protecting our communities against the Coronavirus pandemic. All village halls and community buildings will now be closed to the public, the exception to this might be if you have a pre-school or nursery providing a service for the children of key workers.

Cambridgeshire ACRE is operating as usual to help and assist trustees and volunteers. While all the facilities might be closed at the moment, in the coming weeks we will need to be thinking ahead as we try and return to normal life and what that might look like for our Village Halls and Community Buildings.

ACRE has published a new page on their website providing an update on their work nationally, this can be viewed via the link:

There is also two useful briefing notes available to download, please see the link below:

Eligibility for support from Government for village and similar rural
community buildings

We will continue to provide updates as information and news becomes available. If you would like to discuss any concerns you might have at this time please call 01353 865048 or email

Are you dreaming of a green Christmas?

Not that sort of green!

Apart from recycling the Christmas tree and disposing of old decorations responsibly, your management committees may want to think about changing to modern more efficient Christmas lights.

If a community building/village hall is decorated at Christmas with an “extravagant light display” then it could be responsible for producing 400kg of carbon dioxide, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Much of this carbon is fuelled by outdoor light displays, which can add to a hall’s electricity bill over the festive season. Leaving conventional Christmas tree lights on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produces enough CO2 to inflate 12 balloons.

A set of 200 traditional lights if used for eight hours a day for a month will generate 10.32kg of CO2 over this time, according to Local Government Association.

Outdoor Christmas lights use more energy as they tend to be high-wattage and therefore less energy-efficient.
If management committees want to be more environmentally friendly, they should try switching to either LED lights, choosing lights that are powered by solar power or rechargeable batteries, or installing an energy-saving bulb to offset the energy usage.

Next week – Fire safety during the festive season

Pantomimes and Nativity Plays are you prepared?

It won’t affect us – Oh yes it will!

Many communities use the village hall or community building in the weeks leading up to Christmas and in the New Year for nativity plays, carol services and pantomimes. Management committees need to ensure that everyone is safe prior, during and after performances and that the legal requirements have been dealt with in advance of the performances.


If the production is not being run by the management committee, then the hirers of the hall must have ensured that they have all the relevant insurance cover required. This should be clear on the hiring agreement as to whether the public liability insurance extends to hirers and their activities.


Any community building which facilitates musical entertainment whether live or recorded MUST have a Performing Rights Society (PRS) Licence. It is the duty of the management committee to ensure that the building can legally hold these entertainments and it should be clear on the hiring agreement that the hall holds this licence. Failure to apply for a licence and hold musical entertainment could mean financial penalties from PRS.
Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) Licence may be required if the production is in front of a paying audience and the takings are not being applied to the hall as a charity. For example; if the local amateur dramatics group hire the hall to put on a pantomime and sell tickets for the public to watch, and then use the ticket sale money for their own use, the group must have a PPL licence. If the committee members of the village hall put on a production to raise funds for the hall by selling tickets to the public then a PPL licence is not required.

Premises Licence or TENS are often seen as only being applicable if alcohol is sold. This is not the case. A Premises Licence regulates other forms of entertainment including plays, film shows, and performances of live or recorded music, dance performance and similar entertainment. Temporary Events Notices (TENs) are the alternative if a community building does not have a Premises Licence. It is in the interests of the management committee to control the application of TEN for their community building as only 15 can be issued over the course of the year. The hiring agreement should clearly state if the community facility has a Premises Licence or if a TEN is required for regulated entertainment. Conditions imposed by the Premises Licence should also be included such as maximum numbers in each hall/room, times activities must cease etc.

Policies and Procedures

If the community facility is being hired to a group or organisation which has children and/or vulnerable adults within that group then it is the duty of the management committee to ensure, before hiring, that the organisation has a Child Protection and Vulnerable Adults Policy in place. It is good practice to note sight of this policy on the hire agreement.

If the management committee themselves are planning any sort of Christmas entertainment which includes children or vulnerable adults then the committee must have a child and vulnerable adults protection policy and procedures in place which has been adopted by the committee and recorded in the committee minutes.

DBS Checks

The management committee should ensure that anyone who is employed by the committee or is a volunteer at the hall (this includes management committee members themselves) and can be in regular contact with children or vulnerable adults has had a DBS check. It is the duty of the management committee to ensure that organisations hiring the hall, which has children or vulnerable adults involved in activities, have an adequate number of people who have been DBS checked. A note made on the hiring agreement that DBS certificate has been seen will show due care by the management committee.


By their very nature pantomimes or any other productions are for a short period of time only; therefore a risk assessment will need to be undertaken to make sure that all temporary props, scenery etc. is stable and safe. A copy of the completed risk assessment should be kept in the Health & Safety file.

Stage lighting and sound

Many productions require additional stage lighting – this falls under the heading of portable apparatus and, as such, will need to be PAT tested before the rehearsals and opening night. Installing lights and rigging may require the use of a platform. A risk assessment will need to be undertaken before the installation begins. If the management committee or hirer is planning to allow an outside contractor/volunteer to install lighting or rigging then the management committee must ensure that the contractor has their own insurances and that they have completed their own risk assessment of the task. Extra sound equipment such as amplifiers, hearing loops and microphones brought into the premises also require current PAT test sticker.

Replica Guns & Firearms

If part of the production requires any of the cast to use or be in the possession of firearms, swords, deactivated weapons and/or imitate use of a replica gun or fire arm, this will need to be covered by the Fire Arms Act 1968 and Health & Safety at Work Act and Management of Health & Safety Work Regulations 1999. The HSE produces a very useful leaflet on this aspect, which is available via;

Public Safety

The management committee must ensure that the hirer understands that, during hiring, it is the hirer who is responsible for public safety. This should be clear within the terms and conditions of hire. The hirer should receive instructions both verbal and written on:

  • Action to be taken in the event of fire and the location of an assembly point.
  • Responsibility for calling emergency services.
  • The full address including postcode of the hall.
  • The location and use of fire equipment.
  • Escape routes and the need to keep them clear.
  • Hall capacity (to ensure it is not exceeded).

Next week – How green is your Christmas and we are not talking brussels!

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Christmas Lights and Electrical Issues

Each year we see more and more ingenious variations in Christmas lights. Low voltage sets are obviously preferable in so far as they pose less risk of electric shock, assuming they are properly installed. However, even low voltage equipment is capable of starting a fire if it is faulty.


  • Look for safety marks e.g. British Standards (BS) Kitemark 60598.
  • Buy from a reputable store.
  • Avoid buying second-hand lights, unless they have been professionally checked first.
  • New lights are transformed down to 24 volt for added safety, or they may be double insulated.


Old sets of lights need careful checking to ensure that they are in good working order, with no signs of damage, also check to see they conform to current BS Kitemark. Even low voltage lights need to have a transformer that is plugged into the mains supply and as such it constitutes an item of Portable Electrical Equipment, which is subject to PAT testing. If your
lights don’t display an indication of having been tested within the past year then it is vital that you get them checked out before using them.

  • NEVER insert or remove bulbs when switched on.
  • Always inspect cables and bulbs for damage.
  • Do not use lights which are damaged, dispose of them safely.
  • Do not use indoor lights outside, or outdoor lights inside.
  • Ensure all lights have been PAT tested before use – and record this in the minutes of your committee meeting.

In order to plug in your lights (or other electrically operated decorations), there is a good chance you will be using extension cables or at least have trailing wires. As always, it is important to follow standard safety rules:

  • Use an extension cable the right length for the job.
  • Only used extension cables that have been PAT tested.
  • Avoid daisy chaining extension cables.
  • Ensure they don’t present a trip hazard for anyone.
  • Avoid routing underneath carpets or other places where they will be subject to heavy loads or wear abrasion.
  • Extend the extension lead fully out even if not all the cable is required as cable left inside and compact will build up an electrical resistance and can get very warm once the electric is switched on.


Most Christmas lights are put on a Christmas tree, however, numerous lights are ‘strung’ across halls, and hung in windows and on walls. Ensure that at all times these lights will not come into contact with flammable items, such as curtains, or becomes a safety hazard or fire risk.


Have you noticed how the lights from last year were stored? They are probably just bundled into a cardboard box and resemble the proverbial rat’s nest, albeit a rather colourful one. The chances of a fault developing as they are untangled are quite high, along with the possibility of loose bulbs (on older style lights). If you take care in packing and storing your electrical lights after this Christmas, then they are likely to be in a better and safer condition when you take them out of storage again next year.

  • Take care when dismantling and packing lights not to damage them.
  • Keep them safely stored away out of reach of children.
  • Avoid damp or excessively hot conditions.
  • Don’t forget to include them in the next year’s PAT test.

Thinking Ahead

If, when you take down your decorations and lights, they appear tatty, past their sell by date or not up to standard to meet BS Kitemark on fireproofing, dispose of them now and purchase new ones in the sales.

Next week – Pantomimes and Nativity Plays (oh yes it is!)

Is it too early for the Christmas tree?

Do you display a Christmas tree at your hall?  Deciding on the style, type and where to place it can all cause challenges.

But it’s not Christmas without a tree is it? Whether real or artificial it must be positioned well to avoid it being knocked over and space in the community building or village hall can be at a premium at this time of the year.  However, this doesn’t justify positioning a tree where it might obstruct an evacuation route or access to fire fighting equipment or even just obscure safety signs.

Trees are also a significant fire hazard and therefore, when purchasing, you should try to buy one that is completely fire proof or that has been treated to minimise the potential for fire to spread. Fresh trees can dry out quickly and may not last till Christmas Eve!

Tips when buying a real tree

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Do not put a live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Whether trees or decorations, it is vitally important not to site them close to a heat source and not to obscure any air intakes or ventilation grills.

After Christmas there is the question of disposing of real Christmas trees. Don’t succumb to the temptation to simply stash it away somewhere out of sight where it will quickly dry out to make ideal tinder for starting a fire. Dispose of it promptly and safely by delegating the task to a committee member or volunteer to take it to a local district council recycling centre to be turned into compost or shredded.

Look out for next weeks post – Christmas lighting…

How many days till Christmas?

Christmas is a busy time for Village Halls and Community Buildings with all sorts of activities taking place, from the Christmas fair with Santa’s grotto, pantomime, Children’s party or maybe a community lunch. It can be exhausting for anyone tasked with putting on these events.

Each week from now until Christmas we will be posting some guidance and ideas to help halls during this festive period.


Are there ‘Elf and safety reasons not to put up the decorations this year?

The problem with mentioning health and safety in relation to Christmas is the belief that ‘the establishment’ is out to spoil the festivities – a perception that couldn’t be further from the truth, as they want everyone to enjoy themselves without having to face the aftermath of some tragic event.

By their very nature, many of our arrangements for Christmas tend to be temporary – often makeshift in nature – and that fact alone greatly increases the risk of accidents occurring. Consequently it’s worth having a simple checklist or risk assessment on hand of what we need to keep in mind to minimise any additional risks that might arise.  Planning is Key!

Christmas Decorations 

Trustees and volunteers will soon be unpacking decorations that were hastily put away last year. If purchasing new decorations look for ones that are made of flame-proof materials or that have been treated to prevent rapid spread of fire and when positioning them keep them away from hot light bulbs.

Take care when hanging decorations. Technically working at height is classed as more than two metres above the ground. This may be an issue in many community buildings and village halls with high ceilings. Of more concern is that instead of using approved stepladders, people often use inappropriate means to reach ceiling height, such as climbing on tables, chairs or other equipment that is not stable and is not designed to take the weight of a person.

Hanging decorations often means stretching to an extent that would not be permitted as part of normal work activities. This all adds up to a recipe for falls that could easily result in bruises, fractures or worse.

Choosing and using a ladder

It may be worth the management committee investing in the purchase of a ladder or step ladder for their community building as it can be put to many more uses than putting up Christmas decorations. Changing light bulbs or fluorescent tubes (with energy efficient equivalents), cleaning windows, clearing guttering, dusting and painting at high levels will all require the services of a good, solid well constructed set of ladders or steps dependent upon the height of the task.

Many different designs are available from small step stools to larger step ladders; the type bought most often is the 4 to 7 step folding version. These are suited to most jobs but it is important never to use any step ladder that is the wrong height for a particular job. Some are too short for high work and some, just as dangerous, are too tall for lower work. The job must be able to be reached comfortably without having to reach up, down or sideways.

All step ladders should meet the required British or European standards and this applies whether the steps are bought, hired or borrowed.
Most step ladder accidents are caused by human error, not by ladders failing, but any equipment in poor condition is potentially dangerous so a quick check before starting a task is advisable.

  • Is the stepladder generally sound?
  • Check the outside uprights, the steps and top platform for damage.
  • Don’t attempt to repair – buy a new one
  • Are the rubbers or plastic non-slip feet safely in position?
  • Are the steps all clean and dry?

Before embarking on any task at height, including putting up Christmas decorations, a risk assessment of the task needs to be completed. Look at what could go wrong, what would be the consequences and for whom; look at what can be done to ensure that things don’t go wrong. That is the essence of a risk assessment.

For more information, examples and model documents ACRE information sheet No. 15 Health & Safety Legislation and Village Halls.

Get ready

  • Wear flat firm soled shoes. Never work in high heels, bare feet or soft shoes.
  • Check that there are no overhead hazards near to where the work is.
  • Check that the stepladder is locked into the correct position. If it is a multi way design make sure that it is in the right configuration for the job to be done.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Rest the ladder on a firm and level base if working outside.
  • Place a large flat board on any soft ground to make a stable base.
  • Place it front-on to the work.
  • Never work sideways.
  • Have another person present who can watch, without distraction, the person using the ladder.

On the stepladder

  • Keep a secure grip at all times.
  • Never have more than one person on the step ladder at any one time.
  • Don’t put loose tools where they could move or fall and cause injury either to the person on the ladder or to a person below.
  • Use a fixed on work tray.
  • Always have both feet on a step.
  • Never stand on the top platform to gain extra height.
  • Never over reach – get down and move the steps.
  • Store the steps safely away from children in a clean, dry place.

Are you searching for the answer?


Did you know the ACRE network provides over 40 information sheets and model documents to support village hall trustees in their role.  By being a member of Cambridgeshire ACRE you have access to a wide range of support materials.  To view and download this material simply login to our membership area.  If you can’t remember your membership details just drop us a line or ring 01353 865048

The list of information sheets covers a wide spectrum of subjects, below are the titles of the documents:

  • Planning fees for village halls
  • Parish council help for village halls
  • Providing services in village halls
  • Data Protection for Village Halls and Community Buildings – A Preliminary Guide
  • Village halls, children and young people
  • Village halls and registration for VAT
  • Village hall insurance cover
  • Storage in village halls
  • Entertainment in village halls
  • Alcohol in village halls
  • The Charities Act 2011
  • Village halls and car parks
  • Asbestos
  • Health & Safety legislation and village halls
  • Trustees – roles and responsibilities
  • Village halls and VAT on building work and other purchases
  • Marketing your village hall
  • Health and hygiene in village halls
  • Overnight accommodation in village halls
  • Managing employees and volunteers
  • Planning an extension, refurbishment or a new build village hall
  • Village halls, rates, waste and water
  • Making your village hall accessible
  • Coping with VAT on fuel and power supplies
  • Village halls and social clubs
  • Creating a business plan
  • Bingo in village halls
  • Village hall heating
  • Village hall flooring
  • Recruiting and retaining volunteers
  • Gaming and lotteries
  • Sale of goods in village halls
  • Trustee liability and trustee indemnity insurance
  • Village halls run by parish councils as sole trustee
  • Fire safety in village halls
  • Short guide to security in your village hall
  • Village halls and incorporation
  • Village halls and their governing documents
  • Accounting and village halls
  • Equality in village halls

If you are not currently a member but would like to find out more about the service please contact Lisa Chambers.