Alton Chamber of Commerce and Industry was set up as an unincorporated association, with a constitution and a management committee. We hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) each autumn, usually November, and this is the time when the committee stand for election. Our committee has four officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, as well as further committee members who also contribute. The officers are the minimum required committee members and each have a specified duty. It is common for other committee members to also take on responsibilities, helping to share the burden of managing the organisation.
In 2010 two of the Chamber’s committee members took over Alton Initiatives Management Ltd., replacing the former directors. This ‘not for profit’ company limited by guarantee was set up in 2001 as a partnership between East Hampshire District Council, Alton Town Council and Alton Chamber of Commerce and Industry to run town centre events. It established a town manager and moved the markets into the High Street, the licence fee helping to make the organisation self-financing. Despite its success in establishing a number of annual events, the funds dried up and the fourth town manager left their post in 2009. The Chamber took on this company, renamed it Alton Chamber Enterprises Ltd., and used it to run its two festivals (Jane Austen Regency Week and Alton Word Fest) and to sell its products. This company was run in parallel with the association and it became clear that the extra work in running the two organisations was not beneficial.
At a Special General Meeting held on 28th February 2014 members ratified the proposal to merge the ACCI association into the company, renaming the company ‘Alton Chamber of Commerce and Industry’. It is very common for organisations such as ours to be a company limited by guarantee. Unlike a standard company (limited by shares), a ‘guarantee company’ has no shareholders and cannot be owned. The shareholders are replaced by ‘members’ who are asked to ‘guarantee’ the debts of the company should it be wound up, but it is normal to limit the members’ liability to £1 each. Thus, the company is a legal entity, freeing the directors from having to take personal liability for contracts or licences. The constitution is replaced by the articles of association, so the directors are still bound to follow a set of rules and are accountable to both the members and Companies House.
In April 2013 we joined Hampshire Chamber of Commerce (HCC) as an organisation. Our members will be listed in the HCC members’ directory (both online and in print) and they have the opportunity to attend some of the HCC events. Alresford Chamber have also joined in this same capacity and it is the hope of Hampshire Chamber that more of the ‘town chambers’ will want to join (there are quite a few in Hampshire). Whilst it is early days, we believe that membership will help us to provide further services, offers and information to our members, and in turn, we will be able to feed local issues, information and events through to the Hampshire Chamber. Our members also have the option of joining Hampshire Chamber in their own right (offering them greater membership benefits) and they will be able to deduct the Alton Chamber subscription fee from the sum they pay to Hampshire Chamber. Of course, this only applies to paid-up members of our Chamber.