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By Paul Sandford, director, ASM plus

Harriet, a young entrepreneur, was invited to join a committee chaired by David to deliver a young person’s talent competition, an event that had been awarded quite generous lottery funding. Harriet put forward a number of constructive proposals and in return for being paid a modest hourly rate of £10 she was asked to commission a number of services. These included the provision of PA equipment, venue hire, stage and lighting arrangements, media and marketing. Time was of the essence and Harriet used her contacts to obtain services at a discounted rate in order to support this good cause.

The week before the event, Harriet asked David about the process of submitting invoices. No response was given. The competition ran smoothly and when it was over Harriet emailed David about submitting an invoice which totalled £6000 and explained that some of that money was owed to 3rd parties. David failed to respond and over the following week ignored three or four more of Harriet’s emails. She was not advised of any follow-up meetings.

A fortnight or so after the event Harriet was greeted by two of her fellow committee members at an unrelated event and was rather surprised when they asked why she had not attended a presentation where all those who had helped organise the competition had been given a “thank you payment” of £250.

Given that Harriet had repeatedly emailed David and considered that she was being ignored she contacted an ASM PLUS facilitator. After an initial discussion with her, the facilitator contacted David to invite him to attend a three-hour facilitated discussion, as a way of reaching some agreement. David responded positively and the arrangements were made with each party contributing half of the specified cost of £350 plus VAT.

In the course of the meeting Harriet took the opportunity to explain her concerns about the previous lack of response to her enquiries about invoicing and emphasised that she was owed a lot of money. She also made it clear that although she would rather not do so she was fully prepared to issue proceedings in the Small Claims Court. David explained that there was never any intention on his part to mistreat Harriet and having emphasised what had happened was consequent on a combination of lack of time and resources he apologised and offered to pay the outstanding invoices within 14 days and to give Harriet her £250 award.

Although she was not reimbursed in respect of her half of the meeting fee, Harriet was nonetheless pleased because having taken advice from a consumer rights organisation she was aware that even when only quite modest amounts of money are being claimed court proceedings can drag on. She appreciates that David’s committee’s funding arrangements may not have been that sound and is concerned that further delay might result in her recovering nothing. David is relieved as he understands that court proceedings can be very time consuming. He wants to move on to another project and because the discussions are confidential, his good name is preserved.

Additionally, because they are reconciled, Harriet, whose association with the venture has enhanced her professional reputation and David agreed that in principle, provided things are put on a proper footing they could work together in the future. David also makes a mental note to himself to check through the committee accounts to ensure no one else is awaiting payment.