Governance of fixing groups - how to?

In the St Albans area we’ve only ever had 2 fixing events in 6 years because we’ve never had anyone to take on the organisation on more than a one-off basis. Sustainable St Albans (registered here as Our Planet Our Future, host @Lesley_Flowers) is very supportive but their volunteers are all fully committed to other things. But it looks like the scene might be changing! @Danielle_Durant-Taylor has recently expressed interest in taking it on (please give her a big welcome!), and we now have a first event planed for February in Harpenden. Harpenden Lions are also interested in getting involved in some way. With one or two more people for an organising committee, it could take off.

Which leaves me with a few questions about governance. Unless we were to go the whole hog and register as a charity or a Community Interest Company, we need to work under an umbrella organisation. That will almost certainly be Sustainable St Albans. But what does such a relationship look like? Hackney Fixers work under Sustainable Hackney and doubtless many other groups have similar relationships. Perhaps some of them (@James_Diamond for example) would like to comment.

What support do you get from your umbrella org and what do they require in return? To what extent are you a separate entity? I imagine you can tap into their publicity machine and maybe they provide webspace and email addresses. Do you have a separate bank account, and how does it work financially? Do they provide essential insurance cover, and did it need extension to cover fixing events? Who ultimately owns your assets (toolkit etc)? Too many questions, and I probably haven’t even thought of the most important ones.

If a few group organisers would like to chip in, hopefully we can build up a knowledge base useful also to other groups starting out.


Hi Philip,

Hackney Fixers is a project of Sustainable Hackney and I’m the co-ordinator. I also sit on the SH steering group and report regularly to the steering group on our activities.

Sustainable Hackney is not a charity or CIC, just a constituted community group. We use the SH bank account and insurance. The insurance is basic public liability which covers all SH events - we haven’t investigated product liability. We are covered by SH policies, eg health and safety, if we are applying for grants, and of course grant applications are signed off by SH which is the grant holder. Ultimately SH owns our tools etc (many were paid for by grant funds that SH applied for and held on our behalf).

SH provides a webpage and we can post events and blogs on the SH website. We have our own domain name which points to the webpage and also an email account which is hosted on the SH hosting account. It helps that I administer the SH website. We do use the SH social media accounts and mailchimp newsletter for publicity, but Hackney Fixers also has its own.

In return SH gets the kudos of being linked to a popular local project.

We could set Hackney Fixers up as a separate entity but that would at least require a constitution, a committee and a bank account, and I haven’t seen the need as yet.

Hope that helps



Very helpful, thank you! Anyone else? @Rosemary? @Chris_Moller? @Ian_Barnard? @Stuart_Ward?

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When I wanted to start our local Crediton Repair Cafe I happily found the local Methodist minister and her team running the church were really keen and able to help with many of the logistics aspects - space with power, heating, tea/coffee and cakes - and we also got help from Community Action Group (CAG) Devon which is funded by Devon CC - they provided one vital aspect which is liability insurance as well as being very helpful.

So the Methodist Church is getting a community social event - outreach - and cash from the refreshments, plus a donation from the Repair Cafe towards cost of the space. They also host in their accounts our small cash balance from donations, which is incredibly helpful for governance because basically we don’t have to worry about handling cash or running a bank account. And the church is a registered charity which has one benefit that some local notice boards are reserved only for orgs with a charity number so helps us be able to put flyers up there.

From CAG Devon we get liability insurance for events and (as the church) a small starter grant. From Devon CC we got another starter grant. We receive donations which with the grants have (so far) covered running costs like flyer printing and paying for hall use, plus the cost of things needed to meet liability insurance requirements such as annual calibration of the PAT tester we use, cost of training course for PAT testers, but also a list of other things needed like extension leads, RCD sockets, sewing machine needles, …

Who owns the stock of things we have? Fixers own their own tools, e.g. the PAT tester is mine (but the repair cafe pays for annual calibration), the Church in the end I suppose owns the things we’ve had to buy - not that there’s a lot of value really, perhaps £200? Wish the church had some lockable storage space for these bits, but they don’t so they clutter up my garage.

CAG Devon is getting reports on the repair work done, not unlike (but simpler than) the fixometer stats, and my undying gratitude for helping us get started.

One of CAG Devon’s requirements for the insurance was to complete a Risk Assessment, which I did based on what another local group had done - this risk assessment identified stuff that had to be bought such as hazard tape in case there’s something which you need to keep people away from, gloves to handle oily things, protective glasses for moving parts, etc. The next time we run I’ll have ot extend this to include Covid risk management like only invited people in the room, windows open, etc.

When I was setting up, in the interests of identifying what was needed and of not forgetting something critical I created some spreadsheets of the steps of running an event, and of the steps of fixing something, identifying who (role e.g. visitor, receptionist, mender)), what they did, what they needed as input (e.g. the partly-completed form with details of the visitor and the thing they need fixing), what they produced as output (e.g. the form now with the fixed/not fixed details) - they’re on google drive, can share link if you’re interested.


Although we run events as West London Restarters, we are really Hillingdon Friends of the Earth. As a part of national Friends of the Earth, we are able to use the group public liability insurance cover, but we get no funding from them.

West London Waste Authority have given us a comprehensive toolkit, including a PAT tester, on long term loan, provded we run 2-3 events every year, This hasn’t applied since early 2020, but we hope to start holding events again next spring. Mst of our restarters bring some tools of their own too.

Our local libraries (Ickenham and Ruislip Manor) have let us use their facilities free of charge for most of our events. We have also hired a local community building and the fee was covered on the day by donations.

Recently, our council, Hillingdon, expressed interest in our events and even mentioned funding, but nothing has happened with that so far.


In my view, the informality of a Repair Café is an essential ingredient. As long as it’s just neighbours helping neighbours, it works really well. The Repairee
and Repairer sit together, and mutually agree what is to be done, and each party understands that neither expects any enduring responsibility outside the Repair Café. Of course, the Repairer must act responsibly – and particularly be aware of the limits
of their knowledge, and of any potential danger they might expose the product user to, and equally, the Repairee must recognise that the Repairer is not a fully qualified expert, and that what they’re getting back may not be as good or safe as new.

A Repair Café is not, and should never be mistaken for, a cheap substitute for a commercial repair service with a warranty. There is a danger that by over-formalising,
and especially by allowing the Repairee not to be part of the decision-making process implicit in the repair, the Repairee may mistake the nature of the service as being contractual – it isn’t.

A constitution, committee and bank account are in my view only necessary if it is necessary the demonstrate that money is being handled properly, or someone
involved is making life difficult. Even with a Committee, there’ll still be those who take more than their fair share of the organising!

In the RC I’m involved with (which is not formally constituted), donations are requested – and usually very generously given. This pays for coffee and cake
for the Repairers and any components or consumables used, and the balance is paid immediately to the venue (our local Community Centre) – which receives it gratefully! Although in our case it’s never been an issue, it might be difficult if the venue felt
out-of-pocket because it’s normal rental fee hadn’t been covered, in which case, I am confident there would be sufficient goodwill amongst the Repairers and the organiser to cover this – because they’re having an enjoyable and rewarding time, too!

I know other RCs see this differently, and feel the need to do things in a much more formal and structured way (or the venue insists on it) , but in my view,
this detracts from the strong sense of community that a less formal and more personal RC can nurture. (It’s also much more hard work to organise!)


Thank you Chris for a slightly different view. I’m right with you in what you say about informality. Personally, I’m allergic to committees and have no desire to set one up, or any structures more than strictly necessary. But in our case, so far there’s just me and one other. We certainly could do it on our own but I feel there’s quite a lot to be gained from the support of an umbrella organisation and so at some level we need to set expectations on both sides. Hopefully it can be very light touch but we do just need to have the conversation.

Looks like we’re going to have to constitute to continue getting CAG Devon liability insurance. If anyone needs resources like example constitution, safeguarding policy, see