I promised I’d reply to Martyn’s comments on my post about CILIP's governance review.
I’m grateful for the reply. I think Martyn is a good Chair of Council, and is trying to move Council in the right direction, towards more openness.
1. On democracy: Martyn says that to have a third of the seats on Council appointed rather than elected is not undemocratic. I don’t agree. If any government were to propose that more than 200 out of the 650 MPs in the Commons were to be chosen by their fellow MPs, rather than by popular vote by the electorate, we’d have revolution in the streets. I don’t see why CILIP should not aspire to the modest standards of parliamentary democracy. In fact, I think we could do better as I may elaborate on another occasion.
2. On secrecy: dress it whichever way you like, it remains a fact that the governance review conducted its proceedings in secret. My requests to see a copy of the report back in July 2013 were met with fudge by the then chair of Council, John Dolan. As you know, it was discussed in camera at the first Council meeting I attended, in January of this year, and we were not permitted to debate the substance of the proposals, and my proposal to have the discussion in public was defeated 11-1. You say, 'The proposals have previously been discussed in closed business of Council to allow for full and frank debate’. I remember this argument being made at that January meeting, and I was so flabbergasted I think I was probably unable to argue coherently against it. I say now that I think that any councillor who is unable or unwilling to take part in open, public, documented debate when running the Institute in the interests of members, is unworthy to serve. I understand that discussions about the pensions fund had to be held in secret, but I cannot see how secrecy is necessary when talking about how we run a modern democratic professional organisation.
3. On membership, yes, we have appointed a member of staff to help tackle the problem. That seems to me to be buck-passing. It is the responsibility of Council, above all, to turn the situation round, and yet it doesn’t even merit a mention in our risk register. I think Council is in denial. Yes, the auditors approved the accounts, but we both know that auditors are not there to assess the democratic health of the organisation. Unless we start to take this seriously, the catastrophic fall in membership is a graver threat to our future than anything else.
I have my own views on CILIP’s governance. Meaning no offence to any individual on Council, it worries me that we have so many who are no longer working at the bench. Turning a third of the seats on Council over to non-elected people who need not be members of CILIP, nor even working in the profession, is going to make this worse.
These issues will be resolved at the AGM, one way or another. I’d urge Council to think about how that debate is structured; it could be possible to salvage something from the wreck, by separating the contentious elements from the non-contentious ones. This is something that has been hinted at. There’s some interest in bringing amendments to the meeting to help this process. Can we be assure that these amendments will be taken?