RSGB Governance Changes Discussion Group

RSGB Governance Changes Discussion Group

Because of some evident errors of fact being expressed by some of the discussion group members, the RSGB President has written twice to clubs in the UK drawing attention to the key points of the Board’s proposals at the upcoming EGM. The content of the two letters is reproduced below. Please would you take time to read this.

I am writing to all clubs (and copying others) after discussions with the Regional Teams.

The proposals being presented to the EGM are important for the Society. They will fundamentally impact the way we handle current difficulties. And yet some have sought to ridicule the proposals, based on an incomplete understanding of exactly what is being proposed and why. Hence this letter.

Contrary to the chatter on the wires, this is not about democracy—it’s about giving the Society the best chance to fix its problems. We have a crisis, and a crisis demands exceptional actions.

The current chatter is the result of selective disclosure (against the Board’s wishes) of some elements of the Board discussion on 10th September. The board recognised that careful communication was needed and agreed to prepare a full communication pack. In the interim, the matter was confidential. One Board member has inflicted serious damage on the Society by disregarding that decision. That is unacceptable, does not reflect well on the individual concerned and is inconsistent with his position as a Director.

In a recent podcast, a former Director said that he did not recognise that there was a crisis. That in itself speaks volumes. The impending problems had been flagged to the Board over the last year or so, and now are with us. To be specific:

There have been some significant errors in governance over the last five years. This has led the Society into dangerous waters financially.
Cash is running low, and next year places a huge additional cash demand on the Society from needed capital investment and the running costs of BP. Whilst not insolvent, we cannot sustain further drains on our cash.
Yet right now we do not have an acceptable budget for 2012. The current one shows, against our aspirations to run BP and GB4FUN and other factors in the 2012 budget, a loss of some £60k. We simply cannot afford this and have no option but to take very significant action to keep our budget balanced. This in itself will demand some hard choices.
Nor do we have a General Manager.
Furthermore we are regularly told that we do not have the right attitudes and behaviours towards our members and our volunteers.
Action is needed quickly by a sure-footed Board to pull things round, both financially and in terms of the way the Society works.

It is understandable that those who do not recognise the crisis might say “we don’t see the need for change”. As soon as you recognise the seriousness of the position, it suddenly becomes clearer.

That is why the Board is proposing an Interim Board (IB) for some 15 months made up of highly professional and experienced amateur radio people, professionally engaged in running companies. Their focus will be to restore health to the finances whilst at the same time maintaining or enhancing membership services, instilling the ethos into RSGB described in RadCom for November, and developing all aspects of the Advisory Group proposals to present to members for consultation and member input. Some of these proposals have not yet been considered in detail by the Board, some have been rejected and some—most notably the “Web” and “Ethos” recommendations, have been generally accepted as suitable for member consultation. In everything it does, the IB will be accountable to the membership. And, just like any other Board, it cannot make changes to the Society’s Constitution without the approval of the membership. So the claims that the Interim Board is “not accountable” are simply scare-mongering and disinformation.

It seems that there is also a concern amongst some members that the Interim Board, once in place, will seek to consolidate its position. Let me state quite categorically that this is not possible. The terms of Resolution 1 (specifically the clause immediately after (b)(iv)) clearly state that the M&As will revert to the current ones no later than the 2013 AGM. This means that the IB cannot continue to exist beyond that date. The only way that this can change is if the IB calls another General Meeting of members to propose further changes to the Memorandum and Articles of the Society.

Members can therefore be assured that the IB has a limited lifespan, in which to discharge its role, and that after that the current Board arrangements will return, unless the members agree otherwise in a further EGM.

The IB members will be expected to devote a significant amount of time to turning the Society around. It will be a working Board and will be in a position to support the Acting GM (who cannot continue to carry his current load) in the absence of a full time GM replacement. During this time the National and Regional Councils will continue, with enhanced frequency for the NC, ensuring close consultation with representatives of the membership at large.

If, however, the EGM proposals are rejected the Society will continue as at present, with an uncertain outcome.

The Board believes that the proposals being put to the EGM represent the best chance of addressing the Society’s difficulties with confidence and certainty.

Rather than focus on the democracy issue (the EGM proposals are democratic—just different) members might want to consider whether the RSGB described in the AG report summary and the “future” article on page 15 is the sort of RSGB they want to see. That’s where we need feedback—quickly.

The Board deserves your support in being frank and open about the issues and no matter how different the proposals are for resolving the current issues, please support them. The alternative is far less certain of securing the right outcome.