The 112th Annual meeting of Council took place in Worcester on Monday 25th May 2009. I went over on the Saturday for pre-Council ringing and rang a peal at the excellent 12 at All Saints. The Cathedral were also ringing at the same time but did not sound to me as good as they have done in the past. Strangely I understand the much vaunted wooden clapper was not used for the peal only, being put back into the tenor for Sunday ringing.
The deceptively short agenda belied the time that was to be consumed or wasted dependant on your point of view.
The initial stages passed quickly. The first point of interest was an acknowledgement that as with all organisations the economic down turn had seriously effected interest income and the substantial funds of council whilst safe, were not oiling Council as in the past. The treasurer confirmed that 2009 could be considered safe but that a fiscal stimulus may be required in the near future. (Council is funded by the small subscription charge to members. Any additional funding comes from bequests, donations, profit on events and interest).
The accounts also revealed the extent of loss on the Road Show, £3,800.
Then we came to the election of a new secretary, Ian Oram standing down after 8 years in the job. There were two nominations: Council Member Barrie Dove and non Council Member Mary Bone. After a vote Mary was elected. There is something fundamentally undemocratic about being able to appoint an officer who is not an elected member of Council. Whilst the top table tried to justify this and Mary will do a very good job, it does nothing to refute the allegations made against Council in the past few years.
There followed a couple of motions to tidy up the names of some of the committees and to adjust their terms of reference in line with last year’s decisions. The Peal Compositions committee will now be known as the "Compositions" committee and included in it's remit will be compositions for quarter peals. In answer to a question from the floor the chairman confirmed that there was still no requirement that quarter peal compositions should be true. (Something I have always been against. Other wise you could ring three bobbed leads of Bristol 14 times and call it a quarter).
The next motion sought to open up the remit of the Biographies Committee. The biographies committee was set up to record the details of Council members, their ringing activities and other achievements, to retain for posterity a complete and composite record. This has always been difficult with some council members slow in providing the information. Strangely this motion was carried. Biographies now have the task of keeping records of all prominent ringers but "prominent" has yet to be defined. Does "prominent" mean accomplished ringers, tea makers, or murderers, and of course Data Protection needs to be considered.
Next up was a motion to stop Honorary Members voting in Council. Laith Reynolds proposed this amendment to the rules in an attempt to make Council more accountable and more relevant. As with most Guilds & Associations, Council is a Victorian institution and is seen as a club rather than a democratically elected body. The result is the usual coteries appears to control the power. New blood is difficult to promote within the ranks and the result is a general apathy towards council. Phil Earis's article in the Ringing World last year clearly made the point. After some appalling hypocrisy the matter was voted on. 94 for 72 against. The motion was lost because a 2/3rd majority is needed to change the rules. Please note 20 Honorary Members were present. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
The most important part of the meeting followed, a talk about the changes in the CRB check regulations and the accreditations of all those working with children or vulnerable adults within the ISA guidelines. The Guild needs to take all this on board and get the systems in place to ensure we are not disadvantaged because of the changes.
Interestingly Gail Cater made the point that retiring committee members being re-proposed by existing committee members looked bad and implied a closed shop. Unfortunately nobody was listening and the committees continued nominating their own.
The Ringing World is still losing subscribers. The Diary will be back to normal next year. Questions were asked about the reporting of allegations of "improper" behaviour in a recent case where no action was taken by the authorities which implied that there was no case to answer. The Board advised that this whole matter was being done with director involvement. The point here is that nothing should be reported unless the person concerned has been charged. Interestingly the Editor reported a more recent case as "being found guilty" when the case had not been heard by a jury and the accused had simply pleaded guilty to some of the offences. With respect this is not the same thing.
The Publications Committee is going to produce a book of Quarters of Stedman. I fail to see why as touches of Stedman can easily be knocked out and producing your own touches is a more educational. Comments were made concerning the trend of ringing on "Toy Bells" and the 12,000 Minimus which the RW printed in quarter format because the Record Performance criteria had not been met. Yet again the point was missed that it is not for the Ringing World to censor peals. Accreditation of all peals is down to the Admin committee following referral and recommendation by the Peal Records Committee.
The Ringing Foundation is sorting out charitable status and preparing several projects including a "teaching pack" for school teachers so that teachers can be informed about bell ringing.
Alan Regin has been doing more excellent work on the "Rolls of Honour". If any tower has details of any ringers lost through war (whichever conflict) could they let me or Alan Regin know.
Next year is Derby. We need to bear in mind that 2023 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Suffolk Guild and if the Guild is still in existence then should Council be invited?
So all in all not a good showcase of the valuable work done by Council. In their own spheres the committees do a lot of good work, but collectively Council has done nothing this year to endear itself to the ordinary ringers. There is in my view no doubt that change is needed if Council is to become relevant to the majority of ringers.