CTC Member Survey - Governance

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Philip Benstead
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Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 7:06pm
Location: Victoria , London

Re: CTC Member Survey - Governance

Postby Philip Benstead » 20 Nov 2015, 4:38am

Comments on CTC Governance Comments

These comments are the work of another CTC Councillor I endorse them in total.


Recently some of you may have received a survey on CTC governance. Much of it must be baffling in the terms in which it is written and without sufficient background information. Its circulation was not approved by CTC Council. Apart from anything else those of you that have ever worked on public consultation will realise it is badly constructed and includes many leading questions. The implications of various answers are not explained.

Until recently those of us on Council that have a different vision of CTC were prevented from discussing these proposals with you by an instruction that it was confidential until a meeting due to be held on Saturday 23 January 2016. Now we feel we have let you down and trust broken down by this unauthorised survey being released immediately after most AGMs have taken place. Even though the survey is fatally flawed some will try to use it and the closing date gives little opportunity for discussion about alternatives.

As I said frankly some of the questions are leading but to start the ball rolling here are some comments on some of the points. Even if you have not received the survey you might want to think about this. If you did it is, of course, up to you how you respond but at least this might give you a slightly different view.

The introduction "CTC Council recognised some time ago that the current structure is not ideal and has asked us to review it. We are therefore reviewing our governance structures and processes to identify ways to improve them. The review has led us to consult widely and consider the way other charities are governed” gives the impression of a done deal. My view is that the current proposals to reduce democracy in the CTC are way behind the curve of current thinking on engagement of people in membership organisations and seek to impose a controlling centralised model that is not appropriate to CTC. Of course there are some problems but the current review does not address them. The problems include the relationship between paid officials largely based in Guildford; the elected voluntary CTC councillors; member groups and members as a whole.

It’s following the given agenda but going through the questions:

On electing trustees/councillors
Please select the answer that most closely reflects your opinion.
* 1. Currently members can vote for Councillors (charity trustees) within their local regions. We are considering changing this to enable members to vote for all of the elected CTC Councillors. As a member of CTC, would you like the opportunity to vote for:
( ) One or two Councillors (charity trustees) in your local region
( ) All of the elected Councillors of CTC
( ) No preference

This does not state clearly say that the second option means losing local representation. In the real world it is unusual to elect all the representatives across the whole UK e.g. Stevenage is divided is divided into thirteen areas called wards, trade unions and many voluntary, religious and sports organisations have regional representation. There is a real risk that the second option, particularly along with the proposal to reduce the number of CTC Councillors, will mean that future representatives will largely come from the area round Guildford and perhaps London. In the world outside CTC the talk is about Devo-max to countries within the UK and degrees of devolution from London to varieties of regions. In this context it is inconceivable that there will not be representation from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland directly elected by members within those countries. Even the bicycle has a different status in different parts of the UK.

I have indicated option one. I want to keep and develop local representation.

Please select the most appropriate option to correspond with your response to the following statement.
* 2. I believe that all CTC Councillors should share equal responsibility for CTC's activities across the UK.
( ) Strongly disagree
( ) Disagree
( ) Uncertain
( ) Agree
( ) Strongly agree

This question is pretty pointless unless it’s an attempt to lead by the nose. CTC Councillors are directors of a company limited by guarantee (i.e. not for profit) and trustees of a charity registered in England and Scotland. Of course we are all responsible by definition but perhaps sometimes not everything is shared with all Councillors and there is currently a huge blurring of the responsibilities of paid staff and elected representatives. There is now no way to discuss member group issues within the committees. There may be a case for devolving / delegating some decisions to local elected Councillors or groups of Councillors.

As it’s a statement of the obvious I made use of the other comments section with question 8. You could indicate uncertain and do the same. Please note that the way the questionnaire is constructed it will work better for you if you put all your extra question 8 comments in one Word document then copy and paste into the box when you are ready.

Please select the most appropriate option to correspond with your response to the following statement.
* 3. The elected Councillors should be able to appoint an additional 1 or 2 trustees to join Council (the board of trustees) to fill gaps in the skills, knowledge or experience of the elected Council.
( ) Strongly disagree
( ) Disagree
( ) Uncertain
( ) Agree
( ) Strongly disagree

Martyn: As the preamble already says that we can do this, and there is no option to comment I wonder where this is going? Jim: This would be sliding back to a bad practice which got in the way of progress in the past. At the moment we can co-opt people as non-voting members (non-voting as they have not been elected). When I was first elected there were five unelected but voting members of Council. They were called Vice-Presidents and were at bit like the Aldermen of pre-1970s local government, appointed by the “great and the good” of a previous generation and tended to vote as a block (why does Burma spring to mind). They were a block on all sorts of things, even the introduction of direct debit payments for membership. It was a struggle but we had to get rid of them. My view is that all voting members of Council should be elected.

The premise confuses the role of elected Councillors (agreeing policy and strategy) with officers (implementing). We already can co-opt non-voting members of Council; we can ask people to come on a one-off basis to discuss specific topics and from time to time we can commission consultants (but the project specification must be fit for purpose) but to be blunt if the organisation is missing skills that are needed on a regular long term basis then the job descriptions, person specifications and staff structure that we have now are not fit for purpose.

I have indicated strongly disagree for the reasons given.

Please select the most appropriate option to correspond with your response to the following statement.
* 4. The contribution of experienced CTC volunteers should be recognised with a formal role that enables members with particular skills or experience to support the work of CTC and help energise volunteers locally and/or nationally.
( ) Strongly disagree
( ) Disagree
( ) Uncertain
( ) Agree
( ) Strongly agree

Well yes and our volunteers should be valued but this gives no idea what that role might be. Are these the ambassadors, a bit like Seb Coe and Nike or as described at a recent committee meeting “district commissioners” (very top down). Once again this does not say that this is at the expense of voluntary councillors that come from the members.

This gives you no idea what is proposed so again I suggest indicate uncertain and use question 8.

5. It is a principle of good governance that Trustee Boards should not be so large as to be unwieldy. Council currently comprises up to 26 members. The governance working group has concluded that the board should be substantially smaller to ensure efficient and effective decision making.

Do you...
( ) Strongly disagree
( ) Disagree
( ) Uncertain
( ) Agree
( ) Strongly agree

This is misleading. CTC Council does not consist of 26 elected Councillors. There is a maximum of 20 elected Councillors. In fact at the moment there are 17 as national office has resisted calls to organise by-elections to fill vacancies. We must ensure that “efficient and effective decision making” does not mean alternative views are not heard. We need the grit in the oyster catalysts. If Council is made smaller it will be even harder to achieve diversity, different experiences, representation from different areas and to scrutinise the Executive.

I have indicated strongly disagree for the reasons given.

6. It is proposed that the Council should have a maximum of 12 members.

Do you...
( ) Strongly disagree
( ) Disagree
( ) Uncertain
( ) Agree
( ) Strongly agree

Much of the response to question five applies. CTC does not need a compliant Council. We need sufficient critical mass to generate alternative views and be a critical friend to what sometimes can be a very strong minded, controlling Executive.

This statement does not make it clear that the proposers of this change also propose to take up some of those twelve places with appointees so the number of elected Councillors (or whatever they might be called in the future) accountable to the membership will be even less.

It will be very hard to maintain any meaningful regional or smaller country representation with 12 or less elected CTC Councillors.

I have indicated strongly disagree for the reasons given.

7. Which one of these statements best describes your opinion of the present system of governance and whether it enables us to deliver our mission?
( ) It is very effective and could not be improved
( ) It is effective but could be improved a little
( ) I don't have a strong opinion either way
( ) It is ineffective and could be improved quite a bit
( ) It is very ineffective and needs a great deal of improvement

This is ridiculous. What is the point of the question? Of course we have not achieved perfection? So yes there could be improvements but the review goes nowhere near addresses most of them. For example is CTC too centralised, too top down, are members, even Councillors, and member groups being asked to carry out instructions from national office rather than being valued, engaged with and able to influence? For example there is now no committee with the responsibility to discuss member group issues. Most of you may not yet have noticed much difference but those involved in administering member groups and organising events will have spotted how hard it is to get any kind of sympathetic response, sometimes any response at all from Guildford.

I have indicated it is effective but could be improved a little and put a lot into the box with question 8.

8. If you have any ideas for improving the governance of CTC which you would like the governance working group to consider, please add them here.
We seem to be suffering from a dominant chief executive and a fairly weak chair.

Don’t know how we can say this in appropriate way but whatever his strengths and weaknesses it seems to me that when we had Kevin Mayne and the various Chairs and Vice-Chairs of that period our membership continuously increased. Since Gordon Seabright and now Paul Tuohy our membership has steadily decreased and our local activity increasingly rubbished.

The survey does not mention term of office. If it is true that very few, possibly none, of our current staff were CTC members before they starting working for CTC we definitely need a few people dedicated (or stupid enough) to serve on Council long enough to give some continuity and corporate member.

It is very unfortunate that many in Guildford “don’t get it” in terms of working with volunteers all over the UK in a diverse, democratic membership organisation. The culture should not be that we are just here to be told what to do.

General

The assumed model being promoted by the chief executive and current chair is very dated and not appropriate for CTC. It undermines one of CTC’s “unique selling points” amongst other cycling organisations our democracy. We may not all be engaged with that all the time and there could be improvements but it’s there for when it’s needed and much of the positive changes have come bottom up from a local level and through elected CTC Councillors and not top down from a national office in Godalming and Guildford. My preference is for a “community development” empowering rather than control and command approach.

The proposed governance model is seriously “behind the curve” and reflects thinking and attitudes in the 1980s and 1990s. It has become more and more labyrinthine as people have made valid comments about its shortcomings.

An element of the model that has not yet been shared is the proposal to vet candidates. Another illustration of a need by some to control us and how arrogant. Recent experience warns me that these checks won’t just be about “quality” but whether possible candidates will toe the line. Of course we will need to continue the company and charity law checks on criminality, etc., but with the possible exception to reduce abuse of requiring at least twelve months CTC membership before seeking election to Council I do not agree that we should be erecting additional barriers to participation. We need to be encouraging more people to stand – we can do that by organising meetings when working people can attend, by valuing input from volunteers, by making Council relevant to members by saying what we do but perhaps above all convincing people that they can make a difference if they get elected.

It is very sad that an intolerant attitude from the centre is leading to the formation of factions within Council for the first time in many years. It is an inevitable consequence of the current leadership style.

Over the last couple of months I have started to seriously consider the merits of introducing a directly elected chair and would welcome thoughts on that. Elsewhere that seems to galvanised engagement, even new memberships. That may help manage our Executive and the mandate help in discussions with Government and other agencies. That would widen our democracy a little and is complete contrast with the proposal to replace a chair elected by Council with an appointment.

There is a need to make further improvements in the involvement of younger people and women on Council but that can be done in the context of a democratic CTC.
Philip Benstead | Life Member Former CTC Councillor/Trustee
Organizing events and representing cyclist in southeast since 1988
Bikeability Instructor/Mechanic

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gaz
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Re: CTC MEMBERSHIP SURVEY

Postby gaz » 20 Nov 2015, 12:07pm

Philip Benstead wrote:THIS IS A PERSONAL VIEW OF PHILIP BENSTEAD AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE VIEW OF ANY GROUP.
... Q5 I do not know where you got the number 26 from. ...


26 comes from CTC's Memorandum and Articles of Association.

5 OFFICERS
5.1 The Council shall consist of not more than twenty-two and not fewer than five members, elected as hereinafter prescribed, together with not more than four members co-opted by the Council. Co-opted Councillors shall not have the right to vote at Council Meetings or in postal ballots...


It seems to me from the Mem and Arts that Council has the power to change (remove) the electoral boundaries and the number of seats on Council (subject to the minimum and maximums set out in 5.1) without any additional mandate from the membership.

Co-opted Councillors (i.e. unelected) do not have voting rights and it would require a mandate from the membership (change to Mem & Arts requiring 75% majority of those voting at a AGM or other GM) to alter this.
There'll be tarmac over, the white cliffs of Dover ...

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Philip Benstead
Posts: 1418
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 7:06pm
Location: Victoria , London

Re: CTC Member Survey - Governance

Postby Philip Benstead » 8 Dec 2015, 6:07pm

Problems with CTC MEMBERSHIP SURVEY

It has been brought to my attention that a CTC member received the CTC MEMBERSHIP SURVEY had a look at it, then closed it.
They return to it to complete it, but was told they had already been sent.
They contacted CTC who told them to contact campfire, campfire did not reply to emails.
As anybody else had this or other problems.
Philip Benstead | Life Member Former CTC Councillor/Trustee
Organizing events and representing cyclist in southeast since 1988
Bikeability Instructor/Mechanic