BCS urges members to withdraw support for £100k EGM

The BCS is writing to 50 disgruntled members to persuade them to withdraw their signatures from a motion calling for an EGM to discuss the institute's future.

BCS, the chartered institute for IT, is writing to 50 disgruntled members in an attempt to persuade them to withdraw their signatures from a motion calling for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to discuss the institute's future.

The motion, which calls for a vote of no confidence and a halt to BCS spending on its £5m modernisation programme, has won support from prominent BCS members, including two former trustees, a former president, seven current members of the BCS council and three ex-council members.

Supporters have listed 20 reasons why they are supporting the EGM. They include concerns that the BCS is placing the interests of its members second to its role as a business and that members have not been properly consulted over its modernisation programme.

BCS defends actions

BCS chief executive David Clarke and president Elizabeth Sparrow have sent a letter to the motion's backers, setting out detailed arguments against the EGM, which they warn will cost the organisation a minimum of £100,000.

The letter, sent out on 1 April, sets out a detailed defence of the BCS and its £5m transformation programme, and raises questions about the reasoning of the individuals supporting the EGM.

Clarke and Sparrow argue that the BCS has focused on maintaining its revenues, managing costs, and using its reserves to build for the future, in a way that few organisations have matched over the past 18 months.

"A small group of our members, less than 0.1% of our membership, want to censure the management of the organisation for doing this and changing BCS from what it was 30 years ago (their words)," the letter says.

"One of the main accusations in the call for an EGM is that BCS senior management and trustees focus on the BCS business activities at the cost of BCS member activities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"What is equally clear is this tiny minority of our members are on the point of forcing your Institute into a £100,000 expenditure, the cost of an EGM, when it is absolutely apparent that they have either not properly read our Charter, published strategy or Annual Report, or failed to understand them if they have."

Full communication

The BCS dismisses claims that it has not consulted its members properly over the impact of its £5m transformation programme, which aims to modernise the organisation.

There has been a full programme of communications with members to explain the BCS transformation programme, the letters says.

Clarke and Sparrow dismiss claims by the EGM signatories that the BCS has not been transparent over the costs of programme, and that contracts have been awarded without following normal competitive tendering rules. "Within the limits of commercial sensitivity and prudence, all our funding and project management has been completely open and shared with boards, council and general membership.

"All suppliers have been independently managed by a contracted, independent project director who has been brought in for this specific purpose.

"A call for and EGM is a serious matter and the Trustees and CEO are certainly teaching it as such," say Clarke and Sparrow.

"As I am sure you know or will realise from this letter, the Trustees will robustly respond to an EGM call should it happen and are very confident that the membership at large will continue to support them as they have done in recent times. We would just rather it was not going to take £100,000 to make the point."

The EGM's supporters include IT lawyers and former BCS president Rachel Burnett, BCS Council members Iain Thompson, Ian Sunley, Rajan Anketell, Robert Ward, Max Bramer and Kevin Chamberlain, and former councillors Ian Stuart, Glyn Hayes and Jennifer Stapleton.

BCS president Elizabeth Sparrow wrote to the council members separately on 6 April, expressing her disappointment that a small group of council members are supporting the EGM.

"We responded to the original list of names last week and will write to the new names to make sure they understand the significance of what they are signing up to," she said.

Their letters follow a complaint by Len Keighley, the former BCS Trustee who is co-ordinating the EGM, to the BCS, alleging that some BCS members had felt intimidated after being approached by other senior BCS officials over their support for the EGM.

Read the full BCS letter here >>

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