Row erupts as BCS president rounds on members calling for EGM

Members of the BCS backing calls for an extraordinary general meeting to debate institute's future have complained after a senior BCS official suggested the group were trying to set the institute back 30 years.

Members of the BCS backing calls for an extraordinary general meeting to debate institute's future have complained after a senior BCS official suggested the group were trying to set the institute back 30 years.

The group, which includes former members of the BCS council and governing board of trustees, has accused BCS officials of misrepresenting their concerns about the institute's future plans.

The row began after BCS president Elizabeth Sparrow sent a newsletter last week urging BCS members to back the institute and vote against the EGM motions, scheduled for 1 July.

"A very small number of members (our constitution currently requires just 50) have called for an extraordinary general meeting, putting forward motions of 'no confidence' in your trustees and chief executive. This is because they would prefer 'the society [they] joined around 30 years ago', to quote their spokesperson," she wrote.

The e-mail links BCS members to a website created by the BCS as part of its defence against the EGM motions. At the same time senior BCS officials plan a roadshow to put the case for the BCS' modernistation programme to its members.

But Sparrow's comments have angered the motion's supporters, who have accused the BCS of misrepresenting their concerns.

Len Keighley, who stepped down as a member of the BCS board of trustees to co-ordinate the motion for the EGM, said that the BCS had misrepresented a statement he had made in an opinion article written for Computer Weekly.

"It's a misrepresentation. Its not the first time they have concentrated on that statement that the BCS is not the society I joined 30 years ago. Which is not what the EGM is about anyway," he said.

Keighley said the group is concerned the Chartered Institute of IT, a registered charity, has lost sight of its support for members and has become more of a business designed to promote products such as the Chartertered IT Professional.

The motion calls for the BCS to halt spending on its £5million transformation programme, which is rebranding the BCS as a professional body.

The group, supported by former trustees and council members, has raised 20 concerns it wants to debate at the EGM. They include concerns that members have not been properly consulted over the transformation programme, claims of a lack of transparency in the way decisions are taken, and concerns over the way the BCS has awarded some contracts.

Keighley said, "The reaction I have got, from people who have then done a bit of digging themselves and have read my blog and articles in Computer Weekly is that it's a terrible e-mail to send out."

EGM supporters have e-mailed Sparrow calling for her to apologise.

"I trust that when you finally send out the calling notice for the EGM it will be accompanied by balanced information giving reasons both for and against the motions, not further misleading nonsense or yet more character assignation of the signatories," one wrote.

The BCS said it had taken a decision not to make any further public comments on the EGM.

"As a chartered professional body we have to preserve the reputation of the institute and our members. Following feedback from our members, including some of those involved in the call for the EGM, we would rather not have the proceedings discussed in the media," said a spokeswoman.

The EGM's supporters include IT lawyers and former BCS president Rachel Burnett, BCS council members Iain Thompson, Ian Sunley, Rajan Anketell (who was recently elected as a member of the BCS board of trustees), Robert Ward, Max Bramer and Kevin Chamberlain, and former councillors Ian Stuart, Glyn Hayes and Jennifer Stapleton.

The EGM has attracted significant interest in the BCS Chartered IT Professional and the BCS Membership Group discussion forums on Linked-In, Computer Weekly blogs and Keighley's own blog site.

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