COUNCIL MEMBERS have questioned a budgeting option raised by the Institution's financial planners to increase annual subscriptions by 6%.
Asked to compare the merits of an inflation plus 1% hike versus a 5- 6% increase, Council members stated that there was no appetite for the bigger rise, even with a clear statement of how members would benefit from more funding.
Northern Ireland representative David Orr led the calls to keep subscriptions well below the 'magic' figure of £200. 'Over the last three years subscriptions have increased 9-10% above inflation,' he said. 'In the same period there has been virtually no increase in the budget for our own local association.
'I think it is important for us to realise that 88% of members will not vote in the forthcoming Council election, and one third have to be reminded to pay their subs. If we think members are so enthusiastic about this Institution that they will want to pay a significant increase in subscriptions we are wrong.'
ICE President Roger Sainsbury acknowledged the lack of appetite for subscription rises in his presidential visits but warned that more funding might need to be found for Local Associations.
The President raised the spectre of an impromptu ballot asking members whether they would support a hypothecated rise in subscription, with a statement of where extra funds would go on the ballot paper. The next subscription ballot under ICE bylaws is scheduled for 2001.
Existing Local Association funding could be made more efficient by integration of LA activities with those of the Regional Liaison Officers (RLOs) and Local Association Development Officers (LADOs), Council heard.
Sainsbury pledged his commitment to boosting the Local Associations. He said: 'Some Local Associations say to me: 'We want to be more active but we don't have the funding to be more active.'
'I may go down as the President who came in relatively ignorant about Local Association affairs and with each month of office became more and more committed to how important they are.'
A report on the restructuring of roles within local associations will be made to Council in June after the deliberations of the ICE's devolution working party.
Chief Executive Mike Casebourne said: 'The question of funding is inevitably bound up with the devolution debate. We need to find new ways of organising Local Associations and supporting them out in the field.'
But some Council members expressed 'disquiet' at the prospect of more paid work carried out on behalf of Local Associations. Volunteers would be discouraged, they said.
Future decisions on the funding of Local Associations would be supported by the development of key indicators as to how each association was performing.