The ICE’s role as a “centre for the exchange of specialist knowledge” has been called into question after senior officials slashed financial support to associated societies.
Highly respected groups such as the British Dam Society (BDS) and Offshore Engineering Society (OES) are reeling at the ICE’s move to cut subsidies for meeting room hire at its Great George Street headquarters.
Associated societies currently pay 25% of the market price for these facilities. As of January this will rise to 50% as the ICE attempts to plug a hole in its budget caused by falling profits within its commercial arm Thomas Telford.
The ICE has been warned that the increase will jeopardise the technical meetings of associated societies and may force them to shift their alliances to other institutions.
“The ICE could have a much diminished role in the dissemination of knowledge”.
A member of one of the affected societies
“Most of the societies will have to find venues outside Great George Street, and some may well decide to find new permanent homes,” warned a member of one of the affected societies. “The ICE could have a much diminished role in the dissemination of knowledge”.
Another warned of the financial implications of the hike. “This will have a catastrophic effect on our budget at a time when we are trying to avoid increasing our prices to our recession-hit members,” said Society of Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED) chairman Ian Smith.
In a letter to ICE director general Tom Foulkes, Smith said SECED brings value to the ICE “many times” any financial support given and that the relationship “enhances the ICE’s reputation and position as a learned body”. The letter warns that the society will seek to host its meetings elsewhere unless the increase was reversed .
“SECED considers that it should have a close association with the ICE since its subject matter crosses the whole civil engineering spectrum,” says Smith’s letter. “Nevertheless, SECED has lots of other natural homes and is not beholden to the ICE.”
ICE engineering, policy and innovation director Andrew Gooding defended the move. “This was a difficult decision. The ICE highly values the contribution of associated societies and wishes to continue to support them,” he said.
“However, during these challenging times the ICE is no different any other organisation facing a reduction in income and decisions to reduce or stop some activities have had to be made.”
But the associated societies are annoyed that the hike was only proposed in May, after plans were approved by Council, as many had already produced their 2010 meetings calendars.
“During these challenging times the ICE is no different any other organisation facing a reduction in income.”
Andrew Gooding, ICE
“The fact that the ICE seems to have mismanaged its affairs is by itself shocking,” said BDS chairman Peter Mason. “The fact that it is still paying for high profile but non-essential events such as president’s dinners and receptions while having to raid the funds of other registered charities to do so is both unprofessional and deplorable.”
Fourteen societies and associations are affected by the increase. They include the British Geotechnical Association, the British Nuclear Energy Society, the British Tunnelling Society, the Railway Civil Engineers’ Association and the Transport Planning Society.