MEMBERS coming up for retirement will no longer be given free ICE membership after Council voted to suspend the long-standing rule applying to members of the ICE for 50 years or more.
The decision was made after it was revealed that last year's extension of the rule from 50 years as a corporate member to those with 50 years on the roll, was costing the Institution an extra £75,000 a year and not £20,000 as had been forecast. Council responded by suspending the rule altogether, except for those already receiving the free package.
ICE President Roger Sainsbury said that Council had endorsed the rule change in June 1998 on the basis of wrong information. Council had been unaware that members qualifying under the rule change received all the civil engineering journals and a subscription to the Engineering Council.
A Council paper stated: 'It was not generally appreciated that the existing members on a free membership were in receipt of a much wider range of benefits than just the free subscription and NCE. At the time of the decision, the briefing to Council made no reference to this.'
It was also heard that the amount of applications under the rule change was much more than forecast. This was due partly to members originally from other professional bodies that later became part of the ICE, being overlooked. Some 2,238 members had qualified for the free package this year, rather than the 500 forecast.
The £75,000 cost of the rule change this year would 'increase greatly in the coming years' as the annual flow reaching 50 years on the roll increased sharply, it was heard. The paper stated: 'Because of the demographic structure in the Institution, this cost will move sharply upwards in the coming years.
'The cost of a free subscription alone for those qualified 50 years would be unsustainable.' Waiving the current retirement subscription of £14 would eventually cost the ICE £300k per annum.
Sainsbury said that the ICE would honour its commitment to free membership to those already qualifying for the 50 year rule, including the extra 2,238 brought in under the rule change last year. He added that he welcomed the chance that had arisen to debate the 50 year rule: 'It's not a good thing that Council should have taken this decision on the basis of wrong information. However it might not be a bad thing that it's happened. We have faced up to demographic trends which maybe we would not have faced.'
Professor George Fleming, who takes over as ICE President next month said that bankrolling free membership for retired members increased the financial burden on younger members. He said: 'The 50 year rule should be suspended on a permanent basis as it applies. If older members are really stuck they can go to the Benevolent Fund.'