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Learned societies reject ICE room hire deal

The row about the ICE’s plans to increase room charges for learned societies using facilities at its Great George Street headquarters escalated this week when a compromise was rejected.

Four learned society groups turned down the compromise and accused the Institution of “significantly undervaluing” their contribution to the ICE.

Talks have been underway since the summer when the ICE told the societies that it was cutting from 75% to 50% their subsidy for secretarial charges and room hire at One Great George Street.

The ICE is now understood to have proposed maintaining the subsidy at 75% this year before cutting it to 67% in 2011.

“We add a phenomenal amount of value and, like many associated societies, are very active.”

Ian Smith, SECED

But the Society of Earthquake & Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED), the Offshore Engineering Society (OES), the UK arm of the International Navigation Association (PIANC) and the Central Dredging Association (CEDA) have rejected this proposal.

“We add a phenomenal amount of value,” SECED chairman Ian Smith told NCE.

“We, like many associated societies, are very active, holding a number of meetings, courses and lectures to disseminate our specialist knowledge.

“Yet, as a whole, associated societies only receive 10% of the funding allocated within the ICE’s learned and associated societies budget.

“Although we agree in principle with raising the price for secretarial services we think that room charges should actually be lowered from current rates to reflect this,” he added. “Room charges are our greatest expenditure by a significant amount”.

“The proposition is partly based on the financial challenge currently facing the ICE as a result of the recession.”

Barry Clarke, ICE

In a letter to NCE SECED, OES PIANC and CEDA said the current room charges “significantly hinder associated societies’, and also other ICE groups’, organisation of events at One Great George Street and results in signifi cant under utilisation of one of the ICE’s key assets”.

The ICE said discussions were still ongoing and that its revised proposal will not be confirmed until its next Council Meeting on 2 March.

ICE vice-president Barry Clarke said: “The proposition is based on the two agreed principles - creating a closer alignment between associated society activities and the ICE and recognising the financial challenge currently facing the ICE as a result of the recession.”

SECED, OES, PIANC and CEDA have urged the ICE to seek the opinion of its membership before enforcing the price hike.

■ Go to the letters section of the NCE website

Readers' comments (3)

  • Michael Paul

    I fully support Ian Smith's comments and agree that the membership should be consulted. Many ICE members put a lot of voluntary time and effort into such associated societies, and the contribution that these make does not seem to be appreciated by the ICE. If the financial challenge facing ICE is so great then savings should be made elsewhere (Storeys Gate?) and not in activities which are fundamental to ICE's existence as a "learned Society".

    Mike paul, Stuttgart, Germany

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  • Just to clarify. My current understanding is that ICE now proposes, from April, to double the secretarial fees (subsidy cut from 75% to 50%) and keep room fees the same for the rest of 2010. Thus, this might lead to a 50% increase in fees paid to ICE, depending on sectretarial support and room usage.
    If this goes ahead, then I intend to resign my ICE membership atthe e3nd of this year. I will, however, retain my membership of the two associated societies that I support.
    The associated societies' considerable contribution to the ICE is clearly greatly underestimated. Committee members freely give up their time, without any recompense or payment of expenses, to organise interesting meetings for both members of the societies and members of the Civils, who can attend free of charge. If it becomes too expensive to stay within the ICE umbrella, then these meetings can be held at cheaper (or free) venues elsewhere. Where is the benefit to ICE in that?
    The perception of the ICE's ability to wisely manage our subscriptions is greatly undermined by both this fiasco (trying to squeeze just £55000 from the associated societies reserves - a drop in the ocean for the Institution, but a lot of money for the societies) and that of Storey's Gate (wasting £5M, due to apparently bad planning).
    The SGM should go ahead! This needs a proper airing.

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  • Totally agreed. Let the members have their say.

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