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U-turn on funding of PEI's

ICE's AXING of funds for Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) has been staved off until the end of the year.

Hostile reactions to a Council paper that recommended withdrawal of funding for PEI's hosted by the ICE in the North East, Northern Ireland and Wales in June, have forced ICE Executive to do a U-turn.

The ICE sent out a letter before Christmas informing the three PEI's hosted by the ICE, that funding would be withdrawn and local association/PEI joint venture funding would continue. Concerns expressed at December's Council meeting had forced the issue on to last week's agenda.

It was feared that the three offices of 15 offices set up 18 months ago to lend a united engineering voice in the regions, could collapse altogether without ICE support. Council disapproval was led by David Orr of Northern Ireland association. He said: 'We didn't ask for it but we were told to make it work. Having recruited a secretary we were surprised and disappointed to receive a letter saying funding would be withdrawn. This has not been well received by our sister institutions in Northern Ireland and we feel this has not been handled at all well. The way forward is for the ICE to consult with other major institutions and agree at national level the future of all PEI's. In the meantime, ICE must honour its funding commitment.'

ICE President Roger Sainsbury said: 'We sought the views of local association chairmen last autumn and I have to say that the PEIs got the thumbs down. There was little enthusiasm for them. Local association chairmen said that they wanted to concentrate on building relationships with other bodies in the construction sector.'

Sainsbury denied that the ICE were reneging on an agreement to other engineering institutions: 'We had a meeting last week with the presidents of the other institutions to discuss this matter. They do not regard us as reneging although they do think we have not discussed it much or given them much notice,' he said.

IEE's Dr John Williams, who led an EngC fact finding mission of PEI activities, denied that PEIs were failing in a presentation to the Engineering Council on Thursday. He said: 'We feel that there has been a fair amount of success out there. A number of PEI's are already recognised with the embryonic devolved parliaments.' Williams went on to praise the ICE hosted Welsh PEI for work to set up strong links with the coming Welsh Assembly.

Terry Mulroy argued that PEI success depended upon recruiting quality PEI officers. He said: 'Where PEI's have had limited success, there's been a problem of commitment from various people. It's inappropriate to withdraw support for PEI's after just 18 months. The profession of engineering cannot speak with one voice unless it is single organisation in the regions.'

But past president Sir Alan Cockshaw spoke of the need to get value for money for the annual £20 given by members towards the EngC: 'Most of us agree that the way the Engineering Council operates at the moment has not delivered value for money. PEI's are one of the activities which needed to be reviewed.'

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