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Your View | ICE Governance Vote

Ice hq 2by3

The ICE is holding a members’ ballot to seek approval for proposals to change its governance structure. It wants to appoint a 12 strong trustee board to govern the Institution’s affairs, advised by ICE Council. Last month ICE President Lord Mair made the case for the change, and ICE past President Paul Jowitt expressed his opposition. Here we publish a selection of the responses.  Click here to read answers to some frequently asked questions.

Past Presidents in support of the proposals

The effective governance of our Institution is of crucial importance to its members, and to society.  

As past Presidents of the Institution, we have noted the proposals to strengthen the ICE governance structure that are being put to a ballot of the membership.

 We believe the following points are relevant:

  • In an increasingly complex legal, administrative and financial environment, it seems unrealistic (and unfair) to require 44 members meeting only four  times a year to be accountable for the governance of ICE’s extensive activities
  • A 12-strong trustee board of ICE members meeting more frequently will be better placed to take the agile, responsive and informed decisions necessary in this complex world
  • The Council will continue to be elected by the membership and will have time to take a strategic view of the key issues facing civil engineers and our role in serving society
  • The trustee board will be accountable to the Council, and through it to the membership
  • The Council will be responsible for approving the appointment and reappointment of trustees every year, and will also appoint three of its own members directly to the trustee board
  • We understand the current Council has unanimously approved the proposed changes be put to a ballot of ICE Corporate Members.

 We have not had any more involvement in the development of these proposals than other ICE members, and that is as it should be. Past Presidents’ views, when offered, should not be regarded as a burden on subsequent Councils. It is for each individual member to consider these important matters on their merits, and to vote in accordance with their own opinion.

  • Adrian Long, President 2002-03; Douglas Oakervee, President 2003-04; Colin Clinton, President 2004-05; Gordon Masterton, President 2005-06; David Orr, President 2007-08; Peter Hansford, President 2010-11; Richard Coackley, President 2011-12; Barry Clarke, President 2012-13; Geoff French, President 2013-14; David Balmforth; President 2014-15; Sir John Armitt, President 2015-16

 Past presidents against the proposals

The first that the membership at large knew about the proposed changes to ICE governance was when they received their ballot notification on 1 June. Some may have read the piece by ICE President Lord Mair and/or a letter from Paul Jowitt in the June issue of New Civil Engineer.

Many responded to the New Civil Engineer letter expressing significant criticism of the ICE’s failure to engage the Membership in discussion and open debate about the future of the Institution’s governance.

Responses included the suggestion of calling for a Special General Meeting (SGM). After careful consideration, we sent out requests over the weekend of 2 June asking for support for an SGM.

We received the necessary 60 supporters by 5 June and many more have arrived.

The basis of the call for the SGM was to delay the count of the current ballot, and call for a period of consultation and debate within the ICE’s UK and international regions, special interest groups, expert panels or associated societies.

On Wednesday 6 June, we met with the ICE President.

Given that the closing date for the current ballot is 10 July, and that an SGM might best be held in early September, we asked that the ICE delay the count of the current Ballot until the outcome of the SGM was known. This would avoid prejudicing discussion at the SGM.

This request was refused.

So, at the time of writing, the ICE intends carrying on regardless.

The only way in which the concerns of those calling for the SGM can be heard by the membership at large and before ICE declares the result of the ballot, is for the SGM to be called as soon as possible so that the whole membership is notified and informed of the background and the arguments put to them directly.

This is not our preferred route or timetable, but we have been left with no other option.

  • Jean Venables, President 2008-09 and Paul Jowitt President 2009-10

Keeping the ICE in Touch with its members

I concur with professor Paul Jowitt’s view that the governance of ICE is becoming more remote from the membership (Your View, last month). I also find particularly abhorrent the frequent references in correspondence over the past couple of years to “our industry” in the context of the ICE.

It should not be forgotten that the ICE is primarily a learned society, not a trade association or lobby group.

Quite often, the result of our collective professional activity is not to build something physical but rather to establish whether a particular need is best met by other measures, not involving the construction industry.

Such confusion over the role of the ICE in society will lead to a situation where the policy makers become more sceptical of our advice and should be avoided.

Having said that, I will face up to the inevitable in the forthcoming ballot and vote in favour of the proposed Trustee Board, if only in the interests of the efficient management of the Institution’s affairs.

  • Mike Gardiner (M),

An institution fit for the future

I read with interest the views expressed by Lord Mair on the proposed changes to the ICE governance.

In my experience on Council as a vice president the existing structure was too cumbersome to be briefed appropriately; with extensive papers that it was not practical to have everyone read and be fully involved. Furthermore the large forum was not conducive for engaging debate.

Moving to a structure with a smaller trustee board and an advisory council strikes me as a sensible step which will allow the Institution to respond swiftly to  a rapidly changing world and keep in line with modern best practice.

If we want our great Institution to remain the leading destination for professional engineers in the future, then we need these changes that will make it  more efficient.

The leading organisations of the future will be those that can react and adapt most effectively.

The ballot is now open and the membership has the opportunity to vote on the proposed changes.

I would encourage people to  vote in favour.

  • Stephen Fox (F), chief executive, Bam  Nuttall

Communication breakdown

I knew nothing about these proposals until I read the two letters (New Civil Engineer June 2018) from former Presidents; hardly sufficient information to make an informed decision.

The changes that Council is seeking may be appropriate but, without more information and time to discuss the issue, I don’t know if the proposals are for the best.

One of the many things I learned from my time as a chief executive in local government is that governance changes are not something that you spring upon elected members, or the public, without some serious preparation. It is certainly not something that you do at the last minute hoping that “things will work out all right on the night”.  

This is bad management and, not something that I expect.

  • Ian Jenkinson, (F) Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire posted online on the digital magazine page for June 2018

Governors should be voted in by members

The proposed changes to the ICE Constitution bring into sharp relief the methodology for deciding on vice-presidents, and hence presidents.

While I agree that good practice is for a trustee body of twelve, I do not agree that the majority of that body, in a professional body membership organisation, should be appointed other than by popular vote of the membership. Proposed Article 36 suggests that the majority

of appointees to the trustee body will be vice-presidents and an ordinary member suggested by the trustee body to the council for approval by the council. This perpetuates a  process that is not open to scrutiny.

  • John Parkin (F), deputy director, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK

 A quiet revolution

Paul Jowitt’s letter and Robert Mair’s article (New Civil Engineer, last month) were the first intimation that a radical restructuring of the ICE’s governance is afoot. It seems strangely suspicious that an argued proposal of this magnitude has not been shared with the membership in time for an informed debate before a ballot takes place.

The proposal appears to release the Executive from the scrutiny and control of the members and to relegate Council to an advisory role, which is a travesty.

For many years the Institution has slowly but surely become less member-focused and more corporate in its attitudes, from the time when the secretary, serving the membership, became a director general.  

This proposal seems to be the ultimate step to rid the executive of effective control by the ICE membership.

  • Mike Thorn (F), 21 Osborne Parc, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8PA

Argument for governance change questioned

I have just read Professor Jowitt’s letter regarding the proposed changes in the governance of the ICE and find myself in total agreement.

I noticed that the President, in his article supporting the changes, stated that this would bring the Instruction’s governance structure more in line with modern governance. Really? Having witnessed modern governance recently I think this is something our proud Institution can do without.

  • Ian Parke (F)

Are we members or are we customers?

Professor Jowitt’s letter was very pertinent. The proposals to transfer governance are not in the best interests of its members and should be rejected.

As a member for many years I have seen a marked deterioration in the way we are served.

Our subscriptions provide the funding. This is a one-time opportunity to get governance that treats us as members and not as customers who are a source of income

  • James Thomson (M),



Readers' comments (2)

  • This weekend I have received the Notice of Meeting of the SGM of the 31 July 2018 in respect of the proposed amendments of the Royal Charter, By-Laws and Regulations to change the Institution's governance structure, forced by those Corporate Members rightly concerned by the manner which these changes are being pursued. I share their concerns.

    I was totally surprised by the announcement of the changes in the June edition of the NCE and the precipitate manner with which the changes required to effect the planned re-structuring of the Institution's governance were introduced into this year's ballot without adequate explanation or time for proper debate by the members. The letter signed by the gang of 11 published in the July edition of the NCE is a both a lamentable and unsubstantiated effort to persuade the membership that the Institution's and its members interests are being cared for. In pursuit of those that are driving this undemocratic change are clearly determined to pursue it by refusing to cancel the current ballot and by holding the SGM at an early date when it will be difficult for the vast majority of members to attend and in a manner that will make it impossible to express their opinions.

    I will attend the SGM (even though I have to travel from Cheshire) with the intention of supporting Paul Jowitt and Jean Venables' motions in order that a '...period of extensive and effective consultation debate within the ICE's membership at large,...' can be rightly followed. I urge as many members as are able to come and ensure the Institution's and its members interests are safeguarded.

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  • Michael Paul

    I do not wish to be pedantic, but I cannot regard an 8,9% ballot return as satisfactory. The 70,8% in favour in fact means that less than 7% of ICE members actually voted positively in regard of the important new changes to the Royal Charter. In my opinion this does not exactly demonstrate overwhelming support to the proposals. I hope that the SGM will also highlight the unacceptably low return on ICE ballots, as I see a definite need to analyse why this is the case. Not wishing to denigrate the important work of many active members, but could it be that for many members the ICE is just a means to an end in the qualification process, rather than an active learned society?

    Mike Paul,

    Stuttgart, Germany

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