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 Post subject: AGM Report for 2009
PostPosted: Sun 08 Nov 2009 12:46 
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These are my notes of BCRA's 2009 AGM. These are not the 'minutes' since those are the responsibility of the acting secretary, Trevor Faulkner, and BCRA Council. These notes may go into more detail than the offical minutes although they are, of course, a personal recollection, and not a peer-reviewed account of the proceedings. If anyone has any comments, please post a response!

The chairman, Dave Checkley addressed the meeting with a review of the year's activities. Unlike the 'Council Report and Accounts for 2008', written by the treasurer and available at http://bcra.org.uk/agm/2009/index.html#papers, the chairman's report covered activities in the current year. In particular it was noted that BCRA had held a cave science symposium at Sheffield, hosted by Andrew Chamberlain, and a cave technology symposium in South Wales, as well as field trips to Creswell Crags and Norber erratics. The research fund has now awarded about £15,000 to support various research projects, the first prize for 'young researcher of the year' (Gina Moseley) has been awarded.

The chairman caused some consternation by suggesting that, as part of an initiative to place BCRA's finances on a sounder footing, the special interest groups "should really be a part of BCA" (see *). Nobody present at the meeting spoke for this suggestion, and many – including three Council members – spoke against it. The point was made that if BCRA is struggling to attract members, then narrowing its focus to purely cave science, and 'professional' cave science at that, was surely a mistake. The SIGs have contributed greatly to BCRA's standing. Nick Williams of the EUG said that he specifically wished it to be minuted that the EUG wished to continue to operate within BCRA.

* Although not raised at the time, the point was made in subsequent discussions that many of the activities that the Chairman was questioning [i.e. not only the SIGs] did not actually result in any significant expense for BCRA anyway. The chairman was just "thinking out aloud" and BCRA Council has no plans to try to "sell off" parts of the Association.

The chairman also announced that it was Council's wish to move the AGM from Hidden Earth to the Science Symposium. This gave rise to a lengthy discussion, where it became apparent that four out of the six Council members present seemed to have doubts about this suggestion! The original discussion took place at the 2007 AGM when the view was expressed, from the floor, that it was a problem obtaining sufficient attendance at Hidden Earth and that it would be better to hold the AGM at a Cave Science meeting. It was felt that there was a part of the cave science community that did not attend Hidden Earth and that we might achieve better attendance if the AGM were held at a Cave Science meeting. (As a personal note: the proponents of this change will tell you that "it is the wish of our members" but this is rather disingenuous! The members have never actually been informed or asked).

The discussion against this move was lead by David Gibson who pointed out that the AGM was not about 'science' it was about 'administration' and it is the occasion when the trustees are held to public account, which includes the presentation of the accounts. This would be better held at the most public caving forum possible, especially if BCRA wished to attract more members and to continue to follow a broad remit. It was true that attendance at the AGM was low, but there was potentially the scope for a high attendance. (Subsequent to the meeting, it was suggested that BCRA should present a lecture on the Sunday afternoon at Hidden Earth, followed by the AGM).

Four of the six Council members present voiced some agreement with this view, and it was suggested that an option would be to hold some sort of 'open forum' at the Cave Science Symposium, in which ideas could be discussed for later inclusion as formal agenda items for the AGM. Several further objections to moving the AGM date were raised. The major difficulty was that the accounts would not be ready in March. The chairman proposed to remove this obstacle by holding an SGM to change the constitution so that it was not necessary to present the accounts at an AGM. This view was not upheld by the meeting, and several people actively voiced an objection. Specifically, Nick Williams pointed out that the Charity Commission was not likely to endorse a constitution that did not require the accounts to be presented at the AGM. Several people thought that a Science Symposium was less likely to be quorate than a Hidden Earth occasion because many of the students present would not be BCRA members anyway. A further objection was raised that to hold an AGM at the Science Symposium would reduce the amount of time for 'science' lectures.

The acting secretary's draft minutes state that "No satisfactory solution was identified, but it was suggested that Council should arrange an SGM to be held at the next Symposium". My recollection is that such a suggestion was not actually the majority view of the meeting. The opposing suggestion – that an 'open forum' be timetabled for 90 minutes – seemed to me to be at least equally well supported.

Subsequent to the AGM, BCRA Council has confirmed that an SGM will not be sought and that, for 2010 at least, the AGM will be held at Hidden Earth. The question of the AGM location was one that it was thought should be put to the membership via a planned online questionnaire.

A further item of discussion concerned the financial report. The treasurer drew attention to the fact that BCRA's income from membership and subscription fees is not adequate to fund its expenses, which are mainly the production of C&KS and the funding of the library. The library spending has probably now passed its peak, and BCRA is grateful for some funding support offered by the British Caving Association for 2010. However there is a still a shortfall of a few thousand pounds. David Gibson (publications administrator) pointed out that much of the C&KS shortfall could be eliminated by a rigorous adherence to the new 'print on demand' policy, but that the biggest problem was the fee paid to the editorial assistant (see *). This lead to a discussion on the editorial direction of Cave & Karst Science and whether there was any purpose to BCRA continuing to produce such a journal when there were other international publications covering similar ground. It was proposed by Nick Williams and seconded by David Judson that "Council will report to the next AGM its views about the future of Cave and Karst Science". The motion was carried unanimously.

* Subsequent to the meeting, David Gibson confirmed that the publications costs were such that 'day to day' operations could return a small surplus that was 'barely' enough to cover running expenses. However, this did not allow for the funding of 'projects' such as the library, for which Council’s business plan requires a few thousand pounds from 'reserves'. If the editorial assistant's fee were curtailed then the position would be significantly healthier.


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