Reflections on CRAG by Richard Johnson

A CC rep for one of the ringing societies I am a member of asked for members views on the CRAG proposals.  I replied as follows:

My view is that the CRAG proposals should be fully supported and approved at the CC meeting, irrespective of any reservations one might have.  Otherwise the CC will stumble on until some new organistion is set up from scratch to do what these proposals suggest.

Given the necessarily wide extent of the proposed changes, almost everyone is going to have some reservations about some aspect of the proposals, but that should not be allowed to result in them being kicked into the long grass. Perfect agreement is never going to happen.

Whatever imperfections or unanswered questions about the future there may be, changes of the general form proposed are essential if CC is to become up to date and relevant to the challenges of the 21st century, and the proposed forms of governance are what organisations with similar objectives now use.  They use them because they work, and because they are the way Charities are now required to operate.

I know from personal experience of making major constitutional changes to the governance of a (then 25 year old) charity that it is very easy for people who have a bee in a bonnet to pick at a particular part and want it modified, but they do not realise that by so doing they cause a conflict with some other carefully thought out part of the new constitution, and create chaos as a result.  In my case this happened the first time round, the meeting went on so long it had to be adjourned. A review showed that the meeting’s changes had made a  dog’s breakfast.  I had to bring it forward again ab initio a second time, with a paper showing why picking and choosing was not an option, and that some elements objected to (such as increased power of the trustees relative to the members at AGM) were demanded by the governance requirements of Charity Commissioners who needed to be sure exactly who was accountable in law.  Even then we had some further changes imposed by the Charity Commissioners, but everyone was reasonably happy by the end.

I could easily see that sort of picking away happening with this at the CC meeting.  If any changes are to be made at all that require Charity Commissioner agreement, and changes to the object clauses certainly ARE needed, then the changes proposed by CRAG on governance will be demanded by Charity Commissioners as the current Central Council governance is a 100+ year old model that is not compliant with current law and practice.

Richard Johnston

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