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'The proposed changes to ICE's governance ballot are right!'

03 June 2020

Past President Paul Jowitt says he’s supporting the proposed changes to ICE’s governance after David Orr’s extensive consultation exercise with members.

'The proposed changes to ICE's governance ballot are right!'
Paul Jowitt says the proposed governance changes are right

Members are about to be sent a ballot on ICE’s Governance. It comes just two years after the last one.

To paraphrase Brenda from Bristol in her vox pop when she heard news of the 2017 General Election:

You're joking - not another one!

Well, yes. But this time, they’ve got the process right! And I’ll be supporting the changes.

In 2018, the ICE balloted its Membership on changes to ICE’s Governance; changes that proposed a Board of Trustees appointed by a shadowy Nominations Committee and not openly elected by and from the Membership. There had been no discussion or consultation with the Membership at large.

What discussion there had been at ICE Council had been behind closed doors. Without necessarily realising it, Council agreed to a system in which the Nomination Committee would be nominated by the Trustee Board and the Trustee Board would be nominated by the Nomination Committee. It was all dressed up as necessary for modern governance but was far from it.

This prompted some ICE Members, myself included, to call for an SGM to challenge the ballot proposals. We also set up the open access Civils Matters website to enable free discussion and to call for a return of direct democratic accountability of ICE’s governance to its members.

The numbers required to call an SGM were easily met from across the ICE’s UK and International Membership. But the timings were such that the 2018 ballot had to go ahead as scheduled. The results were announced at the AGM on 17 July 2018. The ballot turnout was disappointingly low – 9% - and the support for the proposed changes exceeded the threshold by only a few votes.

The SGM was held on the 31 July 2018, calling for the ICE Council to undertake extensive consultation on ICE’s Governance with the membership at large, formulate new governance proposals and then hold a fresh ballot of the membership.

The motions were passed convincingly. As a result, the ICE Council established a Presidential Commission, chaired by Past President David Orr, to undertake a Governance Review. They have done a very good job.

This time Members were openly invited to submit their views to the Commission. Evidence sessions were held at the ICE and some key ICE Committees were consulted through teleconferences. Independently, the CivilsMatters website invited any ICE Members to post their views for all to see.

And this time, the whole process was open. Not shrouded in secrecy. A breath of fresh air.

The ICE is a membership organisation. It belongs to the members, not to the hierarchy, not to the bureaucracy and administration. Of course, that brings responsibility. Responsibility for the ICE to communicate – and listen - much better with its members. And a responsibility for the members to be involved and engaged.

Professional Qualification by the ICE is not just a driving licence, it’s not just stumping up your annual subscription, but it’s about being on the lookout. Not just in Plain Sight, but looking for things that are sometimes Out of Sight.

As an ICE Member, you have a responsibility and a role. Use it or lose it! And use it wisely.

I’ll be supporting a return to ICE Governance through accountability to the Members. I hope you will too. But one way or the other, VOTE!

  • Paul Jowitt, Professor of Civil Engineering Systems at Heriot Watt University Edinburgh