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Council update - December 2019

13 December 2019

The first session of this Council was held on Tuesday 10 December at which a number of issues for the long-term future of the Institution were discussed.

Council update - December 2019

Among those issues were the election of the President for the 2020-21 session, the final report of the presidential commission into Governance, and the steps the institution can take to implement the recommendations.

A detailed discussion on how the Institution can take forward the rich discussions of the Annual Strategy Meeting earlier in the year also took place. Items were also debated around how better to engage our graduate and student members and whether further steps should be taken to broaden the membership.

Presidential election for 2020-21 session

Council elected Rachel Skinner as the Institution’s President for the 2020-2021 session starting on 3 November 2020.

A chartered engineer and Head of UK Transport at WSP Rachel is Senior Vice President at ICE and has previously had responsibility for the Institution’s Public Voice activities. In 2017 she was named as one of The Daily Telegraph’s inaugural Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering and holds a post as Commissioner for the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland.

I am sure you will all join me in congratulating Rachel on her confirmation and support her throughout her presidential year in 2021.

Presidential Commission – final report

Past-president David Orr presented his final report and recommendations into the governance of ICE. This concludes the work of the commission, and details of which can be found on the Commission web pages. He set out the results of the very extensive consultation exercise the Commission has undertaken.

David took the time to thank the members of the commission for their hard work through the year. He explained the first-principles approach that had been taken to develop the report. He highlighted the requirement for trustees to be individually and collectively responsible for making decisions; and that trusteeship required individuals to act in the interests of the whole Institution, not particular constituencies of it. hence the Commission had concluded that it was right that the ICE should have a compact trustee board with a mainly advisory council.

The Commission’s overall conclusion was that the changes enacted in 2018 were the correct direction of travel but that further refinements were required to best meet the challenges of an Institution operating in the 21st century.

As such, The Commission’s final report presented 19 recommendations, which Council debated in detail.

Accepting the Commission’s recommendations

Council recognised that the Governance commission had engaged very widely in the formulation of the report. It also recognised that the report had been expertly crafted to reflect the views of the majority of those who had been involved in the various stages of the consultation.

Your Council assessed in detail the findings of the commission and accepted the Commission’s findings in full. Further updates will be provided as the Institution enters the implementation phase of this process.

Those changes within the gift of Council and Trustee Board will be implemented as soon as possible. Some recommendations require a change to By-Laws and these will be put to the membership through a ballot in June 2020 with a view to implementing the changes, if agreed by the membership, in November 2020.

A small team lead by David Porter who is a former member of Council has been asked to design the procedures for the operation of the Nominations Committee and will report to the Trustee Board in March, and Council in April.

Taking forward the Annual Strategy Meeting (ASM)

The Commission into Governance recommended that the Council operate as the pinnacle of the Learned Society.

Since the ASM a clear set of themes has emerged and Council will now take the time to ask the relevant committees, expert panels and communities of practice to develop reports and solutions to be returned to the Council for debate, discussion and action.

The structure and procedures of Council meetings will now be adapted to support this system. A new structure of longer and more open meetings will allow the Institution to more fully engage with the membership around the world. These new procedures will allow for more detailed technical and constrictive debates.

The topics that have now been added to the long-term agenda for Council will include addressing the future of civil engineering, assurance of society, the Net-Zero carbon target, the United Nations Sustainability Goals, and becoming more attractive to a wider audience.

Engaging Graduates and Students

During the July council meeting the issues of voting rights for graduates and students were raised. This discussion was continued during the December meeting.

Since that time the Trustees have discussed the core issue of voting rights for graduates and for students. This raised the further question of how we, as a Council, engage graduates and students in the activities of the Institution. Council also heard a report from the Chair of the Graduate and Student Network (GSNet) to understand their position. Council expects to have a fuller report from the Trustee responsible for membership in the April Council session, but would like to understand the views of the membership. Council members will promulgate their proposals in the New Year and agreed that they wished to lead a wide consultation with members.

Broadening Membership

The issue of the Institution’s relevance and appeal to the wider infrastructure profession was further discussed. The Council has asked for two concrete and detailed proposals to investigate how our current procedures could enable a wider membership, and how we might generate a new route to MICE for suitably qualified infrastructure professionals.

  • Simon Creer, communications director at Royal Town Planning Institute