Rather a strange question to be asking, even on my second meeting, but it’s something I pondered on at the March meeting, when we were faced with a suggestion from NEC member Nick Serpell that the Council consider reducing the time of meetings to one day (except in exceptional circumstances). Nick could not be at the meeting owing to a back problem, for which he has my sympathy, but I did not have much sympathy for his proposal. In his written report Nick pointed out that the union could make considerable savings on expenses if it reduced itself to a one day meeting (instead of two which we do at the moment).
Such savings, he argued, could be made by the subsequent reduction in travel costs, subsistence, overnight accommodation and loss of earnings allowance for those who claimed it. He also suggested that the agendas could be re-arranged to prioritise issues requiring decisions over those reported for information.
Whilst I supported the idea of looking at re-arranging agendas, I was not, as already stated, in favour of the reduction to one day. When I was last on the NEC (between 2002-04) we were elected annually, met more frequently and held an annual delegate conference. Apart from our leadership role between conferences and trying to respond to fast moving events, the NEC has an important scrutiny role.
In fact, at this meeting we spent a lot of time discussing with our officials their industrial reports. We need to know what is going on in the union, the problems our members are facing and what we are doing about it. I felt that we were in danger of marginalising ourselves and our role if we agreed to Nick’s proposal.
The discussion was wide ranging and I thought Anita Halpin (Press and PR) made an important point when she said that we should be encouraging branches to send more resolutions to the NEC especially now as our policy making conferences were now held up to 18 months apart, instead of annually. Anyway in the end the majority of the Council agreed and we decided not to move to one day meetings.
So don’t forget, we need to hear your views – we had at least two branch motions at the March meeting and if we are to continue to fulfil our democratic remit and build stronger links with branches, you need to get them rolling in – that’s also what we are here for!