Saturday, 19 July 2014

CILIP Governance Review

I have decided to blog about the recent events surrounding the proposed changes in CILIP Governance … even though I’d much rather be talking about school libraries, books or reading initiatives and I’d much rather be spending my time reading or knitting. But there have been a lot of online comments about this recently, following the resignation of a council member, many of which are half-truths and misconceptions and, as an information professional, I’m appalled at how some people (who are information professionals themselves) are assuming these are correct and retweeting without checking or verify the facts. I tell my students from the age of 11 years to always verify anything you read online and this is certainly true of anything written in blogs or on Twitter (so please don’t assume that what I’m saying is the truth … verify it with other people!).
I’m also aware that people will assume that I’m “following the party line” as I’m currently CILIP President but those that know me will know that I try to explain how I see situations from my own perspective. If I was writing this as President then I could understand that reaction but I’m not. This is MY blog and, whilst I’m tactful and try not to be rude or offensive to anyone, I try to write honestly … and I’m also very good at seeing the other side (this trait is not always an advantage I may add)!
So … I am going to try and address some of the issues that have come up recently …
Last year, when I became VP, it was only meant to be for a year as the Governance review was due to be voted on in 2013 and introduced in 2014. However, after the renaming episode, CILIP decided to postpone it for a year to ensure that members were informed, consulted and able to respond. Thus began an extensive round of meetings, emails, articles in Update, etc. I don’t have the exact figures to hand but I know that CILIP SMT, together with trustees, have engaged with as many Member Network groups and SIGs as possible, going to meetings to give presentations on the Governance Review and gathering feedback. I attended 4 myself in an official capacity and spoke unofficially at several others. As well as asking for questions, I also said I would be happy to answer any emails and pushed for members to send comments (positive or negative) to CILIP. And CILIP have taken on board these comments, producing an online FAQ, although some of them were unable to be answered immediately as the legal situation needed to be checked. And I know that CILIP have engaged with branches over this, being proactive and pushing for a response rather than just sending information out. There have also been regular emails sent out to members and articles in Update so for anyone to say now, at this late stage, that they have not been consulted is ludicrous. If they really think like that then I would suggest that they are not engaged with or connected to any of their branches or SIGs, are not registered for email newsletters and do not read Update regularly. And if this is the case then why are they so upset about any changes in CILIP as they are obviously not that bothered about the organisation?
When I became VP, I wasn’t really involved in CILIP other than being on the SLG London & SE committee and attending occasional branch meetings. It was a steep learning curve! And I can remember, at my first meeting, discussions about the Governance Review … so this has been under consideration for a long time. I am not an expert on governance although I have sat on various committees, been involved in several charities and am currently a school governor. And, although I have had training on governance and included this aspect in my CPD this year, I do not consider myself an expert which means I am completely happy to accept the recommendations of the Governance Review Board. These people have far more experience than I do and I could not imagine why they would suggest a structure that would be damaging or detrimental to CILIP. The Chair of the review board was Phil Bradley and I will not accept that he would suggest anything untoward or undemocratic. Further, these proposals have been scrutinised by the Privy Council and Charities Commission and they find them acceptable. And who am I to argue with them?
Much has been said about these discussions happening in secret. As I see it, there are various reasons for this. One is that they were just proposals and ideas, and needed to be firmed up after consultation regarding their legality. If these were made public then we would end up with the situation we have now with everyone putting in their ideas as to what we should have … and I have to say that I’ve read about so many variations on this that I am totally confused! It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone wanted the same thing but they don’t! I also think it’s important for council to be able to discuss things in a private conversation, especially if it’s at the development stage. Sadly there are people who are quite happy to take statements out of context giving the words a completely different meaning. And the problem with this is that a tweet of just a few words is often taken as being the definitive statement on something … a lot of damage can be done this way and it is hard to redress the balance. And what about somebody who may originally be against an idea and says so but, after discussion and research, changes their mind? There’s bound to be somebody who picks this up and attacks them with being indecisive! Besides, I don’t want to have to spend my time defending myself against a malicious tweet or blog comment. Because, let’s face it, if people think it will help their cause then they’ll happily twist words and statistics. Politicians do it all the time!
The Governance Review was discussed at the July council meeting, not for the first time but in detail, because this was when we were taking into account the member feedback received (and if anyone didn’t feedback their objections or concerns then it’s a bit late to do it now … everyone has had several opportunities to do so). And the majority of this was positive. Yes, there were a few who didn’t like certain aspects of what was proposed but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Again I don’t have the statistics to hand but they will show that of all the responses, very few were negative. Council listen to these responses and have changed the proposals so that the Chair/President will now only be elected from those council members who have been elected and not appointed.
So … let’s have a think about the office of the President. There has been much made of the fact that if the changes go through then the President would not be elected by the members. Well, I’m sorry to inform you but I wasn’t elected by members and neither was our Vice President, Jan Parry. The reason being … that no-one else stood for the position! And I’m not sure what members think the President does? Judging by various comments I think a lot of people are confused over this role, that of the trustees and the fact that CILIP also have a paid staff who carry out the strategic decisions of council. But it’s an ambassadorial role, the President doesn’t have any voting rights and yes, I do speak up at meetings but I don’t have any power or influence. At least under the proposals you’d end up with a President who had actually been elected! And, as political analogies have been used by various people, I’m going to use one now … people do not vote for the Prime Minister, he is selected by other MPs who have been elected by the public. If it’s good enough for parliament then it should be good enough for us!
Another issue that has arisen is membership figures. The statistics being quoted have obviously been taken at a time when the figures were at their highest (lies, damn lies and statistics people!!!) … if I went far enough back I’m sure I could find a year when the figures were lower than they are now! And these are taken completely out of context. How many libraries have closed since then (280 school libraries closed last year) or professionals replace with para-professionals or jobs downgraded so that you no longer need to be Chartered? And I’m not getting into the discussion about libraries closing as it’s not what this blog is about but I’m also tempted to ask how many of those are members who have died because we seem to be in danger of becoming a top-age heavy organisation with fewer younger professionals joining us … and no wonder when all they hear is this in-fighting and bickering! That said the CILIP staff responsible for membership are doing a fantastic job with a range of strategies and initiatives, and to suggest that CILIP aren’t doing anything about this is not only rather insulting to all their hard work but shows a lack of knowledge. Maybe instead of focusing on numbers we need to think about quality over quantity?
There are a lot of other things that I’d like to comment on but I’m aware that this blog is becoming rather long.
Things like the fact that, once a decision has been made by a council or committee, then it’s not usual practise to reopen the discussion when new members join. If you did this then you’d never move on from anything. I’ve been in this situation and it is so frustrating to rehash everything!
Things like the fact that every committee runs along the lines of a majority decision. How else could you do it? If you insisted on a complete majority then you could find yourself in a situation when nothing moved forward. I’ve been on committees where I don’t agree with everyone else but accepted the final decision – this is part of what being on a committee is about. And if it’s something you feel strongly about then you build up relationships with other committee members (which takes time) so that you can discuss issues from a stronger position – advocacy doesn’t happen overnight!
Things like the fact that much has been made of the four appointed council members and yet the current constitution already allows for three appointed members so it’s not really such a big change (and check on the CILIP website if you don’t believe me). Anyway, every committee has appointed members … can you imagine what it would be like if a school governing body consisted of just parents and teachers? And yes, I know we could buy in the expertise but the costs could become prohibitive … much better for the finances (ie: member’s money) if people could be co-opted. This would also mean a much better engagement from them than if someone was paid to deliver a service.
The final thing I would like to say (and well done if you have read this far!) is that why on earth do people think that council would appoint people who would damage CILIP. We are all volunteers, giving up our time (and yes we do get our expenses paid but is that so bad? My salary as a school librarian is not exactly huge and I would not be able to do my Presidential activities if I had to pay for my own travel) and any appointments would be scrutinised by the Audit panel anyway.
Throughout society people elect committees to make decisions on their behalf. There are times when you have to let go and trust those people to make the right decision for the whole. It may not be what you personally want but most people aren’t in a position to see the complete picture. There are also times when you have to let go of the past …


  1. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. But remember that if you put it out there, in a public arena, the public are entitled to respond.

    And my response is that I find the paragraph about libraries offensive. You state "I’m not getting into the discussion about libraries closing..." despite mentioning them in the previous sentence, and mentioning everything but libraries closing in this long and defensive post.

    My partner recently decided to give up paying £200 a year(!) to CILIP as she is struggling to pay the utility bills and rent on her small library salary. In fact, as I help pay her bills, I have been indirectly subsidizing CILIP through her subscription - though thankfully, no more.

    From a few hours deep-read of the website on what exactly CILIP did with our, and other peoples, £200 the priorities of CILIP seem to be, in order:

    1. Keeping the pension fund for long-retired Library Association members topped up.
    2. Paying the CEO of CILIP a large salary, several times that of my partner.
    3. Website costs (incidentally, why did/does the CILIP website cost so much?)
    4. Keeping the lights on in the London building CILIP owns.

    Well I'm sorry but keeping the lights on in my partners small flat is a lot more important to us. Maybe if CILIP fought and gave reassurance that my partners library would not be vulnerable we would have more time for CILIP. But the last time (and it will be the final and last time) my partner spoke to a CILIP person about this, she was patronisingly brushed off with:

    "You do realise that public librarians are only a small part of CILIPs membership, don't you."

    Doesn't stop CILIP from financially bleeding them dry though, does it? Maybe write a 5,000+ word blog post justifying that?

    1. Robbie, the fact is that your partner's interests, and those of the thousands of others like her who find themselves in a similar position, are best served by having a national professional body that can have a positive strategic impact on Government policy.

      You say you've had a deep-read of the CILIP website, but you haven't mentioned the work it has done with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries, or the work on Information Literacy, or the policy responses it has submitted, or the frankly bloody good work that Annie Maguer does 7 days a week on securing influence and credibility with policymakers.

      I know all this seems a long way away from paying your partner's utility bills, or the fight for public libraries, but it is actually the only effective way to defend the long-term and precious principle of the right of access to library services.

      While I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the library campaigners, I have been involved in public policy for long enough to know that shouting at Local Authorities really doesn't get you far. CILIP needs to influence Downing Street and Treasury.

      The tragedy of the current situation is that I know from direct personal experience that the in-fighting, the sniping and the amateur legalese that we're seeing from some corners of the library profession is sending a clear message to the politicians that we can't get our act together or stand in solidarity.

      CILIP needs you, and your partner, like we need everyone in the library and information professions. We need a credible brand and a professional presentation. We need to be financially stable (and I could speak at some length about the 13 months of my life I spent fighting for the rights of the CILIP pension scheme beneficiaries and how unfair and inaccurate your comment is there). Most of all, we need people to understand that whether the battle is personal or professional, we get absolutely nowhere by fighting amongst ourselves.

  2. I can't seem to put my response into one post as it's too large (despite cutting it down) so I'm leaving it in two parts!
    I welcome responses - it's much better to raise queries and objectives than to be passive. I wasn't being dismissive of the library situation, if you look at my previous blogs and comments I've made on social media, you will know I am extremely committed to libraries but this blog was in response to comments made about the CILIP Governance Review which I stated at the beginning. I'm a school librarian on a term-time contract which means my not exactly huge salary is pro-rata. I cannot remember the last time I had a pay increase & there's certainly no scope for advancement up the pay scale. A comparison with other professional bodies will show that CILIP's fees are not excessive (don't forget you are entitled to tax relief so you will pay less than £200) but I understand that if you are on a low salary with no pay increase & bills going up then savings have to be made. I mentioned libraries closing in relation to the reduced membership to indicate that some of the reduction was due to reasons other than members leaving the organisation. There's a natural rate of attrition that needs to be taken into account. I know of several librarians who are retiring and will not continue with their membership; their positions are being taken by paraprofessionals & administrative staff, with the schools not insisting on any sort of library qualification as this enables them to offer a lower salary. I recently gave a talk to the CILIP Ireland Member's day on what I had gained from belonging to CILIP and what I get from my membership. This was a 45 minute talk so yes, it would probably amount to a 5000 word blog! Maybe I'll do that next!

  3. When I became VP there was an on-going discussion around pensions. These issues have now been successfully resolved but it is important to note that neither the existing council nor CILIP SMT were responsible for the situation. The person at the top of any organisation tends to be paid a large salary in acknowledgment of the responsibility of the position, their experience and the fact that they rarely work a standard 9-5 (or whatever your shifts are) week. I regularly receive email from CILIP early in the morning and late at night, not to mention throughout the weekend. I haven't compared the cost of the website with that of other companies but I suspect it's similar. Many people have this idea that creating a website doesn't cost anything; I guess to a certain extent that is true, people create their own websites all the time. But this is a professional organisation, it needs a website that is robust, secure & delivers the needs of members not only now but in the future. It also needs to be maintained. This is done by paid staff, not by volunteers. Last year a new website was created so that may explain why the current costs are high. As for the building, I'm not sure if you're aware of this but CILIP only occupy one floor. The remaining space is loaned out and brings in a regular income to the charity with the CILIP staff sharing a large open space on the second floor. You've mentioned that your partner was brushed off at CILIP when enquiring about public libraries and yet you don't state when or who she spoke to. If she felt the response she received was inappropriate then she is entitled to take this up with Chair of council (who is the link between members and the trustees) or she can contact me.

    The situation regarding libraries (both public and school) makes me despair. Despite all the evidence showing their benefits, their contribution to society & how much they are used and needed, the people who make financial decisions close them as a short term way of saving money. I don't have the answer to how to stop this. If I did I would be telling everyone and libraries wouldn't be under threat. But I do know that it's important not to give up, to use every avenue available to get that message out there and one of those avenues is to support CILIP in this because they are fighting for libraries, despite what people think. Only last week the CILIP CEO and I were at a meeting with David Laws when the APPG Libraries report on school libraries was published and that same day the CEO was giving evidence at the current Seighart review.

  4. The problem with this blog entry is not just the content. It's the tone of the content. From the first sentence, it reads as passive-aggressive, a head-teacher telling off off the naughty school children for daring to step out of line, reaching its peak with a patronising 'as an information professional' - and yet failing to provide any evidence for some of the claims made within the post itself.

    You assure us that this is not you towing the partly line. It is your personal opinion, as an individual cilip member. In that case, it should not have been tweeted from the official Cilip President Twitter account.

    Rather than attacking members who have not heard about the consultation on the government review, listen to the feedback and consider what that says about Cilip and its communication and publications policy. How many members actually READ Cilip Update now? Since the departure of Elspeth, and the loss of reporters following change at Cilip at few years back, the editorial quality has dropped. 'News articles' appear to be slightly rehashed press-releases with little original comment or analysis - which is all Cilip could really offer to add any value, as most news is out of date by the time it gets published in Update. Cilip also seems to pick and choose what to include in its online content, both in weekly news email and on Twitter. It hardly leaves members 'well-informed' >> continues

  5. Yes, Cilip went to Member Network Committee Groups. I sat through a presentation myself. A presentation which contained blatant errors and typo's, where even Cilip itself seemed unsure of the new language it was using. 'Online bloggers' were criticised for spreading misinformation, rather then welcoming the debate and feedback. My own Member Network did not seek the views of the members it represents before offering feedback. So how can we expect non-committee members to engage?

    As for the drop in member figures. This post is arrogant enough to suggest a multitude of reasons for the decline in Cilip membership, including the loss of libraries, the loss of professional posts, the decline in the number of posts requiring Chartership and even the death of members (!) without considering the Cilip might have a role in influencing some of this, or that members expect Cilip to influence these things. Can we have some evidence for some of the ludicrous statements made in this paragraph please? Cilip agreed that students could have free membership, so I would hope we were attracting some more younger members, not losing more the other end as older members drop off a cliff. There is no acknowledgement that there might be another reason for the decline in membership - Simply that Cilip is failing to represent members. Cilip is failing to represent library and information workers.

    To back up what robbinemcintyre say's. I've often heard Cilip stating ' public librarians are only a small part of CILIPs membership'. As if this makes them less important. But seems we're asking the wrong question. Rather than 'how many Cilip members are public library workers ask 'how many public library workers are Cilip members'? And then ask yourself why that might be. I suspect the answer is very low, and that Cilip membership is for those at the top of the chain, rather than the bottom of it.

    The problem is that whilst the loss of public librarians are the very visible result of current policy towards libraries, the not-so-public face are suffering as well. School libraries lost, or handed to administrative staff, academic libraries facing their own set of challenges. Government libraries and information centres are being closed, law libraries out-sourced, and knowledge and information management much more ably represented by other bodies. As qualifications are dismissed by employers as irrelevant, Chartership left unvalued outside of academia, the question still is what relevance does Cilip have for its members? I'm staying out of loyalty at the moment. Because I believe we need a professional organisation willing to stand up for the value of the knowledge and information profession. But with my own job under threat, a lack of any sort of pay rise for the past 6 years, further pay freezes and a career path that has been wiped out in my organisation, loyalty is fast running out of time and money and Cilip will be the first of many non-essential bills that will face the chop.

    For a blog post that seemed aimed to reassure members it only seems to have added fuel to the fire. Cilip needs to start taking some responsibility rather than blaming members for its failings.

    1. Dear @LibraryWorker - I have read, and re-read Barbara's post and I cannot see how you have got to 'passive-aggressive' on a balanced analysis of what she has actually written.

      I get it - you're angry, furious, wronged. The very principle of free access to library services has been thoroughly shafted in today's policy environment, and I am sorry that this has made your job less stable and less rewarding.

      CILIP does take responsibility - its staff and Council feel it keenly, talk about little else (when we get a chance and aren't firefighting misleading posturing from some of our professional colleagues) and are focused on nothing more than fighting to improve the situation.

      But you wouldn't know about that because you don't read Update, and don't feel it is relevant to your situation. You call on Barbara to offer evidence of her assertions but provide none to support your own. The Workforce Mapping exercise that has just been approved will provide the first comprehensive overview of what is actually happening on the ground, so that CILIP can be better-positioned to fight it. None of us benefits from unevidenced assertions - particularly in the battle for hearts-and-minds support from politicians.

      I was personally responsible for recommending the Membership Fees policy for two successive years, and am intimately familiar with the data. Of the members that responded to our 'exit survey' over those two years, few cited dissatisfaction with CILIP while many cited affordability or unemployment. That's why there was a freeze on membership fees, to help those people out, and why CILIP is preparing information on members' options if they find themselves unemployed.

      Yes, some were angry and told us so. Yes, a number of valued members did die during that period, and yes, the age profile of membership is a concern for any organisation that depends on member subscriptions to survive. It's not arrogance, just facts.

      Throughout my time on CILIP Council I have been hugely grateful to people like you. Grateful for your loyalty and grateful for letting us know what you think so that we can make things better. CILIP Council are not some mysterious presence, hell-bent on marginalising the membership. We meet at Ridgmount Street, consider the evidence from the staff and members, and make balanced decisions about how best to proceed.

      I hope you do retain your membership. We need passionate and articulate people to help CILIP get the job done. But don't do it out of loyalty to what CILIP used to be. Do it because a strong, united CILIP is the only way we stand an earthly chance of mounting an effective defence of libraries and librarianship in the future.

  6. I'm sorry if the "tone" of my blog has upset you, that was not my intention and is the problem with any online communication, it's easy to misinterpret and make inferences when there are none. If you're planning to come to the AGM/Big Day in September then please come and say hi so we can, at least, meet in person ... I'll be the one with short red hair looking nervous about giving my Presidential address. Eight minutes at the Carnegie Kate Greenaway Awards was bad enough ... this is meant to be around 20 minutes!

    The problem with posting online is that it's hard to cover everything (and if you want to make sure things you say aren't taken completely wrong then I've found that you need to use more words rather than less) but still be fairly succinct. I'm not attacking members! I am one myself and I have a huge network of very supportive members and the last thing I would do would be to attack them because I know how hard they work, often in very difficult circumstances. But I fail to understand how anyone engaged with CILIP has missed all the communications about the Governance Review. And if they're not that engaged with CILIP (which is entirely their decision and right to do so - some people only belong because their job requires them to be Chartered and they don't want to get involved in any professional organisation stuff) then I also don't understand why they are so upset and angry about these proposals. I can't get my head around the logic of this argument.

    I tweeted the link to my blog using the Presidential account because I wanted it to reach as wide an audience as possible. I was concerned that there are many half truths being passed around and believed by people and I wanted to put the other side ... and there's always two sides to everything, of course! People who follow #CILIP may not necessarily follow me (there's no reason why they should) and it's worked because we are now having this dialogue. It may not instantly resolve your situation or make you feel less angry about things or even lead to any sort of satisfactory solution but we are communicating (after a fashion) which is the first step needed in any resolution.

    I do think quite a few members actually read Update (and I confess to not really having read it much myself in the past but I find it quite relevant these days, possibly because a lot of the content comes from the members so I can identify with them). I've certainly had many of them contact me, either commenting on what I've written or asking for information about something I've mentioned - only last week I emailed resources off to another school librarian who had read about an activity I'd done in school.

    I'm also sorry that you feel your Member Network hasn't engaged with you but I'm not sure this is the fault of CILIP trustees or its staff. Member Networks are run by volunteers and, despite CILIP guidelines, what is offered and the support you receive varies. If you felt their feedback did not represent your views, then you are entitled to contact CILIP personally as a member to pass these on and every email or article about the Governance has encouraged people to do this ... cont ....

  7. There really is a multitude of reasons for the decline in membership, it cannot be simple that people have become disengaged and left although I accept that some of the reduced numbers are due to this factor. I have a close friend who did not renew this January as she's due to retire this month, if she wasn't retiring then she would still be a member. The problem I have is with the statement about CILIP membership being at its lowest ... the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures? I'm sure that I could delve back into the files and find a year when membership numbers were lower than at present ... and I could then announce that CILIP membership is now at it's highest. And that statement would be no less true than the one about membership being at its lowest!

    CILIP recognises that it needs to retain its members and the team are working on this. At the last council meeting, several strategies were presented to address this and ALL those council members there expressed their approval at what was being done, and thanked the team for their hard work. The current figures show that the rate of attrition has slowed and in fact the membership numbers for this month are actually higher than last month. But all this takes time and won't happen overnight.

    So ... why am I responding to your comments on a Sunday evening instead of just ignoring them? Partly because I think that any comment deserves a response but mainly because, like you I am a loyal CILIP member and am lucky to be in a position this year that, perhaps, gives me more of a voice to express this. I believe in the organisation. Since becoming Vice and then President I have been able to experience first hand how hard the team work for its members. I also recognise that we need a professional body to represent us but CILIP can only do this with our support.

  8. You may be interested in Brian Kelly's post on the matter of membership figures here: Barbara, you say, 'The problem I have is with the statement about CILIP membership being at its lowest ... the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?' Am I the person? I think I might be. So let me explain. It seems we have lost the membership figures prior to 2010, and those were the most recent ones I could find. From memory, I think on vesting day we had around 23,000 to 24,000. I have tried and failed to find this information on our website. Perhaps, as President, you might be in a position to make sure the information about us on our website is comprehensive and accurate? It would be much appreciated.

  9. Brian's article is interesting although both of you have taken my comment slightly the wrong way ... I was asking why 2010 was chosen as the benchmark (and I assume it's because 2010 is the earliest date on the graph in Brian's article). My comment "why not 2004 or 2007 or the year that CILIP was last the LA" was a rhetorical question. Not sure who made the original statement, it may have been you, Tom, but I have read so many comments and blogs and emails about this, that without going back and searching for it, I cannot remember ... and I was responding to the comment rather than the person anyway.

    To take the actual figures of when the LA became CILIP would be totally misleading as, at that time, the membership of both organisations were combined creating a large organisation. Members of both were not happy about this and so resigned. You would also need to have a breakdown of the categories of membership to, perhaps, be able to have a more focused and useful discussion about the decline in numbers and the reasons why.

    I suspect (and I don't know for sure) that the reason older information is not online is because it is not available. As this information was produced and either kept or destroyed prior to the existing council and senior management team, then you cannot blame CILIP (ie: the current trustees and SMT) for it not being available .... the blame for the supposed lack of records should surely lie with those who were CILIP trustees at that time and did not ensure that membership information was kept.

    At the council meeting in March (at which you were present), we were given a presentation on membership where we were told that the rate of attrition was falling and that there were increased enrolments for Professional Registration and Revalidation. And I seem to remember that at the July meeting the membership graph showed a slight rise in numbers.

    It may be that the information on the website is the most comprehensive and accurate that is available. I am happy to try and find out the answer to your question although I am not really the person you should be asking. As President I am an ambassadorial figure, the link between members and council is the Chair ... this is a confusion that many members make and one of the reasons why there is a proposal to combine the role of Chair/President so that there is a clearly defined structure answerable to members.