At the 2010 AGM of CTC (the national organisation) there will be a vote on CTC Council's proposal for CTC to become a charity. The February/march issue of Cycle magazine featured arguments for and against.
Here is a contribution to the debate from Mike Stapleton, member of CTC Cambridge and former CTC National Councillor. This is his personal view; CTC Cambridge itself hasn't taken a view on this issue.
My own position is that I do not object to the move in general terms but will only support it if I consider that the infrastructure to be put in place will be adequate to ensure that the Club side of CTC continues to have the support from Head Offices that it needs.
My understanding is that the Club Members will cease to have direct control of the operation of CTC. They will still be able to appoach the Board of Trustees via their Councillors. There are only 20 Councillors for the whole country and we only have two Jim Brown and Martin Cockersole in the East. I've never met Martin. We only see Jim at AGMs (sometimes). There has been a move to reduce this number still further.
The Board of Trustees is formed from the Council members and it appears to have seven members. I assume it can insist on the direction of the operation subject to the requirements of Charity law. If I was sure that this Board would have proper access to the executive (and Kevin Mayne in particular) then I would be prepared to accept Charitable Status as it brings considerable benefits.
I would like some advise on just what restrictions are applied by accepting Charitable Status.
The access to the Executive is the critical matter. I doubt that any volunteer members of Council will have the time to spend at HQ which would be necessary to observe it adequately. I consider that a representative of the Trustees should attend all major progress meetings and have access to staff when requested. We have to find a way for this to happen. This person would then report to the Board.
The next matter I have concern about is the structure of CTC HQ. Years ago before Kevin Mayne took over as Chief Executive there was a Cycling Development Department with a manager. This was largely disbanded on the grounds of costs and because it did not fit with Kevin's agenda. I think this is the time when we should insist that a Member of Staff be appointed to control those functions of HQ that provide services to the Club. Specifically the Magazine, Membership, possibly Right to Ride and things like equipment reviews, cycling events etc.
There is clear evidence that CTC has failed to control its membership providers, I think there have been four over the last ten Years.
The links between CTC HQ and the sections are tenuous at best. In the past, when I was a Councillor, I provided the link in most of East Anglia but that seems to be virtually non existant now.
The link between Right to Ride and CTC Right to Ride is weak but showed signs of improvement last year when Sam Walton took over the laision. He has left. I get occasional messges from CTC e.g. You have just two days to submit objections to the A14 improvements (This actually occurred early this January). I've been on the case for eight years. I think they are on another planet. I have attended various conferences and though useful at a National level they are useless as far as I am concerned in that they fail to provide the tools I need to address the infrastructure that I have to work with here in Cambridgeshire. The Cycling Campaign and CTC Cambridge Right to Ride are highly effective organisations that work with infrastructure providers. CTC at local level seems to be generally negative in its appoach to Highway providers. Am I just lucky that Cambridgeshire does quite a lot for cycling?
Kevin has failed to appear at Birthday Rides in recent years and has devolved control of the Birthday Rides to the Tours Company. I have no problem with the Tours Company but Kevin should show his physical support of the events if he is really interested in the Club side of the operation. He should be the figurehead for the Club.
Kevin's agenda is to run the CTC, the National Cycling Organisation, of which the Club is a lesser part. He has seen that there are large benefits in working on a more general level and obtaining grants and tax relief from Government. I have to accept that this is a successful policy and should be continued. The point is that we have to put in place a monitoring structure that will work or Kevin will ride rough shode over us as sure as God made little apples. I apologise for being personal but I do think Kevin is the key and he will apply his own agenda to the operation if we let him.
I don't believe Council sees the matter in this light. I object to Council talking down to us telling us they know what is good for us and we should support them. I also object to the somewhat partisan approach from the objectors. Like everything there is a middle path which could be made to work.
I remind everyone that if the change fails then there is no way back to a Club status. So that assuming that the benefits are sufficient to demand the change I need to be assured that the infrastructure that will be put in place will control the operation of the Club side of CTC adequately even if this is not the major part of the operation.
Mike Stapleton 11th February 2010