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Issue 5, December 09

Civic Soc Initiative Logo Returntostart BULLETIN

Contact us: W: www.civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk T: 0151 708 9920 E: admin@civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk
Welcome to the fifth Civic Society Initiative Bulletin which comes to you on our six month anniversary. It has been a busy summer and autumn and as a result of your efforts we are now much clearer about the way forward for the civic movement. This Bulletin kicks off the final round of discussion with some detailed proposals for the structure and governance of the new national body. Apologies for the length and please let us know what you think and participate in the next Civic Society Live debate on the discussion forum (Tuesday 15 December 11am to noon). This Bulletin also summarises the positive response to Own the future and provides updates on some of the work now being done by civic society volunteers to set up new networks of interest - on topics such as coastal towns and core cities - and establish local clusters of societies. Many of these articles are provided by civic society volunteers. There is also news of an important English Heritage conference on blue plaques being run in February 2010.
Structuresandg and governance - discussion paper
Civic societies are calling for a new national body to provide a champion for the movement and give them support. This is a key conclusion of the recent debate which has followed closure of the Civic Trust. We aim to establish the new body at a special meeting of civic societies and others in April 2010.

Now the need for a new national body has been established we have to address how it is to be set up and run. Who will manage it and how civic societies will be involved? We have produced a discussion paper to get your views on these issues.

We have established the need for the new national body to have a very different feel to the Civic Trust. It will be:

Campaigning - strong in its advocacy and promotion of the cause and unfettered in its views as a result of the movement being more independent
Responsive - focused on the individual and collective needs of civic societies
Light footed - maximising the use of existing resources and volunteer expertise in the movement
Grassroots - with a bottom-up feel and governance.

We have also concluded that:

"Civic societies will need a variety of formal and informal routes to shape the priorities and focus of a new national body. Its governance should reflect best practice in the charity and voluntary sector - including open recruitment of trustees, use of a nominations committee and a small board of 10 members or fewer. The mix of skills and qualities on its trustee board needs to recognise the importance of experience in a range of different types of civic society and it needs a grassroots feel. Civic society volunteers will also need to be able to participate in its work, shaping priorities at a national convention, engaging in the key issues through meetings of local clusters of societies and providing examples and experience for the national body to use in its lobbying and influence".

So what does this mean in practice? We have prepared proposals in response to the ideas put forward in the recent debate and are looking for your views on whether we have got them right. For those who want more detail we have prepared a supporting paper which outlines the reasoning behind each proposal and the alternatives we have explored. The supporting document can be downloaded along with this article from the website here. It's worth a read.

It would be helpful to have your feedback and ideas no later than 5pm Friday 15 January 2010.

The main proposals are as follows:


1. We establish the new arrangements under a federal structure where civic societies remain independently run and join the new national body as members.

2. We establish the new national body initially as an incorporated company limited by guarantee with a view to it registering as a charity within the first year of its operation. Its "area of benefit" will be England.

Purpose, values and name

3. The purpose, values and name of the new national body is being developed with civic society volunteers and will be put forward in February 2010.

Governing body

4. Governance arrangements will follow normal voluntary sector practice in relation to issues such as powers, finances, amendment of governing documents, and powers of dissolution.

5. The directors/trustees of the new national body will be elected initially by civic societies registered with the Civic Society Initiative following open recruitment against a set of desired skills and experience. There will be no electoral colleges based on regions or other geographical areas but a good geographical spread will be sought.

6. A majority of directors/trustees will be members of civic societies.

7. A nominations committee will be established and approved by the governing body to recommend the candidates that best meet the desired mix of skills and experience. It will not be chaired by a trustee/director. A shadow nominations committee may be established to make recommendations until the formal arrangements can be put in place.

8. There will be no more than ten directors/trustees (at least six elected and up to two co-opted by the governing body to provide the necessary mix of skills and experience) and they will be appointed for three year terms which may be renewed once.

9. Directors/trustees will appoint the Chair, Deputy Chair and Treasurer, who may be one of themselves, and they will be ratified at the Annual General Meeting on recommendation of the nominations committee and governing body. They will also be appointed for three year terms which may be renewed once except the Treasurer who may serve for up to 10 years.

General meetings and voting rights

10. There will be an annual Convention incorporating the AGM which will rotate around the country while seeking to be accessible to a majority of civic societies:
· the AGM will require 5% of voting members to be present to constitute a quorum
· voting will be based on one society one vote and not be weighted by membership. Voting will be by postal ballot of member societies who will have the option of giving the Chair proxy votes to be exercised at the AGM
· civic societies will have the right to put forward resolutions in advance where they secure the support of at least 20 societies
· the directors/trustees will have the power to put forward resolutions in advance
· the AGM will have the power by resolution to remove directors/trustees and the whole governing body from office.

11. The new national body will look to involve up to ten partner organisations in its governance within the first year of its operation and likely partners will be invited to the first meeting. Any partner organisation involved in the national body will be from the not-for-profit sector. There will be an option for the partner bodies to appoint a director/trustee who must be approved by the governing body.

12. Civic societies can trigger an Extraordinary General Meeting if more than 10% of member societies request it.


13. Membership will be open to civic societies and non-voting membership to individual "supporters" and associate members from corporate, local authority, parish council, professional and other partner bodies, residents associations, amenity groups, environmental groups and also to groupings of civic societies and civic societies elsewhere in the UK and abroad

14. Civic societies will join the new body at a per capita fee determined by the trustees on the basis of an "agreement" which includes:
· a requirement for the civic society to share common objectives and values with the national body; provide essential contact, membership and financial information and a copy of any constitution; pay the membership fee in a timely fashion; nominate a representative and act in the best interests of the civic movement
· a requirement for the national body to provide a range of services; respond to reasonable requests from the civic society in a timely fashion; involve the civic society in its work and in shaping its priorities; and represent the civic movement in an appropriate way
· provision to terminate a civic society's registration on grounds including breach of the agreement and/or bringing the movement into general disrepute.

What next?

We are expecting to make an announcement in February on the name, structure and governance arrangements for the new body and to call a general meeting of civic societies on a Saturday in April to ratify and launch it. A business plan will be prepared. There will be a call for civic societies to join the new body (on a £ per member basis) and for people to put themselves forward as national trustees/directors in February. There will be a postal ballot of all civic societies registered with the Civic Society Initiative prior to the general meeting.

Civic Society Live - 15 DecemberCivicSocietyLiveDec15

The next live debate on our discussion forum will focus on the governance proposals - although feel free to raise any other issues of interest. This will be an opportunity to debate things directly with Tony Burton and other civic society volunteers. The discussion will run between 11am and noon on Tuesday 15 December. It is easy to get involved - click on "Join the discussion forum!" on the home page of our website www.civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk and the registration process takes just a few seconds.
Own the future - feedbackownthefuturefeedback

We have had over a hundred responses to Own the Future and there is strong support for its main proposals. The results show that:

The principles proposed for the movement and for the new national body are very widely supported.

There is near universal support for a new national body for the civic movement.

There are different views about the priorities for the new national body but the emphasis is on its role in representing the movement through campaigning, lobbying and profile raising.

The proposals for more fluid arrangements for civic societies getting together are widely supported and stimulating a number of fresh ideas and initiatives. Regional arrangements are supported in some areas but a majority of respondents are keen on more local clusters and more flexibility. There is real interest in networks of civic societies working around different topics of interest. The arrangements for civic societies working together should respond to the demands expressed by civic societies and not be centrally managed or prescribed.

The proposals to base the common thread of the civic movement on place, pride, identity and community has near universal support with respondents keen to define what makes the movement distinctive.

There are divergent views on the proposed funding arrangements but a majority support the principle of a per capita levy. It is widely recognised that the shift towards civic societies funding the new arrangements and securing their independence is both essential and difficult to achieve.

Many respondents want more information on the structure and governance of the new national body and for this to reflect the federal and grassroots principles.

A more detailed summary of the feedback so far is available on the website here and we will update this later in December to pick up on feedback which is still coming in.

It is important that the issues in Own the future continue to be debated and discussed in all civic societies and a new leaflet - Time to decide - is being circulated by post shortly to two contacts in each civic society where we have contact details. Please email us at admin@civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk if you want to recieve copies of this leaflet. This summarises the main issues and responds to some of the questions being asked about the funding and costs of the new national body. Copies will be available to download from the website shortly.
Topic networkstopicnetworks

A number of civic societies are looking at setting up networks to discuss topics of shared interest and there have been many suggestions. The most popular so far are to link different towns with common interest, such as historic or coastal towns; to network on planning issues, such as green belt or responding to planning applications; dealing with heritage issues, such as conservation areas; and energy and transport issues.

There is already progress being made on establishing a core city network and also one for coastal towns.
Core city networkcorecity

The 'Core Cities' civic societies are in the first stages of meeting as a group. Proposals from Own the future support civic societies coming together in different types of clusters and networks, and the civic societies of the larger English cities believe it would be worth getting together to share common interests for their mutual benefit. This is not to turn our back on regional associations, but rather to complement them.

The Core Cities grouping already exists amongst the councils of 8 cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield. The civic society chairs of 5 of these cities started a conversation at the Blackpool convention in October, and 4 of us met again at the councils' Core Cities Summit in November. An all-day event is being planned for next February in Leeds, where we hope to achieve a wider attendance and properly launch a successful association. Information about the February event is available from Kevin Grady at kevin@leedscivictrust.org.uk
Coastal town network coastaltown
Bournemouth Civic Society is keen to liaise with other coastal societies and discuss/share best practice on tackling common issues particular to their seaside areas such as:
  • Provision of new visitor attractions and facilities that bring real year round benefits and are enjoyed by residents as well as visitors.
  • Ensuring hotel and visitor accomodation provision is enhanced and not lost to speculative "second home" residential development
  • Maintenance of vibrant retail and night time ecomomies that do not undermine residents quality of life or the environment
  • Finding sustainable alternative uses for historic seaside buildings and facilities as fashions in holiday patterns change
  • Protecting the natural beauty and attractiveness of beaches, coastal strips, chines, gardens and parks
  • Tackling threats of "garden grabbing" and flat block redevelopment in the historic or garden city suburbs
  • Arguing against unreasonable regional housing targets in towns surrounded by green belt, built and natural environment heritage protections and coastal frontages that force out of character high density development into the centres and suburbs.

Ken Mantock commented "Bournemouth is a very attractive resort blessed with a thriving town centre that has famous heritage status public gardens, fine listed buildings from the Victorian, Edwardian and Art-Deco periods and miles of sandy beaches. It also has many large residential suburbs plus rural hinterlands of great historic and natural interest. Balancing the needs of the settled residential community, some 160,000 people, with the needs of the many hundreds of thousands of visitors each year is not an easy job for the Council so the Civic Society regularly inputs its ideas and views. Coastal and seaside resorts face very particular issues due to their history, setting and the changes in holiday patterns so a forum for Civic Societies in these areas to share ideas and best practice can only be a good thing".

We would be keen to hear from any other civic society that is situated in a coastal area that would like to share knowledge, advice and information. This could start with an email communication and who knows - could eventually develop into a series of meetings and conferences.

Ken Mantock, Bournmouth Civic Society ken.Mantock@mearsgroup.co.uk
A dedicated webpage highlighting all "coastal town" civic societies has been created here
A large number of civic societies have responded positively to the opportunity to get together with neighbouring societies at a level less remote than the Government regions. As the articles below demonstrate there can be real advantages and at least four main purposes are emerging.

1. To share experiences and learn from each other
2. To address common issues that cross the boundary of a number of civic societies
3. To influence strategic policy discussions and network with external partners
4. To provide mutual support where societies may be struggling or to establish new societies
A cluster forms in Bath

Peter Tapscott, Corsham Civic Society, writes with news of an important meeting of civic societies in and around Bath, Bristol, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and north Somerset.

The meeting had been convened by Peter Tapscott acting on no particular authority - but being keen to see something of the nature of a 'cluster' as proposed in Own the Future established in this area. Prior to the meeting a 'Draft Agenda' had been circulated to a total of 21 societies/trusts in the area. In the end, the event had 22 representatives of 12 societies and included Tony Burton, Director, Civic Society Initiative.

The meeting started with introductions, namely because very few of the attendees had ever met each other before this 'coming together'. Tony Burton then presented the Initiative's consultation report, Own the Future and in the process explored the group's responses to the '5 Questions' which the report had left to be answered. All 22 people in the room participated in this part of the meeting and interaction was extremely good with Tony accumulating all the points that emerged on a series of flipcharts.

As you would expect Question No. 5, concerning independence and funding attracted the most discussion and occupied most of the time assigned to Tony's part of the Agenda. Overall there was a general willingness to agree that for the movement to be a success it was generally acknowledged that £3 a head may be a worthwhile price to pay - if what materialised was what societies wanted. Nonetheless, it was clear that some societies would really struggle to come up with such a fee - especially those with members who did not pay an annual membership fee due to a large number of life time members. What was of interest was that this discussion led some societies to consider that the potential benefits they offered merited a 'financial review', the result of which might, say, result in a greater effort being made to attract local outside funding, e.g. though 'corporate membership'. It is known over 70 civic societies already have corporate membership schemes with a fee ranging from £25 - £300. Clearly, if coordinated correctly this could bring in additional funds for a society and strengthen the relationship with the private sector.

The meeting then turned to the most important point about whether there existed sufficient interest in working together at the local level in the future. Essentially we were discussing how can civic societies in the area best network, share experience and work together in the future?' Peter Tapscott had prepared some 'Who does what' sheets, based on 30 items listed in Own the Future. The group were than asked to enter their societies' present activities on these sheets, the primary purpose being to provide a central database which might be accessed by those wanting to tackle something they had not tackled before and seeking experience and expertise on that 'something'. This proved to be a popular undertaking for those attending. The attendees did believe that coming together on a regular basis was worthwhile, but how, what and when that was to happen was unknown. As such, Peter Tapscott identified 3 possibilities for the future, a fully constituted, fully functioning 'association' with officers, subscriptions, entitlement to speak collectively, etc; nothing; and somewhere in between - meaning 'run' by 2/3 volunteers, meetings only when essential, venues made available free of charge, no entitlement to speak collectively.

The group agreed it was the "somewhere in between option" that those present favoured. Peter Tapscott, Alastair Macleay (Frome Civic Society) and Paul Myers (Midsomer Norton Society) offered their services to coordinate this group and look at how they come up with a proposal for all to consider.

The Bath Preservation Trust was thanked for providing the venue and the refreshments.
Peter Tapscott, Corsham Civic Society, peter@charlwoodroad.freeserve.co.uk
Strength in numbers in Leicestershire

Bob Gibson, Hinckley Civic Society, writes on plans to widen the area of the civic society to provide a stronger umbrella organisation.
Just off the M69 Leicester - Coventry motorway, Hinckley is a once prosperous hosiery town. The last two decades have seen a cataclysmic collapse of this staple industry, with little new industry to replace it. Back in more prosperous times Hinckley had a small Civic Society that also fell into decline. In 2005-6 a move was made to re-form this Society with a remit to serve the immediate area of the town itself.

The revived Society has enjoyed mixed fortunes. High points have been a successful start to a Blue Plaque campaign, a series of literary lectures at Heritage Weekend and consultation on a retail development proposal for Hinckley's wasteland laughingly described as a 'bus station'. Less promising has been an ongoing struggle to raise any interest from the town itself in terms of membership, and, even more crucial, active participants in the Society's programme.

It appears that as the town's economic fortunes have waned, the solid business, middle class professionals who traditionally form the core of civic organisations have also vanished. Hinckley Civic Society hopes it may have a solution to this situation.

At the autumn AGM its membership backed a brave proposal to extend the territorial coverage to a much wider area of South West Leicestershire. The plan envisages bringing together an umbrella organisation of affiliated groups from its, frequently prosperous, village communities. Both corporate and individual memberships are to be offered.

If the plan succeeds the potential benefits are potentially great. Hinckley Civic Society already has Public Liability Insurance that many smaller groups could not fund. Our Blue Plaque fund is to be offered on a matched-funding basis to double its potential impact. Furthermore, a more co-ordinate approach to local events must benefit all; clashes of dates simply dilute the audience for everyone. I have particular concerns about Heritage Weekend in this respect. Crucially a wider range of talents and personnel may be tapped to the mutual benefit of all. Too often small groups rely on too few people to do the real work.

Almost certainly, it will be difficult to breakdown local parochial thinking and its concomitant 'nimby' mentality, but if we are to have strong local groups with real influence outside our larger towns, this may be the only way forward. In turn I suggest that the future health of the national body depends on the stability and strength of its many local groups. Hinckley's future will certainly be dependant on its emergence into a new South West Leicestershire grouping. Invitations to many local groups have been made to come together early in the New Year. By late spring we will know our local fate; it looks like being a roller-coaster ride.

Any views would be welcome - contact (01455-631636) venonis@btconnect.com

Dr Bob Gibson - Trustee - Hinckley Civic Society
Merseyside clusterMerseysidecluster
Merseyside Civic Society (MCS) is organising an event for Thursday 3rd December which will be an open discussion devoted to the subject of 'How can civic societies in the Merseyside city region best network, share experience and work together in the future?'
Merseyside Civic Society recognises that there are many different types of society with different interests and views on many different topics. Nonetheless, Merseyside Civic Society does feel there are also concerns and specialist interests which could benefit from the local societies sharing ideas and experience on an occasional and/or regular basis.
As part of the preparation for this consultation meeting to help structure the discussion, MCS is asking local amenity and civic societies to give some advance thoughts and suggestions on how we can co-operate among ourselves. Further information is available from Peter Brown, Merseyside Civic Society pjbbrown@liverpool.ac.uk

Southern Comfort cluster southerncomfortcluster
Civic societies in the south central part of the country are discussing plans for a cluster. Dr Vicky Feldwick, City of Winchester Trust explains below.

In 1983 The Chichester Society, feeling a little isolated, invited the Lewes, Fareham, Portsmouth and Winchester Societies to meet with them for a day to discuss matters of mutual concern. The morning was devoted to society matters and the afternoon to planning issues. At the end all agreed that this sharing of experiences had been both enjoyable and extremely useful; above all it had been comforting to find that all had very similar problems. One member was asked to write a brief article and, knowing how catchy headings go down well with the press, he headed the article Southern Comfort and the name stuck.

It had also been agreed that the event should be repeated every year or so, but that there should be no separate secretariat, no constitution, no rules and minimal administration; it would just be up to one of the attending societies to offer to run the event next year, and it would be entirely up to the host society whom they would invite and what the agenda should be. Some have been small and intimate, many have been large and with eminent guest speakers; almost all have followed the original format of two sessions: society business and planning matters. And it has become customary to arrange a choice of brief guided walks at the end or between the sessions.

There has been a breathing space since the last and very successful meeting was held by the Portsmouth Society because no one at that time offered to hold the next event, but Winchester is now organising a Southern Comfort on Saturday July 10th 2010. The event will once again be held in the very pleasant conference room of the Gurkha Museum at Peninsula Barracks. Preliminary invitations will be issued before long, and an interesting programme is being planned.

At one time, and for no known reason the late Civic Trust expressed doubts about the legitimacy and usefulness of Southern Comfort. It has therefore been gratifying to discover that the leaders of the Civic Society Initiative have shown enthusiasm for the event, as has the chairman of Civic Trust South East, seeing it as a possible model for other local gatherings. We in our turn are enthusiastic about the Civic Society Initiative and hope it will be represented on July 10th.

More information is available from Dr Vicky Feldwick secretary@cityofwinchestertrust.co.uk
Blackburn facing decline

Blackburn Civic Society is in somewhat of a crisis. While we have an apparently healthy membership of about 70, many of these members are inactive. We are in imminent danger of having an insufficient number of officers because of the resignation of several long serving people who have indicated their wish to retire.

Blackburn's demography has changed dramatically in recent years, and we have so far failed to attract members of the significant number of residents of Asian origin. The existing membership is aging and we are failing to attract younger members.

We want to work with other civic societies that are experiencing such problems, as such we have already started contacting other societies in nearby local authorities for advice and to network. Nonetheless is there any advice any other groups can offer? Has your Society encountered, and perhaps overcome, similar problems?

If your group would like to share thoughts on going forwad we will be most welcome to hear from you.
Bruce Kitchen, Blackburn Civic Society info@blackburncivicsociety.org.uk
Blue plaquesBlueplaques

Nearly one third of civic societies responding to the recent debate are involved in a blue plaque scheme and there is a lot of experience to share. We have established a new section on the website to highlight the wonderful work being done to promote local heritage through commemorative plaques and provide a list of societies keen to work with others. This might provide the focus for a new topic network. Visit the site here and see what you think.

There is further good news that English Heritage is organising a two day conference in London on Commemorative Plaques. This is the first event of its kind to be organised and is being held at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 18 and 19 February 2010. The £95 conference fee covers both days, including the walking tours and conference reception. The event will include discussion of key areas such as selection criteria, plaque design and inscription, historical research, gaining consents and promotion. Details and a booking form are available from www.english-heritage.org.uk/plaquesconference or by ringing the conference office on 01272 882 112

Street clutter..... Street Pride!Communitymatters

Civic societies across the country are taking action to create better streets for people and in 2010 we will be running the street pride campaign to help rid our streets of unnecessary clutter and create streets we can be proud of.
The campaign responds to the enthusiasm expressed by civic societies during the recent debate undertaken by the Civic Society Initiative for action to improve our streets. It builds on excellent campaigns already undertaken in Stamford, Oxford, Salisbury, Alnwick, Bath, Wakefield and the website is now featuring over 40 groups.

To make sure your society is registered for the campaign and view the societies participating, click here.
For a flavour of the recent media coverage click the links in the margins above for Civic Society Initiative in the news.
Feedback please

This Bulletin is intended to keep you up to date with all matters "civic". We are keen to make it useful for you and would love to have your feedback.

Please submit your feedback here
In This Issue
Structure and governance - discussion paper
Civic Society Live - 15 December
Own the future - feedback
Topic networks
Core city network
Coastal town network
A cluster forms in Bath
Strength in numbers in Leicestershire
Merseyside cluster
Southern comfort cluster
Blackburn facing decline
Blue plaques
Street clutter.. Street Pride
Feedback please
Forthcoming events
Tell us your events here
Civic Societies in the news
Birkdale Civic Society
Bristol Civic Society
Leicester Civic Society
Read here
Merseyside Civic Society
Plymstock and District Civic Society

St Albans Civic Society

Civic Society Initiative in the news


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