The Board met at the REC Offices from 12 noon until 5.00pm.
Formalities were first conducted, including:
- Noting of apologies for absence from James Holt and Karamjit Singh Thind.
- Philip Robinson and Sushma Sahajpal, two recently appointed members of the new Board commencing in September 2018, were welcomed to the meeting as observers. It was noted that Satnam Singh Poonian, Sandra Teacher, Mark Chater, Kathryn Wright and Andrew Copson will join the Board as newly appointed members in September.
- It was noted that the Peter Ward, James Holt, Karamjit Singh Thind, Richy Thompson, Sarah Lane Cawte, Phil Leivers and Sara Permlutter will stand down from the Board at the end of this meeting.
- The correction and then approval of the minutes of the 21st February 2018 meeting and discussion of a few matters arising.
- Declaration of potential conflicts of interests
Then I gave a brief oral report of my activities as Chair. Much of this since the last Board meeting has been related to supporting the work of the RE Commission as part of the Secretariat . I used my report to a) express my thanks to outgoing Board members, b) welcome new Board members and c) note my concern about the workload that our staff are experiencing. The REC punches above its weight given its relatively low level of resourcing and the staff carry this burden. I also apologised for the recent bunching of meetings because of my forthcoming work trip to Australia and the resultant late distribution of papers. Finally I reflected on the achievement of the outgoing Board in setting up the Commission and overseeing a wide range of other activity and the challenge for the new Board in finding a sustainable model for the ongoing work of the REC.
The CEO commented on his previously submitted written report, which gave a detailed account of his many activities. He particularly drew attention to his meeting with the Welsh Government on May 8th and their interest in the Commission, and the media coverage achieved by the Beyond the Ordinary campaign. He introduced a brief discussion of recent legal guidance for Welsh SACREs on non-religious representation and research on withdrawal. He reported that the annual staff appraisal process had commenced. During the course of the report the following decisions were made:
- To conduct an electronic ballot amongst current Board to decide on the two places that had come available on the Education Committee. There were 11 expressions of interest.
- To ask the Officers to consider how the other three committees were to be reconstructed for September.
In addition, there was a discussion about the process for the Board and the Council to respond to the Commission Report to be published on 12th September.
The Treasurer then presented the audited accounts for 2016-2017 which were approved by the Board and signed for filing. He also tabled his report monitoring the budget for eight months of the current financial year. All is as expected at this point. It was agreed to keep subscriptions at the same level in 2018-2019 as they are in 2017-2018. Finally the Board approved the proposed revisions to the Commission budget and noted that this was now breaking even rather than the previously predicted deficit of £8,500. The Board expressed its appreciation to Richy Thompson for his work as Company Secretary over the last three years.
The Board then discussed the Company Secretary’s report which focused on a) a paper for the attention of new Board members, b) the membership application from the United Synagogue, which was approved to be tabled at the SRGM, c) recording a minute that there are no persons of significant control and d) proposed arrangements in response to GDPR. In the discussions it was decided to ask the Governance Committee to conduct a review of the REC membership criteria and to consider the possibility of a code of conduct for members. It was also noted that the National Secular Society intend to resubmit their membership application having responded to the questions and comments made at the AGM. The Board expressed its appreciation to Peter Ward for his work as Company Secretary over the last three years.
The remainder of the meeting was devoted to four items.
- Long-term sustainability of the REC. The minutes of the Sustainability Group meeting on March 23rd were noted. A programme for the development of a Business Plan in preparation for the funders meeting on November 22nd was agreed. It was also agreed that the REC would contract with a fund-raiser, initially for a trial period.
- A brief review of the AGM, including noting that the National Secular Society intended to resubmit their membership application.
- A process for responding to the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper.
Finally the minutes of the four REC committees were received. The only items not covered elsewhere were:
- The suggested renaming of the PR group.
- Vote of thanks to Sarah Lane Cawte for her chairing of the Governance Committee and her willingness to continue to do so as she stands down from the Board.
- The ongoing review of the REQM led by Linda Rudge.
- Vote of thanks to Phil Leivers for his chairing of the Education Committee as he stands down concurrent with his standing down from the Board.
The Board gave Dave Francis a card to wish him well on his forthcoming wedding to Denise Cush.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on 16th October 2018.
Professor Trevor Cooling
Chair of the REC