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by Philip Smith, Secretary of the A.C.C.


A big thank you to all those Club Officials who have been in touch to say how much they enjoyed the Question and Answer articles which I have published more frequently in recent editions of the Magazine. I do intend to revisit the Question and Answer format next month, but thought it would be useful to produce the following article as a Guidance Note /Aide Memoir for new Club Chairmen who will be elected during this year's annual elections which often take place in March and as a reminder to long serving Chairmen.

For Officers who are organising Annual General Meetings may I refer you to the article which I published on Preparing for an Annual General Meeting in the March 2005 edition of the Magazine.

I trust the following article together with a suggested Code of Standard Orders for Committees is of assistance.

Taking the Chair of a Club can't be successful unless it has a body of enthusiastic and dedicated members, for the membership is the heart of a club.

However, as in all business, success needs a good head as well as a good heart. At the head of a club, the Chairman often holds the key to success.

The importance of a hard working Chairman, together with the Secretary, is paramount. If such a duo also have the support of a hardworking and harmonious committee, then the club will be doubly blessed.

Be cheerful and dignified at all times

The records of Conservative clubs show that many clubs have enjoyed the benefits of devoted Chairmen and Secretaries, without whom the facilities enjoyed by their members would not exist.

Therefore, it may be recognised that an important duty of the members is to choose an able and reliable man or woman to represent the club as Chairman.

Chairmen may be elected directly, that is by the members in general meeting, or, if the rules provide, indirectly by the committee from among their own number.

In the latter case, as the members will have elected all the members of the committee, they will have already signified their confidence in the person who becomes Chairman.

The first obligation of a new Chairman, on assuming the responsibilities of the post, is to become familiar with the duties it entails.

An outline of those duties can be found in the ACC Club Law and Diary, while essential guidance is also contained in the rules of each club.

There are, however, other considerations for the Chairman to bear in mind.

It would be impossible to describe every situation and problem that might at some time confront a Chairman, which is why the Chairman needs to maintain a cheerful and dignified presence, and to act with tact and fairness at all times.

The Chairman presides over committee meetings and, consequently, will be instrumental in securing the smooth running of the club and competent conduct of business.

Committee meetings have to be held at least once a month in order to settle club policy, and to take decisions affecting the operations of the club and its development.

The Chairman's handling of these meetings will determine, above all, how committee members retain their commitment and interest in serving their club.

Therefore, the Chairman will be the vital link in creating the atmosphere that is indispensable to a successful club.

If the Chairman fails, it is possible that one of two trends, or both, will become apparent.

There may be a lack of interest among members generally, or difficulties may be experienced in obtaining nominations to fill vacancies occurring on the committee.

Since most members learn the art of conducting meetings, running the club, and develop the confidence to address a wide audience at general meetings by working within the committee, an efficient Chairman, who holds the trust of colleagues, will do much to secure the continued success and development of the club.

It is up to the Chairman to weld the diverse characters who form a committee into a working unit.

A carefully prepared agenda will help to ensure that business may be dealt with quickly.

The Chairman makes the committee into a working unit

The Chairman will be responsible for arranging the agenda, and the priorities of the committee, in conjunction with the Secretary.

As long as all essential business is catered for, and all correspondence considered, their choice of priorities is unlikely to cause dissension within the committee.

The Chairman will be assisted in these duties if there is a code of standing orders which the committee members themselves have accepted and agree for the proper conduct of their affairs. (A model code of standing orders appears on page 6).

However, it is always possible that an agenda cannot be completed in time. In such circumstances, it is better that the committee should agree to adjourn to a later date, to be fixed by them, to conclude the outstanding business.

The Chairman and Secretary should not take it upon themselves to omit items from the agenda in order to shorten the meeting. It is for the committee to decide what they will consider, for the business is theirs and needs to be dealt with.

This is a fact the Chairman must keep clearly in mind. The authority of the committee should never be usurped. However, a good Chairman will be able to influence them towards wise decisions.

In addition, a Chairman should remember that a committee never performs the tasks which are specifically allotted to individual officers or the steward.

Not only is this likely to be both confusing and a waste of the committee's time, it can be irritating and frustrating for an intelligent body of people who have given their time to committee work to find they are also engaged in trying to perform duties specifically allocated elsewhere.

On the other hand, neither the officers nor employees should be allowed to take decisions that are the prerogative of the Committee collectively.

The Chairman will fulfil the duties of chairmanship by adopting a conciliatory attitude, trying to avoid riding roughshod over even the most awkward participant from the floor.

Patience and the avoidance of argument are the best instruments for the smooth conduct of meetings.

It should go without saying that the Chairman must conduct meetings in accordance with club rules, standing orders and recognised rules of procedure.

This may not guarantee totally trouble-free meetings in all circumstances, but it will prevent most problems from occurring.

If the occasion does occur when disorderliness develops, and the Chairman believes business cannot be satisfactorily concluded, the meeting may be adjourned to another date.

A cheerful, firm, tactful and judicious person will avoid most of the possible pitfalls of chairmanship and earn the the grateful thanks to the membership.

A code of standing orders for committees

1. In the absence of the Chairman, a committee may proceed to business after electing a temporary Chairman.

2. The first business at all ordinary meetings shall be the approval of past ordinary minutes, the only permissible discussion shall be the accuracy of the record. Objections must be moved, seconded and voted upon.

3. The Chairman shall maintain order and keep all "points of order" in accordance with this code: decide priority of speeches according to the order in which a member "catches his eye" and ask for the terms of a motion or amendment before a speech is delivered, if the Chairman thinks fit.

4. In the case of disorder arising, the Chairman shall have power to adjourn the meeting to a time fixed by the Chairman, and when the Chairman leaves the chair all business shall be terminated.

5. In the case of equality of votes, the Chairman shall have a second or casting vote at committee meetings only.

6. Notice must be given at least five days before an ordinary meeting of any motions to be proposed other than those which arise directly from the subject under discussion.

7. Alterations or rescindments of existing minutes or resolutions must be by notice at the previous ordinary meeting and motion proposed, seconded and carried.

8. Motions and amendments must not be withdrawn or essentially altered after they have been seconded without permission of the meeting.

9. The motion "to pass to the next business" shall always have priority over other amendments, and if this is carried the meeting shall at once proceed to the consideration of the next business.

10. The mover of an original resolution shall have the right of reply but must not introduce new matter.

11. If a member rises to "a point of order" the member must specify the rule in the code which he thinks is being violated, and the member who was in possession of the meeting shall wait until the point of order has been discussed and settled. Only the Chairman can rule on a point of order. The speaker shall then continue the speech subject to the ruling which has been given.

12. Discussion shall cease if the motion that "the question be now put" is carried by a majority, the mover of an original motion having been first heard in reply.

13. At an adjourned debate, the mover of the adjournment shall be first heard.

14. The Chairman of a committee shall have power to summon special meetings for urgent business or at the written requisition of a majority of the members of such committee, the special business to be placed on the notice calling the same. No minutes of ordinary meetings will be read at special meetings. Programme of business for all meetings shall be circulated three days before the meeting.

15. Subcommittees must report to the general committee before acting upon their resolutions unless they have been given executive powers.

16. At the first meeting of a subcommittee the Chairman of such committee shall be appointed and the number of members necessary to form a quorum shall be decided upon.

17. The Chairman of the general committee shall have the right to attend and vote at all sub- committees