Enshrining the rights of all CSP members

Council chair Grahame Pope explains why voting rights should be extended to the Society's assistant and student members

Council chair Grahame Pope explains why voting rights should be extended to the Society's assistant and student members Council is urging all qualified members to support its proposal to give CSP assistant (associate) and student members the right to attend, speak and vote at future annual general meetings (AGMs) or special general meetings (SGMs). The move requires changes to the Society's bye-laws. Council has set the wheels in motion. Now chartered physiotherapists will have the opportunity to vote on the changes at the SGM which will immediately follow the AGM, taking place at Congress in Birmingham, at 5.30pm on Saturday October 9. Council has twice debated and voted to agree these bye-law amendments - in July and September 2003. Articles reporting these debates were published in Frontline. Council decided to put them to the 2004 AGM to give time for further discussion. Council reaffirmed its decision at its meeting on July 15 this year. Council, as members' elected body, is asking for members' support to agree these bye-law changes because it considers the present exclusion of students and assistants from the AGM to be an unfair anomaly in the rules which needs to be corrected. Currently, associate and student members cannot even attend an AGM; nor can they vote on their own subscription rates or the approval of the Society's annual reports or accounts.  Assistants have been CSP members for 10 years and students for much longer. Council believes it is now time to correct this anomaly and update the CSP bye-laws. This will bring the Society into line with a number of other professional organisations, such as the College of Occupational Therapists, Society of Radiographers and the Royal College of Nursing, all of whom allow their assistant members to vote at AGMs. There have been discussions in some sections of the Society about the role of general meetings and the implication of these changes. There has also been some misunderstanding about the current AGM rules. The following questions and answers may help to clarify the constitutional position of the AGM in the CSP's charter and bye-laws. What is the role of the AGM? The AGM has four main roles, in each case dealing with matters put to it by the CSP Council. These are:
  • the approval of the CSP annual report and accounts of how members' money has been spent;
  • to agree subscription increases proposed by Council of amounts which are more than five per cent above the rate of inflation in   any one year (subscription increases below this amount are approved by Council under the bye-laws);
  • the approval of bye-law changes by Council (it is not possible for the AGM to amend bye-law proposals - it can only accept or reject them); and,
  • to appoint CSP external auditors. 
Can the AGM create CSP policy (professional or otherwise)? No, it cannot. The AGM has no power to create CSP policy. It is not and never has been a policy-creating body under CSP rules. It is only the elected CSP Council, working in conjunction with its committees that can create CSP policy.  Can the AGM (or SGM) discuss other general matters?  In theory, yes, it could discuss other general matters. But as far as the records show, it has not held such a discussion for at least 30 years. Even if it did discuss other matters, constitutionally, it has no power to make any decision on CSP policy on behalf of the Society. Again, this role of policy creation remains only with the elected CSP Council and its committees. Therefore any concerns that CSP policy could be changed by giving voting rights at the AGM or SGM to students and assistants are unfounded. This is a misunderstanding of the CSP constitution. Why do assistants and students currently not have voting rights on their subscriptions and on the annual report? This is a historical anomaly. The rules were originally written long ago, before these groups held CSP membership. This matter only came to light at the October 2002 AGM, when it was realised that assistants could not attend the AGM to listen or vote in the debate on their own subscriptions. The exception to this was the single assistant member of Council, who could attend the AGM but not speak or vote. Additionally, each school of physiotherapy is able to nominate a representative to attend, speak and vote (singly) at the AGM. This did not seem democratic or fair to either assistants or student members. Council has subsequently moved to modernise these CSP rules. Council is asking for physiotherapists' support to modernise the bye-laws and give the Society's assistant (associate) and student members the right to attend, speak, and vote at general meetings. Please support Council by voting at this year's SGM at Congress, either in person or by proxy.  
Grahame Pope, Chair of Council

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