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BCS civil war heats up ahead of crunch general meeting

Cavaliers vs Roundheads

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A row over the future of the British Computer Society (BCS) is heating up ahead of a crunch emergency general meeting that will debate a no-confidence motion against the chief exec and current board of trustees.

Disaffected members are angry about the governance and spending plans of the venerable society's current leadership, as well as its recent change of name to "BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT". The emergency general meeting (EGM), scheduled for 1 July, will address concerns that the society has moved away from being a professional services organisation, as well as criticism over spending on management consultants and rebranding. The management culture of running the BCS as a business instead of a "modern membership-based charity" is also a bone of contention.

These concerns focus on the controversial £5m transformation programme, described by opponents as an "expensive rebranding and makeover" exercise. Meanwhile grassroots activities (such as specialist groups and branches) have suffered a lack of attention, it's alleged.

BCS trustees have hit back against critics, arguing the EGM is an expensive and time consuming distraction.

"Although we have spent a lot of time talking to people about the changes and about their concerns, a small element have declared war on the trustees and the chief executive," argues Bob Assirati, BCS deputy president, in an article on an EGM micro-site set up by the current leadership.

Critics have set up their own web site explaining their concerns at bcsreform.wikispaces.com.

"The signatories of the EGM call include a past president, two former trustees, and eight members of the current advisory council," the critics explain. "We have tried over the last year or so to resolve our concerns via normal BCS procedures, without success."

Other former directors have stayed loyal to the current leadership, expressing confidence in their abilities while noting that the need for the transformation program ought to have been more openly debated.

"The Society has aspired to be a professional body since the mid 1960s and has been offering services, courses, qualifications and occasional conferences to members and non-members throughout that period. There was no Golden Age to which the Society might hope to return if members choose to reject the current ways in which BCS is being led and managed," the loyalists argue.

"It is likely that the trustees and executives could have dealt more courteously with Council in seeking their advice on the current transformation programme. We understand the Deputy CEO has apologised for these shortcomings." ®

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