Ashley Conway posts….
In October 2018 the BPS stated: “In response to our members desire for more transparency, Board of Trustee minutes will be available following each meeting“. Now that sounds very wonderful. However, there are problems in the list of meetings provided by the BPS on their website – minutes of the meeting of August 2020 are missing. This would almost certainly have been the first one attended by the (now expelled) President-Elect, who was voted in on a platform of promoting reform of the Society. As a responsible trustee, he made a number of requests for information about what was going on with BPS, in keeping with Charity Commission requirements. None of this information appears in any form on the BPS website. There have been 5 meetings since this one, although the minutes of the April 2021 meeting have not appeared either (why is that?).
So, there are four meetings that we can see since August 2020.
Let’s look at the rates of redaction in the minutes on either side of that “disappeared” meeting in August 2020: In the 4 Trustee meetings before it, there were 4 redactions; the 4 before that, 4; the 4 before that, 3. In the 4 after our democratically chosen President-Elect asked for more transparency, there were 12 redactions in the minutes. Three times as many redactions after that “lost” meeting than before. Then, after all those redactions the President-Elect received the YouTube knife in the back. We psychologists are trained not to jump to assuming causality – so perhaps this sequence of events is simply a matter of chance. Hmmm…I think we should be told.
And, critically, who makes the decisions about what to redact? Of course, all organisations have to keep some information confidential from time to time – I understand that, but there is usually an explicit, public statement about what material should be redacted and for how long such a restriction should last. Does such a policy exist? If so, can we have sight of it? If not, why not? Can we be assured that it is regularly reviewed and agreed by the Board of Trustees? Are decisions about what material is to be redacted made at the relevant meeting, with the full agreement of all those present? What is the basis for redactions? When, and by whom, are the draft minutes reviewed? This information, fundamental to good, open and transparent governance, should be available to all members, to whom the Society is ultimately accountable. We, as members, have a right to know – the BPS has a duty and responsibility to keep us informed.
Sadly, far from achieving the 2018 target of greater transparency, what we can actually see in 2021 is an opaque, undemocratic, ruling cabal that appears to be becoming more secretive.
The recently published letter from the NCVO (https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/ncvo-pulled-consultancy-work-charity-amid-fears-detrimental-its-staff/management/article/1719976) drew attention to serious “…internal dispute between senior management and Trustees…” at the BPS. Stories had been circulating for some time that Trustees did not think that minutes accurately reflected what was said in meetings. So, who writes the minutes? And who chooses what to redact? It should be the Trustees, but word has it that this task is carried out by a Senior Management Team employee, and not a Trustee. An employee who has no legal liability for what is done in the name of BPS, rather than a Trustee, who does carry such liability.
This is not just a bureaucratic issue of little relevance. The management team are responsible for operational matters, and the Trustees are responsible for governance. Yes. Governance is the responsibility of the Trustees. Muddling these two paves the way to chaos and to mismanagement. This matter goes to the heart of governance of a charity turning over £13 million a year. These issues do not put the Trustees in a good place – either they do know about the misgovernance and are therefore doing nothing about it, or they do not know about it, because they do not understand their roles and obligations. Either way, they need to take their responsibilities very swiftly, before it is too late.