Product has been added to the basket

AGM Report

Malcolm Brown takes the reins from outgoing President David Manning.

KJHAt the Annual General Meeting held at Burlington House on 8 June, The Annual Report 2015 was accepted, the new fees approved (see Geoscientist May 2016 26.04 p08) and new Trustees duly elected.  Incoming President, Malcolm Brown (pictured), thanked his predecessor for all his hard work and dedication, and pledged to ensure during his term the future security of the Geological Society’s tenure in Burlington House.

At a more than usually well-attended AGM, Fellows raised concerns about the future of the Fellows’ Room, adjacent to the Main Library.  At an earlier meeting held on 18 May, without enjoining the audience to secrecy, Executive Secretary, Sarah Fray, had informed staff that the Fellows’ Room was to be sub-let to the Royal Academy for a period of 13 months beginning in June.  The purpose of this was, she explained, to increase revenues from the building and rebalance the budget, which had been blown off course by external factors, including turmoil in commodities markets and falling book sales.  As a result, and as a ‘planning gain’ to the Society, infrastructural facilities in the Fellows’ Room would be upgraded so as to provide electrical and data ports for up to 10 RA employees.  This work would mean closing the Room immediately.

A week later, in a note to Fellows, distributed as item three in a Society email newsletter (dated 31 May), Ms Fray wrote: “Work is currently being undertaken in the Fellows’ Room as part of an improvement to Wi-Fi and electrical facilities in the building" (see pictures, right, below left). "Fellows … can use the Lyell Room for the coming period, with access to the computers and journals in the main library. Please forgive any untidiness or disruption caused by these works.”  She added: “I will be contacting Fellows shortly with further details on Fellows’ use of Library facilities, including the Fellows’ and Lyell Rooms.”

kljhHowever, the move to close and sublet the Fellows’ Room had drawn unfavourable reaction from many.  The Library received several written complaints about its unannounced unavailability, from users who had travelled to London for meetings, intending to use it for that purpose.

Concerns were also expressed at the AGM about whether due process had been observed.  Society Byelaws 6.25 and 6.25(i) suggest that a full Council’s unanimous agreement must be obtained before any of the Society’s hereditaments should be sold or ‘otherwise disposed’, which arguably could be seen to cover subletting.  Prof Peter Styles, who as President signed the lease in 2006, pointed out that, as far as he could recall, the terms of that lease explicitly forbade sub-letting - at least without the agreement of the Landlord  (the Geologist’s Association’s rooms being exempted, as they are a cognate organisation, are included in the Lease and do not involve payment of rent.)

kljhDavid Manning, outgoing President, assured the AGM that Officers and Council had been informed of the move to lease the Fellows’ Room, but agreed that the matter should be put before the Society’s Solicitor, Bristow’s, and reconsidered by Council in the light of legal advice.  Ted Nield