Our annual general meeting is commonly referred to as General Council.
Each Ramblers Area, and each national organisation affiliated to us, is entitled to appoint members of General Council. Whilst our Groups and individual members are not directly represented, they can influence the policy of the Ramblers via their Area's Council members. Trustees, our president, vice presidents and members of the Motions Review Committee are also members of General Council.
General Council elects the board of trustees which runs the organisation on behalf of members and for the public benefit. Council considers the annual report and accounts and provides guidance on policy by debating policy motions. It also approves changes to our constitution.
Ramblers is a company limited by guarantee, and General Council is the body of people who are defined as company members for Companies Act and other legal purposes. Members of General Council are entitled to attend the annual general meeting, but remain company members at other times.
Update (31 March 2020)
The following message has been sent to all Area chairs and secretaries, General Council members and attendees
Since the decision was made to cancel the General Council meeting in Bristol, we have taken time to consider how the formal business of the AGM, including the election of trustees, might be managed.
The board of trustees has considered the various options, including virtual mechanisms, in the light of the general advice that our legal advisors and the Charity Commission have given to the charity and voluntary sector.
The board, which met by videoconference on 26 March, has decided that it would be in the best interests of the Ramblers at this time to postpone the AGM. We shall review this and make a further decision on 30 June. This means that the trustee elections have been postponed and no changes will be made to the elected trustee body at this time. (Those trustees who are involved in the elections this year absented themselves from this discussion and decision.)
Staff and trustees are working hard right now to plan for this uncertain period. The continuity provided by the same combined leadership of board and staff will greatly assist in this effort.
The president, vice-presidents and motions review committee were uncontested, but we shall consider in due course how to give Council members the opportunity to vote.
I assure you that this decision was not taken lightly. We are well aware that it breaches the requirement in our articles to hold the AGM by 30 April. However, the professional advice at this time is that it is paramount to take the right decisions for the charity even if that does mean departing from due process. The trustees are satisfied that this postponement is in the best interests of the charity.
The board is now meeting fortnightly by teleconference and I want to assure you that the trustees will keep this decision under review over the next three months. In particular, we have not forgotten the nine motions submitted by Areas for debate, and the board will consider the means to discuss these when it reviews the situation on 30 June.
Our illustrated annual report and accounts will soon be available on this GC web page at www.ramblers.org.uk/about-us/how-we-are-run/about-general-council.
I also want to remind those Council members appointed to attend the AGM in Bristol that you remain our legal voting members for the year, so we shall continue to communicate with you on that basis.
Refunds and expenses
All Area visitors have now been contacted with information about how we shall refund attendance fees. If you have any questions about refunds please contact Simon Kellas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Regarding expenses, we anticipate that attendees will be able to reclaim most advance accommodation and travel bookings from the provider, but no volunteer will be left out of pocket. The finance team (which, like all our staff, is now working away from the office) is finalising the process for volunteers to claim expenses. This information will be communicated to you all and will be posted on this GC web page at www.ramblers.org.uk/about-us/how-we-are-run/about-general-council.
Finally, may I say again how sorry I am that we are not able to meet as planned, and I assure you we shall keep you updated.
In the meantime, I sincerely hope that you stay safe and well.
Kate Ashbrook, chair, board of trustees