The board of trustees is the governing body of the Ramblers; it leads the charity and decides how it is run.
General Council is the body of people who are regarded as company members of the Ramblers for legal purposes. In particular they are entitled to speak and vote at the annual general meeting (AGM).
It is the role of the General Council AGM to consider the annual report and accounts and to elect officers, members of the board of trustees and members of the Motions Review Committee. General Council also debates motions that have been submitted. Any proposed change to the governance of the organisation has to be approved by General Council.
Membership of General Council
The following are members of General Council, entitled to speak and vote during the formal sessions of general meetings.
The president acts as a figurehead for the organisation and is elected annually at the AGM. The post has been filled in the past by politicians, media personalities and prominent Ramblers activists. No formal duties are defined.
All former presidents become vice presidents for life (unless they indicate they do not wish to do so). Vice presidency can also be conferred by General Council to honour individuals who have made a particularly significant contribution to Ramblers; these have to be re-elected annually (though, after their first such election, this is normally a formality).
The board of trustees comprises:
The chair of the board of trustees generally chairs meetings of General Council.
Council members appointed by Areas
Council members appointed by Areas make up the majority of General Council. Each Area is entitled to appoint two Council members and Areas with membership exceeding 4% of the total Ramblers membership can appoint a third. Area Council members are normally appointed annually at Area AGMs, but can be replaced during the year if necessary. Each Area is encouraged to ensure that it is represented at the General Council AGM, and each Area has the right to submit one motion for consideration by the meeting. The Area determines which individual members to appoint as its council members.
Council members appointed by affiliated national organisations
Each affiliated national organisation is entitled to appoint one Council member.
Motions Review Committee members
Each General Council AGM elects five representatives to the Motions Review Committee .The committee also includes two representatives appointed from the board of trustees. The main purpose of the committee is to try to ensure that the time available for debating motions is put to the best possible use, giving priority to matters perceived to be of greatest concern to Council members and to Ramblers members in general.
The annual general meeting of General Council
In normal circumstances the AGM is the opportunity for Council members to perform their function of holding the board of trustees to account. Council membership is not limited to the AGM and, in exceptional circumstances, other opportunities exist.
The principle items of AGM business are:
Council members' motions
Motions may be submitted by Areas, constituent parts, affiliated national organisations and the board of trustees.
It can be useful to consult before developing and submitting a motion: a motion which is supported by several Areas has an improved chance of being approved by General Council.
Motions are about urging the board of trustees or external bodies to take action, and debating and voting on a motion is a way to call upon action of a certain kind or towards a certain purpose. This might be public-facing action, such as a new statement of the Ramblers policy or the adoption of a certain campaign, or it might be internal action such as promoting some new activity.
However, there may well be quicker and more efficient methods for an Area to get its concerns dealt with. Matters can be raised informally with an appropriate member of staff or a trustee (email email@example.com if you are not sure who to contact). Time at General Council meetings is limited, and it can often be more timely or effective for a matter to be raised directly with the board.
The role of the Motions Review Committee
The Motions Review Committee's responsibilities are limited to those Council sessions allocated to the debate of motions.
The committee comprises five members elected by the annual general meeting from members of the current General Council (or of the previous year’s council) plus two appointees from the board of trustees. Motions Review Committee members hold office for one year at a time but there is no limit to the number of years they can serve on the committee.
The committee decides in a fair and unbiased way the order in which the motions will be debated to ensure that, in the event of there being insufficient time to debate all the motions that have been submitted, those motions which the committee believes will be of greatest importance to council members will be considered.
Another role of the committee is to clarify poorly worded motions, to help to ensure better informed debate. Other powers are ruling out of order motions similar to those debated at either of the two previous AGMs unless the subject is topical, and compositing similar motions to make best use of the limited time available for debate.
Guidance on how to prepare a motion for General Council, along with more information about the process, is provided, and is included with the motion submission form.
Nominations for posts to be elected at the General Council AGM
Nominations for members of the board of trustees
At each year's General Council AGM trustees are elected to serve a three year term of office.
A candidate must have been an individual member of the Ramblers for at least 12 consecutive months as at the closing date for nomination. The only exception to this relates to candidates for the post of honorary treasurer, who are only required to be individual members from the date of the General Council AGM at which they are standing for election.
Candidates must be nominated by three individual members of the Ramblers who have been individual members for at least 36 consecutive months as at the closing date for nominations. No individual member may nominate more than one candidate for any position on the board of trustees for election at any General Council AGM.
Nominations for president and vice presidents
Apart from former presidents, who remain vice presidents for life unless they choose not to, these officers are elected annually for a term of one year, but are eligible for re-election. There is no limit on the number of vice presidents who may be elected.
There are no eligibility restrictions, although vice presidency is normally conferred on individuals who have given exceptional service to Ramblers over many years. The presidency is an honorary role and is focussed on internal support for volunteers, staff and members and externally, providing a figurehead for the organisation to external stakeholders and the general public.
Candidates need to be nominated by two current General Council members.
Nominations for members of the Motions Review Committee
At each year's General Council AGM five members are elected by Council to serve on the Motions Review Committee. Members are elected for a term of one year, but are eligible for re-election.
Candidates for the Motions Review Committee posts must either be Council members eligible to attend the General Council AGM at which they are proposed for election or have been council members during the previous year; persons who are continuing as members of, or standing for election to, the board of trustees are not eligible to stand for election to the Motions Review Committee.
Candidates must be nominated by two current General Council members. No individual member may propose or second more than one Motions Review Committee candidate for election at any General Council AGM.
General Council between annual general meetings
Under normal circumstances General Council is only called upon to act at the AGM. However council members retain that status throughout the year (unless they cease to be qualified, or are replaced by the Area or affiliated national organisation that nominated them). The board of trustees may decide, from time to time, to consult council members on an informal basis.
More formally, there are a number of other options for General Council to operate between AGMs which may be initiated either by the Board or by demand of a required proportion of Council members.
With thanks to John Esslemont for compiling this information.