2014 Yearbook

R E V I E W 13 CHAIR’S REVIEW MIKE BROWN, IHBC CHAIR As I write this review yet more ‘exceptional’ bad weather is forecast, with the winds outside scattering fence panels like playing cards and large parts of the western counties under water. Weathering the storm seems to have become the norm and who now can doubt that climate change is upon us. That other great man-made storm, the near collapse of the banking system and subsequent recession, has been a huge challenge for many members, not only through the loss of a third of public sector jobs, but also the paucity of commissions and decent remuneration for private sector members. The IHBC has faced its own challenges in the last year and must meet others over the coming one. How are we to meet them? Well, firstly, by having a little faith. We have come a remarkably long way in our 15 years and can take comfort in knowing that we’re on the side of the angels. The innate sustainability of conservation, its embedded cultural memory and its commitment to the future gives it and us a quality that, to all but the most cynical and unthinking, makes our case irrefutable. Secondly, by understanding the cyclical nature of things. The tide may be out and resources dried up but they will return. The dominance of materialism and the worship of markets is, to me, the bane of our age; the cost to our well-being (and our heritage) is too great. Yet, we’ve been here before and things did improve. We press on in the hope of better times ahead. They will come. Thirdly, by recognising how we have grown and are now something of a victim of our success. Many organisations look to us for leadership and help – particularly if they are facing their own resourcing difficulties. But we can’t do it all. One of the hardest parts of being your chairman is setting priorities within the constraints of available resources. Our national office and our voluntary base can only do so much. All the institute’s officers, at branch and UK-wide levels, volunteer their free time to keep the IHBC going. I doff my cap to them. For all the difficulties, the IHBC has more than survived. Membership remains strong and the feared losses as the recession has dragged on have not materialised. Perhaps pride in belonging to this ‘club’ stirs us, or maybe it is just so obviously beneficial to be a member when so many job adverts require it. And for those contemplating taking the route to full membership through our new Stepping Stones programme, take the plunge, you won’t regret it. What are the coming challenges? Some are external, some self-generated. The biggest external one is the need to keep re-winning the case for heritage with national and local governments. We hear the glib words all too often, but rarely see the deeds. A key test will be to see whether the Treasury’s promises to sustain the funding for the new regulatory part of English Heritage (‘Historic England’) are kept. I will keep pushing to ensure that the IHBC builds its campaigning capacity, forges winning partnerships and brings in the expertise we need to win the argument. Survey after survey demonstrates overwhelming public support for our heritage and the work we do. Let’s get the politicians signed up too! Another major challenge will be the Scottish independence vote. As a UK body, responding to this, whichever way it turns, will require vision and judgement. But we are well-versed in the management of devolved issues in planning, so we have the right base from which to progress. And playing our role in the development of and support for the Heritage Bill for Wales and the far-reaching changes for government in Northern Ireland will keep us fully engaged. Internally, strengthening our voluntary base and our branches is a major issue. Much of what we achieve is thanks to your commitment at local level. We must also accept our growing maturity and the responsibilities it brings regarding our governance arrangements. Our president, Trefor Thorpe, the national office and our lawyers have been wrestling with this issue for months, looking at how best we can deliver our charitable aims, balance competing demands, ‘modernise’ and become a more democratic organisation, balancing central and local concerns. Finally, to ensure our priorities and decision- making remain vital and realistic, we need to agree the corporate plan for 2015–20. Our hard-won credibility hangs on successfully resolving such matters. Join in and have your say. I spend most nights writing columns, briefing notes or answering emails to keep things moving. But the IHBC is a team game, none of us is alone and I must acknowledge the wise counsel and encouragement of my predecessors, most immediately Jo Evans, together with Seán and his staff, without whom the challenges could easily become overwhelming. But with those challenges come the rewards of achieving things for something you believe in. As I said at the beginning, we are on the side of the angels. Keep the faith. Mike Brown, chair@ihbc.org.uk