2015 Yearbook

R E V I E W 13 CHAIR’S REVIEW MIKE BROWN, IHBC CHAIR It is with some foreboding that I approach the writing of this annual review. Have we done what we said we’d do at the beginning of the year? Have our charitable aims been met? Have the reasonable expectations of our members, that we drive forward with the corporate plan and advocate the case for conservation, been satisfied? This is year two of my chairmanship and many of the things I set out to do and the strategies devised a year ago with other trustees and our director are coming into play. We have, through our sustained membership figures and income (despite the recession) and the prudent use of budgets, been able to significantly expand the capacity of the national office. This has had a number of key outcomes, including our enhanced website, capacity for the development of a series of research and guidance notes, better communications with members including twice weekly NewsBlogs, membership surveys, and the strengthening of links between council and branches through our new Learning, Education, Training and Standards (LETS) officer. Council, in response to calls from members for greater opportunities for engagement with the institute, has completed the latest phase of our governance review, IHBC+. On an experimental basis, we have doubled the number of participants branches can send to attend council and expanded our Finance & Resources Committee to encompass our full board of trustees. In order to ‘meet’ more regularly a number of these meetings are being held digitally (as ‘F&R+’). Early signs are very encouraging with more regular and briefer meetings enabling trustees to deliver more timely decisions, as our fast-moving world requires. Ordinary physical meetings will also be held, which we will use to test proposals and engage more fully with key issues. The first is scheduled for the Sunday after our 2015 Annual School (21 June). Work is progressing towards a new five-year corporate plan (CP20) that will be put to the 2015 AGM for approval. This will be an evolution of the previous plan with many new threads of work that have developed in recent years. Council has populated the five-year action plan which will frame the efforts of the trustees and set priorities for action of the national office. One major and very welcome development over the past year has been the institute’s response to the reorganisation and decentralisation of planning and heritage in Northern Ireland with a revival of our branch there. Supported by our national office, new and more established active members are coming forward as volunteers and we very much look forward to a revitalised branch with strong roots in local government and local practices. Another highly significant development is the change to our membership structure. In response to feedback from membership surveys, we have redesigned our processes to help affiliates attain full membership. Key skills can now be acknowledged and ‘banked’ for up to five years under our Stepping Stones programme. Associates (as they will be known) can then concentrate on developing those skills areas which they may be finding it difficult to attain through training or work experience. Once in place, they can submit evidence relating to these skills to demonstrate that they have satisfactory skills across all four areas of competence (see page 10) and the necessary professional and personal qualities required for full membership. If you have not already embarked on this journey, look out for the ‘Roadshow’ that will be visiting branches to explain it. At the time of writing the general election looms large and we look forward to perhaps a more proactive relationship with the next government. Clearly, heritage has slipped significantly on the government priority sheet and we must, as a sector, step forward in June and re-engage with a number of key issues including the grave decline of capacity within local planning authorities; increased pressure on owners with the removal of VAT relief for works with listed building consent; the government’s deaf ear to calls for a lifting of VAT on the labour content in building contracts; and the treasury’s refusal to even acknowledge the evidence in favour of tax credits on heritage works. So what’s to do? The taxpayer will no longer sustain the future of our heritage. We must forge our own agenda (or a future government will force it upon us). As chair, I have been working with others across the conservation and archaeology sectors, looking to see where the reforms may lie that will get the system working again. The Historic Environment Forum for England is already showing a lead. New legislation is in the pipeline in Wales. More reform is expected from Scotland as the core heritage structures consolidate there, while governance in Northern Ireland is already changing. These are huge challenges and opportunities for the IHBC. We have lifted our game in the past year and we must keep doing so over the coming one if we are to re-establish the vital importance that heritage plays in the lives of the people of Britain. Join us. Mike Brown, chair@ihbc.org.uk