Tuesday, December 1, 2009

RSPCA elections

Nominations for the RSPCA national council election open in January, and the deadline to join the society if you might be interested in standing for our local branch committee next year is close, so I thought I'd write something about the governing structure of the RSPCA.

If you're interested in helping to decide RSPCA policy, the first step is to become a member; you will be eligible to vote in RSPCA elections three months after your application has been processed. Members are also eligible to stand for election to their local branch committees, and this is probably the best way to get involved initially. (At present, the online application form seems not to be feeling well, so you might have to phone the number given on the page instead).

Branch committees are composed of volunteers and are elected each year at the branch Annual General Meeting. All RSPCA members living in the branch area are invited to this meeting and those who turn up vote to elect the new committee. Unless something very controversial has happened it's quite difficult to get enough people to stand to form a committee so AGM elections are more in the nature of a vote of confidence than a contested election. However they do mean that the membership could get rid of a committee that was doing a poor job (although they would then have to do the work of the people they'd ousted so they might be sorry in the long run!)

As well as running their own local facilities, branch committees can send representatives to their Regional Board and Local Animal Welfare Group; which are committees responsible for activities spanning the areas of a group of branches. They also have a collective vote in the election of Regional Representatives to the RSPCA's ruling council. The combined effect of this is to ensure that the Council has strong input from the people who are doing animal welfare work at grass roots level. This is important because of the ever present danger that leaders who are not in touch with what is actually happening on the ground will "fight the last war" — for example assuming that a major welfare problem is lots of unwanted healthy animals, rather than sick and injured animals whose owners can't or won't afford the cost of veterinary treatment.

The remainder of the governing council of the RSPCA are elected by postal vote of the whole membership. This election is usually fairly hotly contested and the candidates are mostly people who have come up from the branches (perhaps after a period as branch representatives on a Regional Board), or individuals with a national reputation for campaigning or welfare work.

If you might be interested in joining the Cambridge branch committee, email chairman@rspca-cambridge.org.uk. Most prospective candidates arrange to sit in on a few meetings before they decide whether they want to stand or not (but be aware that some meetings to discuss financial decisions have to be "closed" meetings where only elected members can be present). We usually hold our AGM towards the end of June and all members will receive an invitation a few weeks beforehand.

If you want to become more involved, please bear with us! I'm afraid that, because we're perpetually running about, we often give new people the impression that they're being ignored. This isn't done on purpose, so please keep turning up and you will find that it eventually becomes clearer. One thing we're hoping to organise in the future is a regular meeting for volunteers, so that it will be easier for people to find out what's going on, rather than being isolated doing just the clinic, shop, home-visits etc.

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