Quoracy was always going to be an issue this year, and so it proved. A perfect storm has been brewing over the last twelve months with so many experienced officers deciding they've had enough; Sodexo begining the cull within CRCs; NPS staff feeling exposed and vulnerable; growing disillusionment with Napo leadership; low morale generally and finally withdrawal of facility time for attendance. Put like this, a case could be made for saying it was remarkable just how many members decided to turn up.
From what was said during the tetchy closing session on Saturday morning, it would appear that certain mightily disgruntled and influential people are going to try and question whether the AGM was ever quorate on the Friday afternoon. I'm pretty sure I heard an unphased Chris Pearson say from the Chair that any challenge should have been made at the time, but sadly I think this is just likely to inflame the obviously difficult relationship between London Branch and the top table.
I think it's clear that the redoubtable Pat Waterman, Chair of London Branch, arrived at Eastbourne an angry person and harbouring unresolved feelings arising from her unsuccessful application to become a National Rep. That whole business is a somewhat difficult can of worms in itself, the suspicion being that certain hidden agendas were being played out, but in the absence of transparency and openness, members are often left to try and make sense of things as best they can through rumour and social media. Coupled to this of course is the ever-present matter of the individual egos of those involved.
It should be obvious to everyone that holds the union dear that it's in none of our interests to be in a state of inquoracy, or indeed to muddy the water further by attempting to pursue a challenge after the event. To put it bluntly, it suited Pat Waterman to hear that quoracy had been achieved on Friday afternoon when she mounted her challenge to a particular section of the Annual Report. A ballot was held and the challenge was endorsed, thus reversing a decision of the NEC to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
It's my understanding that the issue has been discussed twice at previous AGMs resulting in defeats for affiliation each time. However, it appears that the NEC is able to make such decisions in between AGMs if properly approached and supported, leaving subsequent endorsement to be achieved if the Annual Report is adopted at the AGM. There's clearly a couple of lessons to be learnt here, not least the necessity to read the Annual Report carefully before being tempted to just vote it through nem con.
It would appear that those who were keen to ensure that Napo remained affiliated to the Palestinian cause were anxious that it be debated fully at the AGM, hence the relevant motions, and indeed so was Pat Waterman, but circumstances ultimately conspired to ensure this aim was thwarted when a ballot recount was announced the following day. So, not only has the matter not been debated fully, but Napo remains affiliated to the PSC and the Annual Report unadopted until the next AGM in 2016.
Of course, to say the least, it was embarrassing to hear that the rushed count had gone awry and in fact the challenge to part of the Annual Report had been heavily defeated, but these things can and do happen. But to be honest it's still unedifying to see the Chair of what is the largest Napo branch so publicly take her bat home, leading some of her members out of the hall, having also been defeated in her attempt to stop discussion of any motions during inquoracy.
Despite being inquorate by the order of 60, the over-whelming view of the meeting was to continue with business by discussing motions, even if they would only be indicative and at best referred back to the next NEC. I have to say I find it disappointing and some-what mean-spirited not to have respected this view, but I suspect it's just another example of a long-running and sour power struggle between the largest Napo branch and the top table.
To say all this is unfortunate would be a considerable understatement and leaves me with an over-whelming urge to bang heads together, but in all probability this feud will continue to cause unnecessary deflection from rather more important matters such as trying to save what's left of our profession. All that stuff about the need for unity from the two POA speakers went clearly unheeded.
The cynics would say that only Napo could fail to see the supreme irony of getting to discuss a motion entitled 'The Future of Napo' at 12.50pm on the final day and only then because London Branch had gone home early leaving nobody to propose their motion. Actually the cynical would have a field day in noting that the proposer of the final motion admitted not having prepared a speech at all and it subsequently proved to be the only motion not to be passed 'nem con' for referral to the NEC!
Still, at least the meeting decided to authorise the NEC to challenge Sodexo's barmy idea of moving all their CRC staff and clients into shared open-plan offices with just waist-high partitions intended to provide adequate privacy. It's yet another indication of how little these 'cooks' understand our business and the risks involved.
Finally, it was good to hear a very supportive Lord Falconer confirming what we all know regarding our shabby treatment at the hands of the Tory government, together with the constant changes we've had to endure over the last 30 or so years. He will prove to be a good friend and a powerful, authoritative voice in our defence and not surprisingly gained a well-deserved standing ovation.