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Minutes of a meeting of Council held on Thursday 20th February 2003 at the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London.

Present:  the President Prof. A. R. Michell, Prof. J. Bleby, Mr. R. Ewbank, Mr. L. Gibson, Dr. M. Kerr, Mr. J. Oliver, Mr. A. Porter, Mr. H. Robinson, Mr. G. Tribe, Mr. B. Viner.

Apologies for Absence:  Mr. K. Meldrum, Mr. A. Muckle, Mr. M. Nelson.

Minutes of the previous meeting on 23rd January had been circulated and were approved.

Matters arising from the minutes not covered elsewhere:  none.

Correspondence:  Six emails from BVA on a variety of topics, including notification of 6 consultation documents, a press release on veterinary surveillance, several news digests, a campaign (by a member of the public) to reduce the VAT rate on veterinary fees, and yet another BBC quiz show.  These were all forwarded to members of Council and to those Fellows who had expressed an interest.

A letter received from Mr. J. Chitty, President of the Southern Counties Veterinary Society, soliciting donations for the Comparative Clinical Science Foundation, was passed to the Treasurer.  A letter was received from Mr. T. Greet, vice-president of BVA, requesting certain information regarding CVS.  The Hon. Secretary was authorised to deal with this as instructed by the meeting.  A copy of the RCVS consultation document regarding the review of the Veterinary Surgeons Act was also received.

President's report:  No report.

Secretary's report:  A report of the meeting on 24th January had been submitted to Off the Record.  A further letter regarding communication and consultation documents was sent as instructed to Jane Virgoe, together with a copy of the earlier (October) letter, but again no reply had been received.

Treasurer's report:  The Hon. Treasurer reported that he expected to have the accounts for the financial year ending 31st December 2002 by the end of February.  He warned that although the figures for that period would be satisfactory, he anticipated a significant shortfall in the current year.  This was largely attributable to there being 7 meetings (rather than 5 or 6) in the year, several meetings having multiple speakers (who all require to be fed), and the £30 dinner fee to Fellows not covering costs.  In addition, ten Victory medals had been purchased.  There was also the matter of the Society having a significant proportion of Retired Fellows, who pay a reduced membership subscription.

Prof. J. Bleby enquired as to whether the number of meetings should be restricted, and further discussion was agreed.  It was noted that invitations to speakers did not normally include an offer to pay expenses, but that a speaker who then requested reasonable expenses would be reimbursed.

There was some discussion regarding a donation from CVS to the CCSF.  It was pointed out that although any amount the Society might contribute would be almost negligible in the context of funding scientific research, major outside donors tend to look for evidence of internal commitment to such an enterprise, and in this context it was not the amount which was important but the ability of the CCSF to produce an impressive list of internal organisations which had shown such commitment.  The Treasurer pointed out that CVS funds had been built up and husbanded over many years, that we were facing a shortfall in 2003, and that it would be impossible to match the SCVS donation of £2,000.  Mr. B. Viner suggested that Fellows might be asked to contribute personally towards an appropriate donation, and that the sum raised might then be rounded up from CVS funds.  This proposal was agreed.

BVA Representative's report:  Prof. Bleby reported that although the trustees of the AWF were contract ually bound to consider the appointment of Mr. J. Baird in a consultancy rôle, the trustees had reported that they did not think they required the services of a consultant at this time.  It was proposed that the Hon. Secretary write to the Chairman of the Trustees (Mrs. Kate Kerr) to express the unanimous opposition of CVS Council to the appointment of Mr. Baird, should the services of a consultant be required at any time in the future.  Prof. Bleby agreed to draft such a letter.

Concern was expressed regarding the absence of effective BVA influence on the Government.  Mr. K. Meldrum had offered to assist the President in this area, but had been turned down.  It was agreed that CVS should formally propose Mr. Meldrum as a member of the Political Action Committee.

Mr. A. Porter expressed concern that a crisis was looming in the BVA as the honeymoon period neared its end.  Headquarters office staff appear to be undermanned and overloaded.  As the proposal for the appoint ment of a Temporary Chief Executive had been vetoed, internal staff were attempting to do everything themselves, which was not a recipe for effective operation.  There was little activity in the Governance and Management Project subgroup, with only one meeting having been held and no arrangements yet in place for a second.  Concern was mainly in the area of liability for actions of Divisions (cf. letter from Mr. Greet noted above), and wider issues were being ignored.  It was agreed that Prof. Bleby (liaising with Mr. Porter) would write to the President to express concern regarding the lack of progress since October, and also to enquire as to the progress of the Internal Audit Group's enquiries into financial affairs, particularly the matter of the nature and extent of use of BVA corporate credit cards in the three years up to October 2002.

Mr. G. Tribe raised the matter of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, and enquired as to whether it was possible for the BVA to lobby politicians on the matter.  Mr. Porter pointed out the benefits of being prepared to move very soon after the start of a new administration, in the event of any change of government, as this was a favourable period to influence the passage of a relatively uncontentious piece of legislation.

AWF Representative's report:  Mr. R. Ewbank reported that he was dealing with the correspondence.

Membership:  This currently stands at 90.  Dr. M. Kerr raised the matter of possible corporate membership of CVS, as being potentially the most fruitful of the suggestions put forward at the meeting on 10th October regarding increasing membership and attracting younger colleagues to meetings.  However, there were implications for our usual procedure of individual colleagues being proposed and elected to Fellowship of the Society.  It was agreed to put this item on the agenda for the March meeting.

Competition Commission:  The report of the Commission had still not been published, and the matter was deferred to the next meeting.

Any other business:  Mr. Porter reported that Mrs. Pat James had been injured in a road accident and was in hospital.  It was agreed that he should write to Mrs. James to express the Society's best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery, and reiterate our appreciation of the courage and independence she showed in connection with events leading up to October 2002.

Mr. M. Nelson arrived at 7.08 pm, having successfully avoided the new Congestion Charge.  He circulated copies of an email correspondence from earlier in the day which demonstrated (with examples) that it was possible for a Territorial Division of the BVA to refuse an application for membership (or Fellowship) of the Division.

Date, time and place of next meeting:  Thursday 20th March 2003 at 6.00pm at the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5ER.

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