Continuing CCCBR Reforms

There were three main areas which remained unfinished business after the votes to implement the CRAG proposals in 2017. These were:

  1. Develop plans to allow membership of the Council to be opened up to all ringers (as a “Direct Membership Organisation”) 
  2. Review the branding of the Council 
  3. Develop proposals to make the Annual Meeting of the Council more effective, including considering the feasibility of reducing the size of the representative body to 25-40% of its (at that time) size. 

At the 2020 AGM it was agreed to take these forward.

An extensive consultation was held in the autumn of 2020. Over the course of 16 meetings via Zoom, consultees were invited to consider the issue of direct membership as well as the size of the representative body and the branding of the Council – and ringing in general. Those involved included CC reps, leaders of local guilds and associations, young ringers (school age and 18-25 year olds) and even some of the former CRAG team. 

The feedback from those consultations can be found in the update that was published in November on the second tab at the top of this page.

This was followed by a survey sent to the 1,000 ringers who are subscribed to the CC news emails. This is summarised and then the comments received have been curated onto the December update which can be found on the third tab at the top of this page.

Some ringers gave the issues a great deal of thought and wrote very well considered emails directly to the review team. As with the rest of the consultations there were greatly differing views but we have captured some of the content of these emails are available on the Email responses tab.

In July, a follow up consultation was specifically with regard to the options for reducing the size of the Council, as this had received most consensus during the earlier consultations. The results of that consultation can be found on the Survey results tab.  

Overall the consultation to that point can be summarised as follows:

Direct Membership Organisation
This was perhaps the most eye catching recommendation of the original CRAG proposals and one that at the time of their proposal divided opinion quite strongly. As an initial step a regular newsfeed to any ringers who were interested was set up and some 1,000 or so ringers are subscribed. .

While there was support for the idea of having a way of being “a member of bellringing” as a unified entity, there was no strong support for direct membership of the Council itself and no consensus on what a direct membership organisation might look like or do. An inevitable by-product of the discussions was comment about the strengths and weaknesses of the guilds and associations with a common message being that they need to reflect honestly on how effectively they are dealing with the challenges facing ringing. Some were felt to be doing well but many other seemed resistant to change or lacking in momentum from low numbers of active members or leaders.

The one area where there is stronger support for a national body or something that supplements existing guilds and associations is in the development of change ringing. This comment gives an example of the thinking:

“If a New National Ringing Society is to be formed it must have at its heart the creation of opportunities where aspiring talented people, particularly youngsters recruited by and trained by Tower Captains (assisted where appropriate by ART), are able to achieve their highest potential as ringers (particularly in change ringing and striking).  I suppose another way to think of this is that a New Ringing Society would make the retention of those ringers with ambitions the main reason for its existence. 

It is the aspiring ringers who are the seed corn for the future and it will take a lot of effort by the active ringers in the Exercise to turn the tide of disinterest and apathy in their training.  A New National Ringing Society with the right objectives, providing a strong framework and a progressive development plan, is almost essential to this.

It will be local leading ringers who will have to give their time to implement the plan.  It will need cooperation, competence and compromise among these ringers and with some selfishness and elitism will also have to be overcome.  However, given the right plan there are still enough good ringers around to make it work.”

Review the branding of the Council

During CRAG the question of rebranding the Council was really only about rebranding the existing organisation. During these consultations it became a much broader question about rebranding a central ringing organisation, with direct membership or not. It was agreed that no one starting now would come up with “Central Council of Church Bell Ringers”, nor indeed most of the names of our current territorial associations.

There are a number of examples where rebranding a representative body, has been transformational for that activity in terms of membership growth or funding. The rebranding of the National Federation of Music Societies as “Making Music” was considered with interest but a name that works everywhere is difficult. In North America the term bellringing is first and foremost associated with tune ringing on handbells rather than change ringing. “Ringing World” would be a good name if it wasn’t already taken! 

However in the absence of support for a direct membership organisation there seems little point in changing the name of the Council and little to be gained from doing so. It would only make sense if there was a change in structure. There isn’t enough appetite for a dramatic change as certain other organisations, such as Making Music or British Cycling, have done, despite the fact that in those cases the result was much greater participation and funding. 

There was good support for the idea of a single website template that would enable all (or as many as want to) territorial association websites to be consistent in terms of style and content, easier to administer and keep up to date, but also present a more unified and professional message to the outside world. At the moment we have at least 65 webmasters trying to maintain association websites, ranging from the very good and keen to the reluctant and under-resourced. 

It was a particular comment of the young ringers that too much of the contact information for towers is unreliable.

Out of this we are looking to take forward a piece of work looking at the marketing of bell ringing generally. This is at an early stage but will hopefully address the general perception of ringing and ringers by the public and the place of ringing in communities as well as how to target those people who might be interested in learning to ring. It will build on work done with Reading University and led by John Harrison and Rob Parker which resulted in the ‘Resound’ concept, which was very good but remained unimplemented. It is already showing its age, hence the need to review and update.

Consider the representation on the Council

From the broad consultation exercise, there was no support for continuing with as many members as we currently have or for requiring them to go to the AGM. One or a maximum of two was thought to be adequate, but ideally as part of an event that included the ‘roadshow’ or conference elements from the Goldsmiths meeting in London 2019 which would attract a wider group.

On that basis a consultation was raised with representatives and leaders of affiliated societies. This consultation was given a short timescale as we wanted to know if there was consensus of opinion worthy of a motion at this year’s Council meeting. While a majority were in favour of change (19/27 who responded) and only three were actively opposed, sufficient respondents felt either that this was not the time to focus on structural reform within the Council or else that there had been insufficient time for a proper consultation. 

Much was learned from this quick consultation, and a distillation of comments is presented on the Survey Results tab. What was clear was that it was not really possible to consider the size of the Council without also considering the issue of affiliation fees, and this was a matter with complex and often conflicting considerations. It would need a separate and detailed consultation, and this will be considered at the Annual Meeting. 

A National Membership body for young ringers

Whilst not seeing particular value to them of being in a national or international body as opposed to being members of their local association, there was a very positive reaction to the possibility of some form of national youth ringing society, which they saw as having very strong benefits. This could make young ringers much more aware of how many and where other young ringers are, increase communication and mutual support, and help transition post-school either into university ringing or a different tier of the same society.

While for many keen young ringers, going to university is a time when their ringing career takes off, this transition point is actually the one where are large number of ringers are lost, as they either fail to connect with local ringers, or get presented with other opportunities. Addressing this issue is a key focus of the Council’s two Workgroups focused on young ringers.

This was such a strong proposition that further meetings were organised to explore this more fully and see how it can be made to happen. Matt Jerome took the lead on it, with a team of young ringers, supported by Colin Newman as Schools and Youth Workgroup Leader. After months of planning, the Young Change Ringers Association is due to come into existence at the Ringing World National Youth Contest.

Progress report – 18 November 2020

We have had sixteen consultation events to this point. Eleven of these have been primarily attended by Council members, covering virtually all the affiliated societies.

The discussions have all been held over Zoom, with the number of attendees ranging from eight to fifteen, including three CC Executive members (Alison Everett, David Kirkcaldy, Simon Linford). 75 members have taken part in total and we think we have received a good representation of opinion.

More recently we have had two sessions with more recent recruits to ringing, including some who learned to ring as a result of the Ringing Remembers campaign. We have had two sessions with groups of school age ringers, and have had the first of two sessions with slightly older young ringers. We have three more consultation sessions left.

A survey has been produced that will shortly be sent to all the direct subscribers to the Central Council, and then will be made available more widely. We have also received some direct contributions by email and read the extensive debate that has taken place on social media and email lists. 

We aim to conclude this research by the end of November as initially planned, before analysing all the input we have received and presenting the findings, some of which are presented below. 

Direct membership

The majority of the discussion has been on the first of the three questions posed – the merits or otherwise of direct representation or of a direct membership organisation (DMO). This is the concept of ringers being members of a central ringing organisation in much the same way as they might be members of other national and international organisations and societies such as Ramblers, CAMRA or the National Trust. Critical to this question is

  • What is the role of the existing associations in such a structure?
  • If it were desirable, is it actually possible to get there?

At its most basic, direct membership is about establishing a direct communication channel with ringers, and that was done a while ago. Over 1000 ringers now get news emails directly from the Council rather than waiting for the traditional ‘cascade’ of information through associations by registering on the website.

However this discussion has been about something far greater.

About 80% of consultees have seen the benefit in some form of direct membership organisation, with new branding. Note this is not necessarily about being a direct member of the CCCBR because it would no longer be a Council as such – it is about being a direct member of “Bellringing”, which itself would have some form of executive body as we have now. That is not about doing away with territorial associations – the value of local organisation is universally acknowledged. This organisation, which is referred to as the “DMO” only because no one has come up with the best name for it yet (the CRAG report https://cccbr.org.uk/crag_full_report_final_for_web/ referred to it a Central Ringing Organisation (CRO), could collect subscriptions centrally even if some of that then gets passed back down to local organisations, although another option suggested is that local association would collect more subscriptions and pass some up, if the DMO’s value and activities were clear.

A number of benefits are seen in this, and they are shown in the table below along with the arguments in favour of the status quo.

Arguments put forward in favour of a direct membership organisationArguments supporting the status quo
Some people are not affiliated to any territorial associations and are hence underservedEveryone should be affiliated to their local association in order to support it (extreme minority view)
There aren’t any such people
Difficulty in communicating with all ringersIt might be even worse because a lot of people would not affiliate to a DMO
Some territorial associations are failing their members and providing limited supportSome are very good, and how would a DMO be any better given it needs local activity
This is what you would have if you designed a ringing organisation from scratchBut we aren’t designing it from scratch – we are where we are
Better access to information on ringing activities in neighbouring areas (quite common to find people being a member of multiple associations for this reason) 
A better centralised comms system could enable members to subscribe to location based and ringing level informationSome associations are working on this
Centralised collection of subscriptions which would reduce the burden on treasurers – some (maybe equivalent to current subs less insurance) would be passed back to associations It could be the other way round – collect a bit more locally and pass some up. People are more likely to subscribe to something they can see clearly
Duplicated expenditure across multiple associations, particularly on insurance 
Better external branding would be possibleThere is something nice and traditional about old ‘Guild’ names (small minority view)
Potential to bundle in a number of services for instance insurance and The Ringing World 

If we were to develop a DMO, the questions to consider include:

  • What kind of services and opportunities might potential members want that they are not already getting?
  • What would cause ringers to join?
  • How can we segment the audience and include the vast majority or ringers who are only really interested in very local activities, and those who are actively engaged with ringing further afield and developing their ringing?
  • What would be the unique selling point of the DMO be? Could it perhaps bundle in insurance and The Ringing World into an overall membership fee? (Note that bundling in the RW is not within the Council’s gift – that would need to be agreed with the Board of the RW)
  • Could it be achieved if it was a transition over time?

We have considered what people might be prepared to pay for such a membership. Similar membership organisations charge from £30-£100 a year but ringers are used to getting their ringing for next to nothing, largely because we provide a service to the church and hence get to use the bells for free, but also because ringing has been built on a culture of volunteering.

Might people subscribe more to a central organisation out of pure altruism, because they believe that a properly funded body could achieve a lot to promote and sustain ringing?

“Just make me a member of a national body, with insurance and The Ringing World thrown in, and make sure it does a proper job. It’s a no brainer.”

Branding

The consultations have also considered the question of branding of the Council or of the ‘DMO’. No branding expert or marketeer would come up with “Central Council of Church Bell Ringers”, but then they also would not come up with any of the names of our currently territorial associations, some of which have up to ten words in them not including the word bell!

The rebranding of the National Federation of Music Societies as “Making Music” has been considered with interest – they changed their externally-facing name 20 years ago (the legal entity name is still the same) to simply reflect what their members do. Our equivalent might be “Ringing Bells”.

A name that works everywhere is difficult. In North America the term bellringing is first and foremost associated with tune ringing on handbells rather than changeringing. “Ringing World” would be a good name if it wasn’t already taken! The less said about “Bells ‘R’ Us” the better…

There has been good support for the idea of a single website template that would enable all (or as many as want to) territorial association websites to be consistent in terms of style and content, easier to administer and keep up to date, but also present a more unified and professional message to the outside world. At the moment we have at least 65 webmasters trying to maintain association websites, ranging from the very good and keen to the reluctant and under-resourced. It was a particular comment of the young ringers that too much of the contact information for towers is unreliable.

Young Ringers

Young ringers were by and large well served by their territorial associations whilst recognising that in some places there were not very many young ringers. Some were surprised that there wasn’t an overall membership organisation as they are used to in other things they do, and felt ringing was worse for that. They saw a lack of coordination between all the different groups organising things – a fragmented picture. 

Whilst not seeing particular value to them of being in a national or international body as opposed to being members of their local association, there was a very positive reaction to the possibility of some form of national youth ringing society, which they saw as having very strong benefits. This could make young ringers much more aware of how many and where other young ringers are, increase communication and mutual support, help transition post-school either into university ringing or a different tier of the same society. 

This was such a strong proposition that further meetings have been organised to explore this more fully and see how it can be made to happen. This has been an unexpected bonus to come from this process that we hadn’t expected, but could be highly significant.

Size of the Council

The final question under consideration has been the size of the Council, number of members / Reps, and need for them to attend the AGM.

There hasn’t been any support for needing as many members as we currently have or requiring them to go to the AGM. One or a maximum of two has been thought to be adequate, but that a form of meeting that included the ‘roadshow’ or conference elements from the Goldsmiths meeting in London 2019 were valuable, especially if combined with a shorter AGM with fewer than 100 members needing to attend.

The Executive is already considering whether the Nottingham meeting in 2021 can combine physical and virtual participation.

Next Steps

The team will complete the last few scheduled consultations through to the end of November. There is still time to contribute to that if this is something you are particularly interested in or have a view on. Please send emails to consultations@cccbr.org.uk

After that, the team will start to analyse all we have learned and report in the new year.

Progress report – updated 31st December 2020

The current Central Council consultation is being carried out by three members of the Executive; Simon Linford, Alison Everett and David Kirkcaldy

Phase two of the consultation on any future changes to the Central Council has now ended and we are looking at the results. The two phases completed so far comprise a series of zoom meetings with representative members of the Central Council and other interested parties. Details of that consultation phase and some of the questions asked can be found on the 18th November progress report which can be found here.

This was followed by a survey sent out to over 1000 ringers who had previously signed up to receive email news updates. We are grateful to Elva Ainsworth for managing the survey, we are aware some had problems in completing this and we attempted to sort out any hiccups as they were flagged up to us.

One thing that has been stated is that ‘What is clear is that a lot isn’t clear’. There have been some ideas which the majority supported, unfortunately there are more that have opposing views. This has been highlighted even at an Association or District level, where one ringer believes that everything is rosy whilst others consider their local set up is at least failing them.

In the survey there were some areas for free text to be added and whilst many just commented they thought nothing needed to change there were some interesting comments. The first set of comments below is those made in respect of how to improve the organisational structure of ringing (or why to leave it alone). You will see on reading them what a difficult task it is to find any sort of consensus! 

There are then a second set of comments from when respondents were asked to comment on their local circumstances and the effectiveness of their own branches and associations. It is fortunate that this is anonymised as it makes for painful reading in most cases. Again there were a number of recurring themes, mainly highlighting the need for more training, especially at a basic level, and better communication. Some were glowing in their praise of what was being offered to them, a few stated that their local Guild offered them nothing. Many wanted targeted recruitment in an attempt to change the age profile of the ringing community, pitched against this a few people mentioned that the events should be geared towards more mature ringers as there were no younger ringers in their area.

We now have a lot of information to digest, we hope to have this completed early in 2021 when we will undertake further consultation if required, particularly if there are some clear choices to be made. We would like to make this consultation as far ranging as possible to get views across the spectrum of ringers, it is, however, a problem communicating with more than the interested minority. 

Top Comments

Centralise budgets. Centralise the production of newletters. Have standardised Annual Reports in same format nationally, in digital format. Biggest expenditure of most Guilds is an paer based Annual Report that is barely read by the members or referred to! Less focus on bell restoration. Primary focus should be on ringing events/practices – hot housing certain ringers/bands and tower captains. Nurturing those who have enthusiasm and leadership skills and supporting them- being surgically precise and mercenary to keep good bands thriving as centres of excellence in each county – especially away from the cities where it only takes a few to leave/die for a band to start to collapse or drop from ringing at high level to a low level. Focus to support recruitment/training/retention – build the base.
supportive network/pool of members to lend help to local associations. Help to break down area boundaries
I feel there is real value in some of the localised training organised by local associations and branches and that they should remain while it continues. But, my association and branch seems to be stuck in the past with no real interest in change or new initiatives, which is an area in which the CC seems to be particularly strong at the moment. Given the age profile of those on the execs and those who attend meetings, I’m not sure that these local organisations will continue to be viable for much longer.
In my view we still need Associations but there should be better a means to improve collaboration between towers that close to each other but not in the same Association.
I think there’s value in belonging to a group at 3 levels: Your local tower A larger geographic area A national/worldwide body I don’t think the local tower level is in any doubt, and this is where the majority of ringers’ week-to-week interaction is. The “larger geographic area”, i.e. territorial Associations/Guilds is the harder one. There is value in organising things at a regional level and fostering local contacts. The Associations do a lot of good work and are have a much more intimate knowledge of what’s happening in individual towers/areas than it would be possible for a top level body to have. I think the answer is somewhere between “replacing all structures” and “running alongside the current structure” but neither of those are in themselves the right answer. I think if you were to start again with the structure of ringing you would belong to a tower and a national/worldwide body. The national/worldwide body would then also provide, as part of its services, a regional level of local organisation, perhaps largely staffed by volunteers. For what its worth I’m in an Association that doesn’t have branches, there’s just towers & the Association and I think that works well. I think adding branches into the hierarchy puts too many levels between the grass-roots ringer and the CCCBR/Direct Membership Body
The association/guild model of organisation is, or should be, critically important to the health of ringing. It is essentially a grassroots activity for the vast ringing population and the local tower and district are the elements that most people relate to. The CCCBR needs to ask ‘what can i do to help the grassroots’. The dedicated peal ringers etc will always support their own activities, its the rest of the population that needs help.
Current associations do a good job, but CCCBR too remote for individual ringers, need to improve communications in both directions between top and bottom of ringing organisations
I would like to see direct membership coupled with reforming of Guilds and Associations into a more flexible structure with up to about 20 towers so that a ringer has the option to choose which group to join
some guilds are excellent, others are frankly comatose and worse than useless as their presence inhibits creativity in problem solving. CCCBR is, by comparison, on the ascendant and is trying to think in a C21 manner. So I would be happy for more influence to flow to the centre now, less to be held remotely. That is what is taking place in reality, in any case, so the structures may as well reflect it.
I think post lock down the traditional geographic associations will need to be modernised. Direct central membership would assist this with different ringing hubs. Currently many towers have a few ringers but, do not ring as a collective
Local links are critical in getting people involved and local events set up. If we can supplement those with national training and campaigns for recruitment then fantastic.
It’s a sad fact that some Associations/Guilds are a lot better than others, either in all respects or in some (i.e. it’s quite possible for Assoc. A to be better than Guild B in one respect, but worse in another). As someone who lives near a border and rings regularly in the territory of two Associations, plus occasionally a third, the fact that I have to choose which one to join (or to join more than one) makes very little sense. We need a single membership body, with the existing Associations/Guilds (in whatever form they take on) offering their current range of training, etc. to all-comers, including those living “on the wrong side of the border” without them first needing to join yet another organisation.
I think the association structure is outdated. you get very little value for money unless you have the time and enthusiasm to attend all the local events. Area groups still have a role to play, but county event can be difficult to attend and regional events (as long as they more around a bit) would be just as useful. I have not been a member of the local association for at least a decade, I am still a listed as a member of the association where I grew up and only ring once every year or so, why, because they have insurance. My local tower captain has the view that insurance is stupid as it encourages poor ringing, I think that this is an idiots point of view, it is import in this current litigious UK society. while most ringers are sound folks, the parent of youngster who may be learning might not be… and in the very rare case of a disablement from an accident it is just prudent planning against loss of income. I think that this is the greatest roll thank the central council can provide, bringing ringers together to get cost effective and worthwhile insurance cover and proving the training/training structure necessary to ensure the we never need to use it. There should also be two tier of member, full member and insurance only member at bare minimum cost, all ringers should be included, even if the local church or tower covers the insurance membership on their behalf. Should this not be the aim of national organization? Safety and representation? not bickering about peal records and other fairly pointless rules in the long run….
I am yet to be convinced that the average ringer would be interested in direct membership but would be happy to be proved wrong.
I do not envisage central membership replacing territorial or non-territorial societies, but rather working in partnership. There is currently a great deal of unfounded hype about the ineffectiveness of territorial societies; if this is repeated often enough, people start to believe it!
Where current associations and districts are functioning well, local structures are preferable for many but not all things. Where they are not functioning, a national organisation would be useful. In other cases, a combination would be good, with things like ART courses.
I believe that something has to change to keep ringing alive for future generations and my local association seems hellbent on infighting about keeping the status quo, which to be quite honest, I haven’t missed a bit during lockdown!
Locally, our branch of our association is doing well, but the next district has very few active ringers and towers now. This diversity means fundamentally different strategies are needed for ringing to re-emerge, and it’s not a given it will sadly.
It’s almost 50 years since I first commented that “the associations have presided over a slow decline in ringing” – perhaps I’ve been unlucky in having lived in areas with poor and ineffective (but self-important) ringing associations / guilds. Some are better now (thankfully), but others are still inert, ineffective, reactionary and (yes, this is true) actually obstructive or destructive. I can understand local loyalty. I realise there are many who think the existing structures worth “keeping going”. I don’t think that replacing local associations is a realistic possibility – nor, to some extent, is reform from within (many have tried and failed ). I would like to see a structure whereby those falling outside (or just opting out from) the traditional structures have an alternative pathway – and direct membership offers that. Also, ringing (the activity) or more important than its organisations (which have no automatic entitlement to exist if they are failing to meet their objectives). The Council has been woefully inward looking for too long. At last we have a body wanting to take a strategic overview and engage with the wider world – representing and negotiating for ringing in a visible and meaningful way. I want to support and be part of that.
Our local Association, which I have served/am serving in various capacities, is small but vibrant and busy. Even this year. About 25% of members usually join in activities, with social activities and focused training attracting the most. Online only about 10%. I think the silent majority support in order to access a) the tower fund, b) personal accident insurance, c) the Annual Report. Most ringers would resent ‘interference’ in their local Association, but if it is not providing good service local members should be encouraged to take their officers to task. All ringers should certainly be encouraged to think about what they expect/want from their local Association, but how to reach them?
running alongside existing structures, THAT WILL NEED REFORM THEMSELVES. One national focus for membership, standards, opportunities and communication with local Guilds and Districts getting on with the practical tasks of organising local hubs, training and the service of ringing to the community
Value to me of any association is in the local activities and contacts. Some things are needed at national level and some can perhaps be helped from a national level – but the core activity naturally remains with local towers and groups of towers.
I feel sweeping current structures away regardless of their effectiveness would be too much to expect. If the new body is effective existing structures will be absorbed over time.
I am worried about the future of the associations if control is centralised. I see a need for reform, but not of a form that would have a negative effect on local arrangements. I believe in the grassroots. I realise that no-one wants to damage these grassroots, but fear that they might unintentionally.
Local Guild hasn’t changed with the times – it’s objectives would need overhauling. The only benefits I get from it are insurance (would be cheaper if done centrally) and some training courses. So long as these two items were picked up by a central organisation I don’t see why we need a guild. I personally still see the need for some local organisation, but slightly smaller than the branch which we are currently part of.
The current system of local branches feels far too complex and is too dependant on local champions so therefore the quality and breadth of what is offered is too much of a “postcode lottery”
I am pleased after years of going on about it reality is starting to dawn at The Top of the Shop. I wish I could say the same about ringing locally which seems to be stuck in the late 19th century and is slowly sinking out of sight.
Creating a central umbrella would be good, incorporating as much as possible as “divisions” – a Central Council of Associations; Ringing World; ART; Whiting Society; online resources. There is too much overlap at present, with the same people involved but under different organisations. Bringing all together to work together and share resources offers the prospective of improving all, especially if combined with creating a national ringing centre that houses as much as possible (library, museum, RW office, ART etc).
I think organisation at a local level will continue to be needed but it may be that the real work is done at a level smaller than the current associations. I think it will be the CCCBR which will need to change or be replaced. Something at a national (even international) level will be needed for record keeping and as a maintainer of method collections and which hopefully can provide those things which are best achieved aggregated, such as insurance.
I stopped paying subs to my local association when I became very dissatisfied about how the finances were managed and how little interest there was in reforming things like district boundaries. Living in the corner of a county and having two other territorial associations close by, I see how much benefit there would be if there were no association boundaries and ringers were more informed about all that was happening within a reasonable radius of where they lived.
I get huge social and practice value from locally-organised events and training in the district, and some in the county. In a direct-membership-only organisation, the locally-organised events would continue to be what provided me most value, so the existing Association-based model puts the emphasis where it should be for me. The CCCBR had small (but positive) impact upon me until COVID, at which point the centrally-organised government/C of E liaison has been indispensable, and I’m most grateful to those involved. This beautifully illustrated the need for a central body, but I don’t think makes a case for a takeover of local activities. Having been a member of the National Trust for many years, I wouldn’t like to move ringing to that model of a very anaemic/practically invisible regional organisation. Most of our towers would do nothing if the district wasn’t keeping a lively programme going. I think there is scope for slight expansion of the CCCBR to cover administrative areas such as insurance and legal advice, where real specialist knowledge and/or scale is needed, but that’s all.
I like having local associations, but joining the association should be like joining any club that also has a national body. Local administration and activities will always also be valuable to me, but having a national body to join is very important too.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (yet)

Comments on effectiveness of branches and associations…

There is an image problem that needs addressing which is long overdue. The association is of very little relevance to the average tower and Sunday service band (those who ring mostly call changes and perhaps simple methods e.g. bob doubles). The General Meetings appear to be the preserve of the Elite, with too much emphasis on peals and striking competitions. Many of my band would love to be able to make progress but feel intimidated in the presence of advanced ringers.
Membership taking more interest
Looking towards the future and how local ringing can remain viable. How to attract recruits, ideas like forming clusters, ringing schools etc
I get lots from local branch but very little from the association the branch is in. (I’m the branch sec, so it is a case of nothing much from the centre, rather than it not being passed on!)
People moan and want something different but don’t want to step up and do it. Things they suggest have often been tried before and haven’t worked, even with the person requesting it not attending.
I have to say that I have strong connections with two Guilds and both are very good, but in their own ways. They do things differently, but what they do is good. I wouldn’t change a thing. Don’t try to change things because a few youngsters think it would be good. Splitting into smaller Associations and smaller units within, where adjoining or distance units can meet and work together without being tied . So a unit might have relationships with a number of units not necessarily in the same geographical area
Devolve some of the finance (subscription income) from Association level to Branch level to support Branch events. Reorganise the subdivision of Associations into more practical and useful geographical areas for their Branches/Districts.
I should confess that I’m the district chairman! We do what we can with local training initiatives and we have re-imagined what a district event ought to look like with some success if measured by attendance. The number of ringers has declined and the number of competent ringers in the area has declined even more quickly making it difficult to deliver the higher end events that keep people interested. We have a lot of ringers at the call change / PB doubles stage who don’t want any more and wont come to anything where there is a risk of more
They are all run by older generations who are stuck in their ways and it seems like an impenetrable way of doing things. Although friendly, it seems too old-fashioned And bureaucratic so I don’t want to get involved.
Needs a stronger functional base rather than the geography base structure currently in place. People need more support, ideas, encouragement etc. Too much time is spent arguing that “someone somewhere should be doing something” while giving no support to do so.
The only relevance that my local association has is branch practices and training sessions. all other functions could and should be transferred to a national organization. More involvement to allow more events and greater engagement with local ringers. The trick is finding out if the local ringer don’t want it, or is something else putting them off.
The effectiveness of a Branch and of a Guild depends to a very great deal on the initiative and energy of the leaders (chairman/woman, secretary, ringing master/mistress etc). An enthusiastic and active team tends to attract more of the same, and vice versa. My own Guild and Branch has, in the last several years and in my opinion, lost its momentum in this respect. It probably will not be fixed until the next charismatic leader comes along.
Guilds and Associations are of little value – locally run groups based on location/ hubs with direct membership is the way forward
I wish more ringers/towers would take part in Branch activities but how one achieves that I haven’t yet discovered
Better communication structures with individual members rather than through unreliable tower secretaries. More openness about what goes on a County level with individual districts. Allowing training to happen at district level rather than insisting on it being open at County level given the size of the county.
A robust action plan for recruitment and retention. Helping ringers of all abilities with tailored workshops. Encourage towers, deaneries, branches, counties to say what is working well for them. Excursions and outings are becoming too expensive along with falling number of ringers. Areas will need to work together on a range of issues and Associations can assist in bringing towers together.
Would not know where to start. If they listened to other opinions that would be a start. Learning the mantra ‘ if you do what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got ‘ no good moaning that towers don’t get involved if you aren’t prepared to listen to the reasons why. I would rather a committee that could only ring Plain hunt at best but knew about management than experts that haven’t a clue about managing people. Every time I try to offer some advice I get all but ignored. My Tower is doing well and is all but independent.. The branch is doing what it has always done…Badly.
Local branch organises valuable local ringing, our Association doesn’t organise ringing and had become a talking shop. Local ringing needs to follow best practice; unfortunately local practices can be frustrating when run poorly. Ringing masters need training on running a productive practice.
I’m not sure how much scope Associations / Branches have to be able to “do things differently”. What is needed is for more Association Members to become Active Association Members. Only then will Associations and their Branches get the opportunity to do something different.
Stop trying to act like it’s still a ‘respectable’ 1960s bell ringing club and become a vibrant and exciting association. My association has made a lot of changes in recent years and has come a long way – I intend on supporting it through more developments. Some association stuff works, such as method ringing in active areas, and others don’t. I hope my association will continue to remove the old system which bases members on who they are, which part of the county they’re from, and who they know, but instead not letting silly traditional ‘this is the way we do it’ rules get in the way of building an active and worthwhile membership base.
In our case there are just too many local branches so organizing events is a struggle and many are only attended by a faithful hardcore of members. Organizing on a more regional basis could facilitate a diversity of events ranging from those aimed at “social ringers” to the opportunity for those at the top end of spliced surprise.

Size of the Council

I’ve been ringing since the very early 90s. From all of the AGMs’ I went to in the [Association/District], I never got the impression that these ‘CC reps’ were technically at the top of the tree and voting for ringings future. None of them ever had a mandate to vote one way or the other, and, like someone else said on the call, positions remained vacant and rarely ever was there a contested election for (any) guild/association post let alone the CC rep that no one knew what it did. Often Joe Bloggs filled the position who perhaps didn’t know a lot about ringing, but thought they’d offer their time to go on a weekend away once per year.

I certainly don’t see culling the size of the council as a bad thing. However, it really depends on what your aims are. If it’s to retain the current status quo, then certainly doesn’t need to be any bigger, perhaps smaller and more focussed, and certainly more focussed on the workgroups (by whatever name they’re called in future) as support functions for the commercial charity.


Speaking as a ringer of 30+ experience and a former (if brief) member of the CC I think that it is a good idea that it becomes a DMO as it would help bring it closer to the average tower ringer. At the moment I believe most ringers don’t see any point in the organisation as it doesn’t do anything for them – this is by far it’s most difficult job as without this there’s little point in the organisation.

I am very much against the membership fee for this DMO including RW subscription – it might be a good idea if the CC actually published it but it doesn’t – and the large fee required for this (RW subscription being £84 pa at the moment) would put many people including me off joining. A better system might be, and I’ll use Cats Protection as an example, monthly membership fee of £5 and they publish a quarterly glossy magazine.

As for centralised collection of Association subscriptions this is one of the most condescending things I’ve heard for a long time. A long with the concept of centralised branding I’m surprised that it hasn’t been suggested that local Associations are closed and that every one has to join to the DMO and be assigned to a local division of it!


Undoubtedly (to me at least) the biggest problem with direct membership is which comes first? – sufficient membership numbers to pay for stuff, or stuff to attract membership?

One relatively guaranteed method to achieve this would be to use local associations. They already have a collectively high direct membership. There is already a relationship between local associations and the CC, and fees being passed. Local Associations could become branches of a national organisation, and convert their membership fees to being national fees with a some then returned for local work. It wouldn’t be a simple exercise, but it would allow for a series of safe steps to be taken to reach the eventual goal.

BB and Dove could be the first benefits a national membership would have. This could mean national membership fees would start low. Then benefits can be added. What is the total local association membership? And if you were running a new RW then, with mainly online content, what would that cost per head of the national membership?


I would like to emphasise that in commending an individual membership organisation for advanced method ringing, I am not presuming that either the CCCBR or the existing territorial associations will or should die off.

I think the reforms to CCCBR thus far have been helpful in making it far  more effective, my only concerns about the new structure being the potential for institutional capture such as has happened to the National Trust   It is important that the Associations maintain control of the direction of policy.

It seems inevitable that some Associations may fail or hgave to amalgamate if ringing in the areas they cover becomes extremely weak. 

 I don’t think a national membersahip organisation can realistically do much to revive such areas, as most ofthe needed effort to support serrvice level ringing needs to be provided very locally if it is to be useful.


If we really want to take ringing into the 21st century, I think we should develop a web-based membership system where people could opt in and pay their local society sub as well as such other subs to niche interest groups as they wish to. They could then receive news of practices, courses and other events in the niche groups that they subscribe to. Perhaps even a copy of the Ringing World! By having dual membership in this way, insurance cover could be provided as a membership benefit. There could also be provision for those who live on society boundaries to have membership of adjoining societies at a concessionary rate and then receive access to news of events. Discounts could also be offered for members paying in this way.

Each society would have access to their area of the system and one of the benefits to them would be to simplify the admin process of collecting subs and producing an accurate list of members in their annual report. Subs would be collected online by credit/debit card, Paypal or direct debit. Societies would set their own subs and these would be passed on to them. There could also be a reduction in CC fees and expenses as the CC would not have so many reps. The D&N have found that their new system is a far better way of collecting subs.


Fee paid by the individual, in the region of £120 or so to be paid to Central Council and will include the Central Council’s magazine/publication (aka RW). A % of fee to go to one nominated territorial association that covers the Diocese of the ringer.

No Central Council membership then no performances (or no ‘free’) performances on Bellboard and in the Ringing World – peal or no peal.  (Yes I realise this might mean some difficult negotiations).

Central Council/RInging World look for outside sponsorship/advertising/promotional input has as almost every organisation in the past 60 years and leverage all on-line resources to maximise this.  A Central Council YouTube channel for all ringing benefitting from whatever mechanisms YouTube/Google make payments (some folk make a living from this).

Money/profits (yes let’s aim for profits) go into promoting ringing, training and aids.

Stop doing everything on a shoe-string relying on the goodwill of a handful of individuals to provide resources over which ringers have no control but become dependent upon.

And for those that only wish to support their church services, please continue to do so, but remember that there is a larger community around without which you probably couldn’t even continue to do what you’re doing – and expect to pay to have your performances displayed.

There are of course combinations and permutations on the above, eg pay your local association and they pass on an appropriate amount to the Central Council.

And whilst I’m at it – each registered member has a unique identifier which gets tied to performances, submits some sort of demographic information which needs to be updated each year so that we have some form of accurate picture of who the ringers are and what their needs, achievements etc are.


Direct Membership – of what? I thought CRAG desired easier more direct communication, this DMO seems to be morphing into a sort of ASCY/SRCY national stand-alone group of ringers (another one!?) alongside both CCCBR and the Guilds, Small groups + Affiliates. I don’t think this proposal will meet CRAG objectives for visibility of CCCBR or ease of communications. 
I think any DMO membership will be very small and unrepresentative.

Or have I got it wrong – DMO members ARE the new CCCBR? 
Loads of members attending the AGM with a vote….. Can’t be right? Probably unrepresentative and too small.
I have often said I think the Guilds should just send their “CEO” to CC meetings and focus the business – and they change more often than the reps!

I do agree ringers would benefit from a “One Stop” portal, Amazon style, to which I suggest Bellboard is already well positioned as a portal – can already shop for merchandise, RW sub, donations; guild subs might be paid via new central banking facility / BACS in the near future?
Bellboard/RW already have a membership database as a starter! 

Not a new DMO…… please.


Communications: what I thought CRAG was proposing was a way to bypass the message chain for those ringers who are interested in affairs outside their local group. There won’t be that many, but it is a way. I did not read anything about bundling there….
Within our Guild we are leaning towards a central Mail Handling facility, and I would commend that approach to CCCBR rather than an “Organisation”. 
I think CCCBR should set up a national Mailing List facility that anyone can join, but with Sections that each member can opt into.
Sections would include CCCBR announcements & blogs, Work Group updates (select the ones you are interested in), other Special Interest groups, Guilds, and their branches, affiliates, geographic counties, etc. Guilds and their branches, affiliates, etc. would be given access to post their messages to their section.
I could thus opt in to my Guild, my branch, and my adjacent Guilds for example (I don’t believe in boundaries) the Railway Guild – or just my local branch.
If the CCCBR has such a capacity available might it be possible to install such an app?
Of course when a ringer signs up to the list they would be asked for their contact details plus others such as towers (all within the law) and a Direct Membership database will quietly emerge, but the ringer will be in control of what is given and received. 
This should streamline message passing to the benefit of Guilds and Branch secretaries as well as CCCBR, so a win-win? 
I don’t think this facility should be charged to the ringers, just CCCBR & affiliates posting – so Value-For-Money to both sides excellent.
I suggest this facility would have a MUCH better and deeper take-up than a new Membership organisation with both local and national interests supported.
In time linking mailing list and central banking might support central subscription management, but I would hang back on that initially.


If a New National Ringing Society is to be formed it must have at its heart the creation of opportunities where aspiring talented people, particularly youngsters recruited by and trained by Tower Captains (assisted where appropriate by ART), are able to achieve their highest potential as ringers (particularly in change ringing and striking).  I suppose another way to think of this is that a New Ringing Society would make the retention of those ringers with ambitions the main reason for its existence. 

My model is thus:

Recruitment – principally Tower Captains locally (in cities collectively?)

Basic Training – principally Tower Captains, ART and Territorial Associations

Retention of Sunday Service Ringers – Tower Captains and Territorial Associations

Retention of Aspiring Ringers – principally New Nationwide Ringing Association

Resulting in Self Motivated Skilled Change Ringers

It is the aspiring ringers who are the seed corn for the future and it will take a lot of effort by the active ringers in the Exercise to turn the tide of disinterest and apathy in their training.  A New National Ringing Society with the right objectives, providing a strong framework and a progressive development plan, is almost essential to this.

It will be local leading ringers who will have to give their time to implement the plan.  It will need cooperation, competence and compromise among these ringers and with some selfishness and elitism will also have to be overcome.  However, given the right plan there are still enough good ringers around to make it work.


I served on the CCCBR for one triennium in the 1980s – that was enough for me.  From that time until CRAG came along I was of the view that it served little useful purpose.  There is a tendency for the Council to see itself as the controlling organisation and voice, nationally, of all things to do with ringing.  It isn’t, and it shouldn’t portray itself as such.  On the other hand a centralised organisation, co-ordinating the Territorial and other Associations, protecting the history and integrity of our art, carrying out research and having an overview of ringing performances is a good thing.  On balance I believe the CCCBR should continue with much of its present structures.  I do not believe a New National Ringing Society should become a CCCBR by another name – it should concentrate on ringing and bell-ringers.

Summary of Consultation Process

An email was sent by the President to the Masters, Presidents, or equivalent leaders of all Affiliated Societies in June, with a request for feedback by mid-July. The purpose of the email was to determine whether a motion for reducing the size of the Council might be put before the September 2021 Annual Meeting. 

The email summarised feedback from an earlier round of consultation events on Council reform held between October and December 2020, which had representation from the majority of affiliated societies as well as young ringers groups and from the wider ringing community.

Feedback at the earlier round of consultation events had made clear that a reduction in the Council’s size was the one remaining recommendation from the CRAG report which should be progressed and which attracted high levels of support.

To this end, three alternative options were presented and societies were asked to comment on each:

  1. Single representative attends the Council’s business meetings, with additional representatives who act in a liaison role.
  2. Reduced number of tiers with a maximum of 3 representatives per society, rather than 6 at present.
  3. Introduction of proxy voting, meaning that a society’s votes can be exercised, without requiring all its representatives to attend.

Some of the responses were the personal views of the recipients. Most of the responses came after further consultation with that society’s CC reps and/or executive committee. Some of the comments included here came from individual Reps. Responses were received from societies representing 62% of the Council. All responses have been included. 

Desirability of Reducing the Council’s Size

The first question was just “How important is it to your society that the Council tackles the challenge set by CRAG and reduces the number of representatives this September?”

Virtually no respondents thought it was unimportant, whereas some thought it was very important. The majority felt that either it was important but we don’t need to do it now, or that it is so important that we need to get it right, and to do that needs more consultation.

The responses to the first question are as follows, and these responses will be followed by comments from those who make recommendations on the process we should follow to achieve a consensual reduction.

Comments 
Overall, change should happen, no strong feelings on how to do it.  
There is overwhelming support for reducing the size of the Council, but no particular agreement on the right way forward. 
Given the 2017 changes to the Council and reduced role of the Representative Members, I agree that numbers should be reduced. 
We accept that it would be beneficial for the CCCBR to be smaller and more manageable. 
Yes we should be doing this
At the moment I think that a smaller numbers of representatives is probably more manageable, implementing change and managing meetings and decision making is easier with fewer ‘personalities’.  
The majority favoured slimming down the council as recommended. 
I don’t believe we feel it is essential to go ahead now nor that it is inappropriate. However, so long as the meeting does not spend too long deciding the issue then it might as well be pressed home now.  The risk is that having a protracted debate, at this time, could be seen as navel-gazing and a return to the old days. On the other hand it would get it done (and done in a reasonable timescale) thus showing that the council still wishes to move forward. Our Guild did vote to go with the CRAG report and it’s worked so far.
Definitely yes. But most reps consulted in favour or holding off while we concentrate on ‘Recovery’
Important to continue the process and reduce the number of reps
I agree that reducing the number of Reps would be good for the reasons stated.
We feel it is important that the Council reduces the number of representatives this September in line with the CRAG review.
Yes – the change is a good and long overdue process. Delaying the change has no benefit and will only lead to more apathy of the ancient beast 
We feel we should be putting the CRAG advice into action but not necessarily this year in the middle of Covid recovery. 
This is relatively low priority for us, because we think the changes already implemented such as allowing non-members (reps) to be on working groups and having more direct contact with individuals instead of going through reps all the time, are highly beneficial and a more powerful thing. We felt we can now use this route to help encourage more positive thinking about the CC, because we can counter with “well, you get involved yourself then, and get your voice heard”.
But we do agree having a smaller number of reps ought to make for more efficient meetings, and since the numbers are currently on the high side a reduction ought to be a good thing. 
The majority of those responding felt that the Council should complete the reforms set out by CRAG, but were concerned that the proposals received were incomplete, maybe too rushed to be put to the AGM this year.
It is important to follow through the proposal to change the structure of the Council, but there is too little time to come up with a workable proposal before this year’s meeting that won’t be either voted down or hampered by counter proposals and put on hold. A declaration of intent with likely possible proposals for consideration over the next 12 months with a decision in 2022 was suggested as preferable/more workable.
VERY much in favour of reducing the size of the Council. However, although I appreciate the imperative to make this change, it is, as you say,  a really complicated issue and needs proper discussion. There just isn’t time for this at the moment. I am sure that many associations and their officers are in a similar situation to us, putting all of their energies into Ringing Recovery and building the future of their associations. 
Reducing the number of delegates would give undue weight to those delegates who have specific fields of interest, who might not, because of these interests, be able to vote in line with the agreed policies of their home Society.
Currently we do not support change, especially at a time when the CC should be focusing on far more important things. Spending a couple of hours next September discussing such a trivial and inward-looking matter while ringing is in crisis, will only further damage the CC’s reputation among ordinary ringers. We’re completely taken aback that the Executive can’t see this.  
[same respondent as R20 above] Most members don’t understand why this is being discussed at all, and they certainly don’t understand why it’s being discussed now. They point out that your email addresses how the CC could be made smaller but not why it should be. You say nothing as to what benefits you think would result from a reduction in size, so they feel it difficult to choose between possible solutions without any kind of statement as to the problems those solutions are intended to solve. 
The more members with a voice at the meeting the better so that Council maintains a rich diversity (including all the politically correct ones about gender/ non gender specific equality, age profile, socio-economic background, as well as ringing ability etc) that can influence Council agenda. What is the problem with the meeting taking a substantial time to conduct? It is not there to rubber stamp what has gone on but to receive comment (favourable or otherwise) from all it claims to represent. We must remember we elect representatives not delegates (with a mandated view from the Guild to present at Council) so personal rather that Guild-wide views will be prevalent. 
The position of our Guild is that we are indifferent to the reduction of representatives this September. Though we acknowledge that the CCCBR number of representatives make it infeasible to have effective annual meetings, and that tackling the challenges set by CRAG could help improve the council’s ability to make more timely decisions, we believe that it does not necessarily have the biggest impact on our Guild.
We do not think lowering the number of reps attending the annual meeting is that important. Yes, we should try to do it, but there are more important things to address. So if the current council cannot reach an agreement fairly quickly, we should drop it, leave things as they are and move on to more important topics.
Reduction not important to [us] per se.
I would say that it’s not a major priority for our Association.
We’re quite happy either way to be honest. 
It is not important to us that the size of the Council be reduced. What matters to us is that it gives equal importance to the needs as well as the input of all its constituent Societies, however large or small. 

Process 

Quite a few respondents then made suggestions as to how the process of consultation on this might be conducted, rather than anything being proposed and considered this year. 

Comments 
I doubt whether associations will have time to debate this in any detail, for some it will be the autumn before they can do this.  If association members are effectively going to move into a new structure at some stage, presumably with reduced membership imposed upon them, they deserve the opportunity to talk about it first. Also who will decide the criteria, the bands to be used, and manage the process of reduction of membership? I also think this won’t implement in one go, as too complex. A two-stage approach should apply – 2021-2 plan out, 2022-3 implement. It was agreed in 2017 and then got shelved. It could have happened in 2018-19. Why are we still waiting for it to happen 4 years down the track? Who are the people who will lead it? I think that there’s scope for this to be badly handled if the wrong approach is adopted. Given where we are, reducing associations’ representation and doing it during a pandemic, this gives scope for severely diminishing goodwill, and the CC relies on goodwill from volunteers. Plenty of ordinary ringers in this area just want to be able to ring again, and support their associations, that’s how far it goes. Their ringing lives run day to day, if their ringing lives exist at all just now. Finally, the CC has always been a representative body of 40-odd mainly territorial associations, who democratically elect members to the CC. Historically we have elected virtually any organisation that applies. That spirit of representation needs to be upheld. 
I would suggest discussion of the possible options at the forthcoming CC Meeting but with a view to taking a vote on how we go forward at the 2022 meeting. This would give the opportunity for proper consultation. How about some further discussion/consultation groups as those which were held towards the end of last year (or in the groups outlined in your Q3)?  There are so many good initiatives/changes going on at the moment, and so much that needs to be done over the coming months to get ringing back on track post-covid (if indeed we are post-covid yet!!) Can we not just take a breath, focus on the very immediate post-covid issues and give ourselves proper time to consider the options for reducing the size of the council rather than rush this through in September?
Our primary concern is that the reduction in the size of the Council is debated thoroughly and openly. Few associations will have had the opportunity of a general meeting since you suggested putting a proposal to this year’s Council meeting.  As you have stated yourself, working out how to achieve any reduction is far from straightforward. Such debate is virtually impossible to achieve under the current circumstances and therefore, while we recognize the majority view expressed at the meeting in 2017, we urge the Council to set an agenda with a view to a vote on any motion at the AGM in 2022.  There is a debate to be had, and having it would give any change appreciably more credibility. 
We do not want any changes to be considered in the absence of the genuine consultation process required by the 2017 resolution. We see no benefit to a discussion in September – let alone a decision. All responses but one thought there was insufficient time for a proper consultation, not least because they really wanted to know what problems you’re trying to solve. They wanted to participate in a genuine discussion having been presented with all the facts and arguments.
The one person who took a different view said, “I think we should consider this positively. If there are more changes to make let’s support them.” But he didn’t add anything further.  
The Council has more important things to be doing than spending time this year with progressing the CRAG proposals 
This year is the 2nd of the triennium, and from an administrative point of view you’d probably want to have a decision to know how many Reps to elect for the next period.
We believe it shouldn’t be brought forward as a proposal for the 2021 Annual meeting but considered next year.
I do not think we have the time or extra energy within my Guild to want to have this a priority item for at least 12 months, there are enough other “local” issues with which to get to grips.
Any change which proposes to change the representative “power” of a group of people needs wide and deep consultation
• Although recommended by CRAG a number of years ago, time has passed (and the world has well and truly changed) and feelings may have shifted
• This is a fundamental alteration to the way in which the CC works, and must not be rushed.

Thus, I do not think that this should proceed as a motion to the AGM in 2021 without significant further consultation on the options, both formally through associations and their members, and informally through whatever fora may support ringing otherwise.

It is my opinion that to proceed without this would be reckless, and would incur a significant risk of disenfranchising large groups of ringers and/or societies. Given the fragile state of ringing as we enter into the next phase of the Covid pandemic, this risk is (to me) too high to tolerate.

I think that this should be (at most) informally discussed at the 2021 AGM with a view to describing a consultation process, aiming for a vote at a later date (e.g. 2022 AGM or later).
No one’s going to get too upset if we don’t do it this year provided we don’t drop it altogether – we all have a lot on our plates
I don’t see why we should defer a proposal so am happy if it happens in Sept but am aware this might seem ‘rushed’ to many, so there might not be sufficient buy-in
The deadline of September to tackle the challenges set by CRAG seems a difficult call when there are many other concerns due to the CV19 impact.

Option A – Division of Roles

And so to the specific comments on the three possible ways of achieving the reduction. The first of these was an idea of having two representatives, one of whom went to the meeting and had the role of ‘holding the Executive to account’ and one of whom had more of a liaison role between the Council and association members. The two different roles were not very well understood, probably because they were not very well explained. 

This idea got very little support, although some saw how just sending one Rep, combined with some form of proxy voting, might work. Quite a few respondents then made suggestions as to how the process of consultation on this might be conducted, rather than anything being proposed and considered this year. 

Comments 
I am not convinced that having a different ‘rep’ or reps to act in a liaison role is very clear – I’m not sure what the purpose of that would be nor whether it sounds very attractive; I’d say: keep things simple!
We are unsure (a) what it means by acting in a liaison role.
Disagree as this would effectively downgrade the views of the 600 members which you collectively represent at a Council meeting.
The notion of only having one rep. at the meeting, but having a ‘back-up’ team did not find any supporters – the supporter would not be in a strong enough position, through not having taken part in the meeting, to fully understand the issues, nor to give informed feedback.
Would the second “reps” need to official reps? Just have guild people who might attend the meeting or just keep a watch on the website and act as a point of contact for CC communications. Having one rep would probably only be acceptable if the reps had differing numbers of votes ie the bigger the society the rep is representing the greater the number of votes the rep casts. 
I think the option of 2 Reps would be good, if combined with the Leaders network. 
Broadly in favour of this
We are in full support of the reduction generally
This seems very odd indeed. We see no point in responding to either of these questions as – in the absence of a genuine consultation process – they might be taken as supporting change. 
No one thought two members with different roles was a good idea.
I found the division of roles between two members (ie inward and outward looking) a bit artificial. If I was a rep I would want to do both those things depending on context.
No
Firm no
I certainly “get” the role of the “principal” Guild rep, but (objectively) I really struggle to see the point of this “secondary” role with potentially multiple appointees – I can’t see any way to sell this to our members, especially who (and how many) this Guild might recruit should this option be adopted.  Is it just a home for ex-CC reps who didn’t vote for Christmas?
No clear role for the “additional” representatives in Option 1, hard to recruit to.
Having a single rep per Guild/Assoc/Soc who attends the business meeting seems to be the best option. Additional reps who act in a liaison role need to be people with the right skills advising on what they know (not just their opinions)
I think this is workable – we still have 3 Reps but would agree who should attend the meeting. If and when we get back to an in-person meeting the others could choose to go but attend as observers or go the conference meetings/roadshow. We would need to have a pre-meeting discussion to have a collective decision for voting.
I don’t think I’ve any strong views either way on the number of Reps. I’m probably leaning more towards option 2a – depending on membership you still have more than one Rep but perhaps you can nominate who will attend the meeting.
Good idea – need to link to proxy voting for other reps? Or is the idea each society has just one rep (which we think would be good!). Not so important if meetings continue to happen online (even if also people present in person in a location). 

Option B – Maximum 3 Representatives

Retaining a number of reps based on three tiers found the most favour from the options presented, with a few suggestions on amendments to the tiers. There wasn’t much difference of opinion based on sizes of association – the very large associations with 5 or 6 reps generally didn’t see a reduction to 3 as an issue. Quite a few responses were based on the difficulty of finding reps, which is in part due to a lack of clarity over their role.

Comments 
Yes, but we think the 500 and 1000 cut off points are too high and would suggest something like 1 rep for <250 members, 2 reps for 250-500 members, 3 reps for 500-1000 members and 4 reps for >1000 members. 
My instinctive thought is that this is the way forward, but I’d really like an opportunity to hear more arguments for or against this and other options, with time to absorb these and discuss further before voting on a final decision.
We see no point in responding to either of these questions as – in the absence of a genuine consultation process – they might be taken as supporting change.  Whilst not knowing what problems you’re seeking to solve, the overwhelming view was that, if – and only if – they became convinced of the problems, your option 2 would be best. 
Option (b) may well be favoured, at least in the first instance, as the other two options necessitate a review of the job description(s) of CC Reps. Indeed, any reduction in the number of members is likely to impact on the job description of a Rep, and this is surely a matter for careful consideration and discussion in an open forum. 
Disagree as this would effectively downgrade the views of the 600 members which you collectively represent at a Council meeting.
Preferred (going from 4 to 3)
Preferred option, with (a) as backup
As affiliated societies vary greatly in size, I think it only fair that the bigger ones should have more reps than the smaller ones. I therefore favour the second solution: Up to 500 members, 1 rep; 501-1,000, 2 reps; over 1,000, 3 reps.
This proposal would see our representation reduce from 4 to 2 and the general consensus is in favour of the sliding scale proposed. 
This is favoured
Maximum 3 reps per society – this seems a sensible number for the larger territorial societies, fewer for the small ones. It’s difficult to get volunteers anyway.
Most favoured option, reducing the number of tiers with a maximum of 3 representatives per society
We like this idea [large number of reps]! Though practically not so important for us. Is weight of member numbers really the best way to get a good outcome, and fewer reps should mean better meetings. 
Majority support
Seems sensible and easily understood. Maybe the bands are a little high. Given there is no particular reason that, particularly, territorial societies should have significantly divided views (over the issues the meeting of reps deals with), this should work
We all agreed that the tier system was the best  i.e. 500 members 1 Rep.  ,  501 -1000 members 2 Reps., over 1000 Members 3 Reps. [comment from one of largest]
Reduce the number of reps. to three: only one said no (worried about disenfranchising bigger Associations) the rest say yes and one person made the point that it will be a huge responsibility for a single rep. from a small Association. Could a system of Alternates be set up to attend in the event of, say, the single rep. being unavailable?
The reduction in Reps based on new membership categories (reduced to one Rep for us) could work. I don’t think I provide anything special in my district that couldn’t be done by one person in the Association. If the Rep couldn’t attend then you wouldn’t have any representation (unless you can send someone different – in our rules we elect the Reps for 3 years, so may need a rule change (e.g. annual election)). I suppose you could have a ’postal vote’. Otherwise it becomes more like option 2a.
This would also work, and also means further increase in representation of smaller societies. Solely basing on this option, we feel indifferent on this option as we will only be moderately affected by this.  
Option 2 will not reduce the size of Council much, just further dilute the influence of the larger territorial Societies against the smaller ones.

Option C – Proxy Voting 

Finally there was the question of introducing proxy voting. There was mixed support for this, with the majority feeling it was unnecessary.

Comment 
Option 3, as we understand it with just ONE representative being elected and attending from each Society, should best achieve the objective of significantly reducing the size of council, while maintaining a balance of the Societies representing large numbers of ringers against the smaller Societies.
However there is no detail of how this would be set up or managed. One “vote” per 100 members maybe? 
Could be done but a bit of a faff (would extend the meeting while voting is calculated) and what is the real need for all the votes? Only of benefit if the first option is introduced [reduction to one member].
Favoured – proxy voting available for societies with more than one rep remaining after the reduction process
Proxy voting was actually favoured by over half who responded. 
A suggestion was also made for a new, more sophisticated, proportional representation depending on the size of the Assn.
In favour
We’d probably still send one member, but again if having online (as well as in person) then would not need proxy if there’s a voting system. But otherwise yes, we’d like this to avoid costs/time of sending people to meetings. 
We feel that this is an appropriate option. 
I can’t see why Proxy voting can’t work and surely gives more voice without having to commit to travelling to meetings. 
We would opt for your suggestion (c) of proxy voting, which would eliminate the added expense incurred by delegates from the more distant places while allowing them full access to the meeting. We would urge that online meeting attendance be continued, as an option, after the pandemic is over.
Clearly, proxy voting would be good. 
Everyone was very happy with proxy voting, assuming the proxy would make up his or her own mind after listening to any debate. Essentially we’re all completely happy to trust our colleagues to come to the right decision on any issue.
We would not support this.  Our view is that proxy voting does not work for our type of voting where arguments for or against proposals are heard from the floor with amendments taken. In this situation we feel a proxy may be unable to truly represent the view of his/her sponsor.
Proxy voting just adds another layer of administration which will allow the zealots to have a voice but not the important, average, jobbing ringer.  
 I’m not sure what proxy voting would add or how it could work at the meetings – would it be an individual or block vote. If individual votes you’d have to allow for, for example, 2 for and 1 against, etc. Sometimes it’s useful to hear the pros and cons of the discussion before voting  – although with the new arrangement there are few non-admin proposals to vote on. If it’s a block vote I think it becomes a factor changing the scale but not the voting power.
This proposal drew mixed support. We feel that it is important that our rep. is conversant with the meeting and the issues being discussed. In the event of proxy voting (who would be the proxy?) we would question whether that would be possible. A facility whereby reps can devolve attendance might be a better option.
Don’t have a problem with this
No
We all agreed we DO NOT want this

Comments on the role of Representatives

There were some other comments about Representatives and numbers of Representatives, from support for just having one to discussion of the role of Reps in the Council structure.

Comments 
It may be good to circulate (if possible, and time allows) topics and agenda items, to encourage the Rep. sent, to be the one best matched – most suited to the topics, or a specific topic on the agenda to be discussed. This should help focus minds on who gets sent, and if another person is specifically liaison, then feedback may be improved.
We thought it was a good idea to reduce the number of Reps to one from each Diocesan, for the benefits you outlined.
Also if we had a pooled number of Representatives, then an appropriate one could be picked to best suit the agenda.
Since the CRAG reorganisation the ONLY power the CC members have is to elect the Executive; they no longer take any decisions. For this reason I see no point in affiliated societies having more than one representative, no point in complicating the constitution with “liaison members”, and no point in proxy voting.  I also think the present affiliation fee should be replaced by a per capita rate (as narrowly defeated at Cheltenham in 2007).
Among these three options, we are particularly concerned about the coupling of affiliation fees and entitlement to representatives. This is because we feel that should the number of representatives decrease; the fees should decrease accordingly as well. We understand that this deflects the objective of reduction of size but the uncertainty whether this would be agreed in the future make options, especially option b, unattractive compared to the others should the affiliation fees not change.
I sort of disagree with separating affiliate fees from reps as I think this can be managed quite simply, as per below, and avoids the CCCBR suffering a huge loss in income
– my thinking, having read the options, is that there is a very obvious slight ‘mutation’, being: the affiliate fee stays the same so in line with the old number of reps, and the voting ‘weighting’ is made/set relative to that; however, there is only one ‘rep’ that attends the meeting
– I also think it is really important for that one rep to represent the views of their whole association; over the last years I have seen people attending the meetings with no prep or discussion in advance, seemingly, and then giving their own (often strong) views which don’t necessarily (I believe) reflect the general view of their association; perhaps by moving to one rep we could ensure that each association takes the time and effort to prepare that rep to represent them effectively
The roles need to be attractive.  At the moment it can be a struggle to get anyone to fill them – which can lead to the wrong people in the role.
Fewer reps to elect is not really a problem as we already cannot find enough candidates. 
We struggle to fill the Rep posts, and to be honest, we get little from them as an Association, so fewer (i’d say one) is fine. 
We have been discussing, at Management Committee, the need for the number of reps that we have, especially when we are in the position where we can only find one volunteer. 
I can also see that there MIGHT be a lot / too much(?) work for a smaller number of people which may lead to overload/burnout which is so often a problem for volunteers.
If we just had one CC Rep, that would be good; if, considering the size of our Association, we went down from 4 to 2, that’s fine too. 
Personally I think we could go down to one member per Guild without too much being lost and, although I wouldn’t favour it, I imagine larger Guilds would want their vote to count for more, so a sort of TU block voting might be the result.
The Guild would like to save members funds by sending only One Representative to the CC AGM, just one set of expenses to be reimbursed, as soon as possible.
Should be a minimum of 2 Reps per Society
An underlying concern at this point is the recognition that, concomitant with the desire to reduce the number of members, there is a growing number of ex-officio roles and registered small societies. The CC Reps of the ringing societies are at the heart of the democratic function of the Council, and need to remain there.  While quite radical changes to the structure of the Council may have been necessary, it is equally important to assess the impact of each step of the process as we proceed.  
Why should a larger Guild/Assoc/Soc have a chance to ‘push their weight around’. It gives the wrong message as everyone’s contribution is valid and the CC may learn something from the smaller Guilds etc as they are probably more in touch with their members
There is also the issue of representation. Allowing up to two members per society means that the members of a small society will effectively have a stronger voice than those of a large society. Is that fair and democratic? I don’t think it is. 
One rep might be fine but it would need to be the right one.  It needs to be clear what is expected of that person (someone who will hold the exec to account etc).  They need to represent their society and not just be there to air their own views.   
I feel strongly that a rep should be taking an active role in representing the needs and views of their association, or working with one of the focus groups, especially these days where it appears there is a lot of ongoing change and development. 
Perhaps there should be different limits for territorial vs non-territorial societies, e.g. 3 max for territorial and 2 max for non.
Need a good clear out of reps and some forward-looking people. 

Other Comments 

The following comments are more general. There is reference to affiliation fees. We deliberately decided not to complicate matters by asking about affiliation fees, but it probably needs to considered in a more full consultation process and all dealt with in one go. 

Comments
We consider the CCCBR’s core work to be defining acceptable ringing standards, keeping the Exercise going in modern times, and giving advice when needed; we are worried that the Council could be becoming more authoritarian than supportive, and more distant from the rank and file who are, after all, the backbone of the Exercise.
On affiliation fees, I have for long felt that, again for reasons of fairness and because they are paid from members’ subscriptions, they should be based on societies’ membership numbers and not on numbers of reps. They must be based on much narrower bands than for reps (as now and proposed). It is for CC Officers to work out what the bands should be and how much for each, based on information received on membership numbers and the Council’s financial needs.
Breadth of representation is what is needed.
Questions were asked about the non-territorial societies, where their members would have representation from their territorial guild as well as their other, more specialised, group. I know that it would be a contentious issue, but the suggestion was made that the non-territorial societies should either not be represented at CCCBR, or have considerably reduced representation. 
I guess that whatever route we go down will be very good for some Associations and not good for others depending on the level of commitment of reps involved. There may be some / a few Associations where 4 or 5 are very invested and doing lots of work and others where this may not apply.
We are more interested in how the Guild could participate in workgroups. As appropriately mentioned in your email, it was suggested that most people’s route to workgroup membership is through becoming a representative first. It would be welcomed if there are more opportunities advertised or introduced. 
I think it should be clearly said that post-CRAG the new “principal” rep is responsible for looking out for, and thus recruiting, suitable candidates for Workgroups – the idea that looking for a CC rep will (accidentally!) uncover a suitable Workgroup member is outdated.   I suggest the truth is that a keen ringer knew that to make a difference on a CC Workgroup you had first got to stand and be elected as a CC rep, but there were far too many barriers to that route – now thankfully removed.  I think more potentially useful workers were lost by the barriers of that route than were found.
I think we have a reasonable need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the council AGM, but the work done by the nearly 300 members is actually mostly accomplished outside that meeting. So, if we reduce the number of members, simplistically we reduce the amount of work done proportionally! 
The creation of Workgroups (including both Council members and anyone else who wishes to contribute) after the CRAG report has ameliorated that effect, but I know of at least one Workgroup where there is no real coordination of effort and in some cases people are actively discouraged from getting involved because they don’t agree with the approach being taken. The loss of healthy debate and group consensus is detracting from the good that can be done and I think there needs to be some re-thinking in that area before dashing off and reducing the membership of council to less than half its current size. 

Discussion Forum for Society Masters/Presidents

Finally, virtually all leaders of associations were in favour of a discussion forum/network for them. This is not meant to be a formal part of an organisation structure, more a sounding board and forum where those tasked with running ringing associations can discuss issues of mutual interest. There were just a few concerns that it might be bypassing the role of Reps. The replies which were just ‘Yes’ have been omitted, so in addition to these comments there are 30 or 40 one word answers.

Comments
If it’s an informal focus/discussion group to help the Executive form ideas and options then, perhaps ok, but I don’t think I’d want to see it become the steering group for the Council.
This seems very impractical. The tenure time of office for people such as myself addressed in your letter is completely variable across Guilds. I get 3 years in Coventry, it was 12 months in Hertfordshire (like the ASCY), others are “until dies in office or another person is arm twisted to take over”. There will be even less continuity and familiarity of proceedings than you found on taking up office yourself. Anyway do I want another talking shop about ringing when I’d much rather be doing useful things on the end of a rope and it’s probably another disincentive when trying to find successors in our jobs.
so long as this does not introduce another layer of bureaucracy. 
We also discussed this at some length and wonder whether you are already aware of this suggestion which appears to effectively side-line all Council representatives?
there’s a danger of bypassing the CC Reps.
Naturally, we would be keen to be part of a network of ringing leaders, but it is essential that the demographic, purpose, and remit of any such group, and how it interacts with, or influences, CC policies is made clear. 
What authority would they have, or just a sounding board?
On your last bullet point, I would be delighted to attend occasional meetings of the leaders of the council’s societies as described (or otherwise) – I think this would be a useful forum.
Yes let’s do it, now

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