A Putney debate on changing the constitution of CPJA?

Andy Cottom

Back in 1647, towards the end of the Civil War, members of the Parliamentarian forces met by the banks of the Thames at St. Mary’s Church in Putney to discuss the make-up of a new constitution for England. Many of the speakers there were members of the Levellers movement who sought universal suffrage – One man, one vote. The Levellers originally called themselves Agitators, working within the regiments of the New Model Army to campaign for a sovereignty of the people in which the authority of government would be both created and maintained by the consent of its people – albeit in those days only male.

It seems that there is a parallel debate going on in UKCP and its colleges as to the where the authority of government lies today. In 1647, the choices were between the King who claimed divine right for his authority, Members of Parliament who were usually elected by their peers, and the people. Today it seems to be between Individual Members, OM delegates, CPJA executive, UKCP and the PSA. The recent decision by UKCP to bring Individual members under its  Complaints and Conduct Process regardless of their OM’s stand, will surely add fuel to the fire that has been smouldering for the past few years over the rights of Individual Members.

Within CPJA, much of the discussion to date has focussed on the differences between our members who are represented by one of our Organisational Members and those individuals who are unaffiliated or Direct Individual Members. There are a number of points of concern but they appear to be concentrate in three areas. The first of these raises the issue of reaccreditation and the maintenance of professional standards. Currently it is our OMs who monitor the CPD requirements of their members, most having their own individual code of ethics and complaints procedures. It is CPJA who carries out quinquennial reviews to ensure that each OM meets with the standard that the college and UKCP require. The question now is how to guarantee that our non-affiliated members also adhere to these standards. Should there be a similar protocol to the new Complaints and Conduct Process where all Individual members, affiliated to an OM or not, could make use of a centralised CPJA procedure?

With the idea of such changes being orchestrated our attention is drawn to the second area of concern – who pays for what? With membership fees and value for money always a sensitive issue, direct individual membership could be seen as having a financial advantage in that it would offer cheap access to the PSA register, the CCP and other services without paying an OM membership fee as well. But perhaps there is a danger of comparing apples with oranges. The OMs may offer some similar services to CPJA and UKCP but in most cases they offer an additional sense of community, often through shared training and support structures that larger organisations cannot hope to replicate. Similarly it is the louder voice of UKCP that can make ourselves heard by government and the public in a way that few OMs can.

The above concerns need to be debated and then voted on and how that is conducted has become a contentious area in its own right. One member, one vote? One vote per OM? Two votes for an OM and one for an Individual Member? Proportional representation where a larger OM will have a greater number of votes than a smaller one? Let us hope that changes in power structure can be agreed through discussion and debate without resorting to Civil War.

Andy Cottom

FPC delegate to CPJA


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