Board of Scrutiny
Minutes of the Meeting Held at 12 Noon on
Thursday 13 March 2003 at Selwyn College
Present: Stephen Cowley, Christopher Forsyth, David Howarth, Robin Lachmann, Susan Lintott (for the second half of the meeting), Robin Lachmann, Jack MacDonald, Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham, John Spencer, Helen Thompson.
Apologies: Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Jennifer Rigby.
1) Minutes of the meeting of 27 February 2003. These were not yet ready for circulation.
2) Governance and the Discussion. Sir Alec had made a statement at the beginning of the Discussion; it was noted that he appeared to be tired. A number of members of the Board noted that there seemed to be an implied threat in Malcolm Grant’s speech that if the University failed to act in a certain way then HMG might act on its own. It was agreed to write to Anne Campbell MP on the matter of Governance.
There was a discussion on external members of Council, e.g. as regards the Audit Committee and in particular its Chairman. It was agreed to write to the Council indicating that the Board was (as indicated in its response to the governance proposals last year) in favour of external members on Council. However it was concerned as to how such members would be arrived at. It was in favour of elections rather than appointments by a committee (in order to dispel any notion that the appointee were place man or women). There was a discussion as to what the HEFCE audit letter might contain, and whether or not it might have prompted certain recent actions (e.g. over the committee structure). There was a decision to ask for a copy of the letter.
There was a discussion of the position of the Chairman of Council. It was noted that splitting the roles of leader of the Council and Chairmanship of the Council meetings had apparently worked well.
3) The Financial Working Party Report. It was agreed that the Chairman would, on behalf of the Board, ask for the “studies” to the Report. If necessary he would quote the Statute that states the Board can have access to such official documents. There was a discussion of a possible annual savings round, e.g. a process by which budgets are initially cut by, say, 2% and then a justification has to be made for the budget to be restored. It was noted that many of the important decisions that will be necessary have, in effect, been delegated to the RAM committee. It was noted that departments, etc. would possibly be significantly worse off by the non-payment of interest on internal accounts (a saving of £2.6m). There was a discussion of the top slicing of College payments, and as to how the University ensures that the College’s are delivering value for money. It was noted that the summary published in the Reporter had a different tone and feel to the full Report. It was agreed to refer to this in our annual Report.
4) Planning for the 8th Report. There was a discussion as to what we wish to cover in our annual Report. The Report needs to be ready for the summer meeting of Council. It was agreed that, inter alia, we need to cover the FWP Report and other aspects of finance such as the deficit (the Chairman, Susan Lintott and Jennifer Rigby will cover this), the RAM, governance and the committee structure (the Secretary will liaise with the aforementioned), the seeming lack of strategy in the University (e.g. as regards student numbers and the impact on the BoGS and the Colleges), and the performance of the RSD (any comments should be sent to the Secretary). As regards RSD it was agreed that the aim to increase the size of overheads is commendable; however a number of colleagues of members of the Board had raised questions over efficiency (e.g. provision of the wrong address, administration of the EU grants). There would be a need to cover IPR, possibly touching on the earlier IPR decision over external contracts. There was a discussion as to whether there would be need to revisit the question of certain principal officers, however it was agreed that a long section on CAPSA/CUFS was probably not needed. The issue of Reports and Graces and buildings and land would need to be covered (Christopher Forsyth).
5) Any other business. There was a discussion of the sale of property in Trumpington Road. There had been a newsgroup discussion as to whether the University had permission to sell all the property since a number of Graces were concerned.
It was reported that the NW Cambridge site was still in the green belt in the recently announced draft of the local plan. The University would have to demonstrate a need if it wished to build there. There was a discussion about the University’s possible plan of selling off the New Museum’s site.
There was a report on the meeting with SAWAG.
6) Date of future meetings. It was agreed to meet on 24 April and then fortnightly thereafter until the end of term.