Having already expressed a view on the proposed merger of the LIA and Sofa from the perspective of being an LIA member, I feel that, as a full member of Sofa, a comment is needed with regard to what I consider to be the disgrace concerning voting rights.
If we were flies on the wall, we would have probably have heard the following conversation at a past Sofa council meeting:
Member 1: “I say, our membership looks pretty thin. We are not even half the size of those oiks at the LIA.”
Member 2: “Yes, you are quite right and, of course, our receipts are not what they could be. If only we had a bigger membership. Unfortunately people aren't rushing in droves to take our examinations and become AFPC-qualified.”
Member 1: “What shall we do?”
Member 2: “Why don't we just recruit the great unwashed and let them become affiliated members but not full members? That way, at least we can swell our ranks and increase our income. We do not have to let them interfere in the affairs of our society, as we will not give them votes, but they can bask in the glory of being a member of our esteemed organisation and come under the umbrella of the great and good CII.”
Member 1: “What a wizard idea. Let's do that.”
So what have we got? Taxation without representation. This is what gave rise to revolution in the past.
What do the hierarchy of Sofa do? Hide behind legalisms. I hear the cant: “We could not possibly give them the vote in time but we will take due note of their opinions.”
If I was an affiliated member, I know how I would vote. In commerce, when takeovers or mergers are in play, you sometimes get unexpected results. In this case, I think Sofa is treading very dangerous ground and, if its bride decides to jilt it at the altar, it may find itself being cuckolded and eventually marginalised.
The LIA may be guilty of many failings but arrogance is not one of them. I do feel, however, that it is not applying itself to the problem. Let us take the following points:
Sofa does not make much of a profit, if any.
The Skills Council, or whatever it is called, looks set to disrupt the lucrative income flow of examinations.
Pension simplification in 2006 looks like yet another nail in the G60 coffin. I understand that its popularity as a subject has tailed off considerably.
It would therefore seem that the CII might have had a hand in persuading Sofa to acquiesce to the merger, as financial constraints seem pressing.
Now is the LIA's chance. It still has a large membership although I fully realise there are issues here. But still, a little seminar from Phillip Green may work wonders.
It should offer to take Sofa off the hands of the CII. I know many Sofa members would be delighted to break that link and it is obvious from your letters page that LIA members consider the CII a bone of contention.
If they do not want to play ball, look for another suitor. Sofa would then be marginalised. A bit of hard-headed commercial acumen may well produce a popular result. The current proposal may not fly.