Subject: Possible new body to replace the BMC Committee
Date: 1988 November 14
The General Meeting at the 1988 BMC asked the BMC Committee to ensure if possible that delegates at future BMCs did not pay VAT on their meals and accommodation. At the subsequent Committee Meeting, I was asked to investigate how to do this.
It turns out that the present set-up is quite the wrong way to avoid VAT, and for this and other reasons (see THIS LINK) I propose the formation of a new body. This would be broadly similar to the present BMC Committee, but with the following differences: it would have a written constitution; it might be desirable for it to have a name that is very different from BMC (I tentatively propose 'Syndicate for University Mathematical Symposia', or SUMS); it would have an uninterrupted existence, unlike the present BMC Committee, which (at least in theory) is dissolved at the end of each BMC and reconstituted at the next BMC General Meeting; and (most importantly) it would have its own officials (Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer) who would not be those of the next BMC.
The function of the new body would be: to be the proprietor of the name 'British Mathematical Colloquium'; to own and administer the BMC reserve fund, which would cease to move around each year from one university to another; to ensure that there were departments lined up to host the BMC in the next half-dozen years; to make a written agreement with the local organizers of each BMC setting out any terms (financial or other) for the running of the BMC but, most importantly, making clear that the academic content of the Colloquium (i.e., the choice of speakers) was entirely in the hands of the local organizers; to act as a source of advice to the local organizers on financial and other matters; and to consider matters affecting the BMC as a continuing institution, thus leaving the local organizers to concentrate on their one Colloquium with as little interference as possible.
Incidentally, the BMC reserve fund is currently held in a Post Office account in Exeter, the organizers of the Exeter BMC having reluctantly agreed to hold on to it until the position with regard to a new body becomes clear.
I would hope that the LMS and EMS would be willing to be associated with such a new body in the same way as at present; that is, that they would appoint two members each to the body, and their treasurers would audit the accounts of the BMC and of the new body in return for certain financial guarantees-even though, once the new body is set up and its financial position is clear, such guarantees should not really be necessary.
After drafting the above comment, I have been sent the minutes of the joint BMC/EMS/LMS discussion that took place at the 1975 BMC in Newcastle, and have also read the LMS/EMS proposal which was approved by the General Meeting at the 1976 BMC in Aberystwyth. I note that at that time the two Societies wished 'to be associated with the largest Pure Mathematics meeting held regularly in the United Kingdom; this association would advertise the societies more widely and might result in improved membership, particularly among younger mathematicians.' They also wished the BMC to state in its advertising material that it was sponsored by them. I hope that the first of these wishes continues, even though in recent years, as far as I can tell, the second has not been fulfilled.
These 1975 minutes also say, 'In any case the BMC has grown to such a size that its legal position should be regularized as a matter of some urgency.' I imagine that the writer of this minute envisaged a time scale somewhat shorter than 13 years!
If it were decided to set up such a new body, it would be necessary to draft a constitution. I should be willing to have a go at this, although I do not feel particularly well qualified to do so, and should be relieved if the LMS and/or EMS would be willing to nominate a constitutional expert from among their members to assist with the task. I doubt whether legal advice would be needed, but it might be. If a constitution could be agreed by a small group in time to be circulated to all of you by (say) mid-January, it might be possible to reach an agreed form by the end of March that could then be included in the papers sent to members of next year's BMC (3-7 April 1989). If this time scale proves too optimistic, we might have to resort to the device adopted in 1976, of having a special Committee Meeting (of the previous year's Committee, presumably) before the General Meeting at next year's BMC.
It would also be necessary to find suitable candidates for the positions of Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer of the new body. It is too early to ask for suggestions, but you might perhaps be thinking about possibilities.
I should greatly appreciate receiving your views on these proposals, preferably within three weeks. I shall interpret the absence of a reply as indicating that you have no strong views; that you are not necessarily enthusiastic about the proposed new body, but would be willing to support the idea, possibly reluctantly, in the event of a vote.