18 December 1998

Unionmoves towards one man, one vote

NFU council has approved a fundamental overhaul of the unions voting system in a bid to enable it to respond more quickly to developing issues and allow the voices of grass-root members to be heard.

At a special council meeting in London, nearly all of the 42 recommendations made by the NFU membership committee in October were accepted and should be in place by 2000.

While the council will remain the NFUs governing body, a move to one-member one-vote means all 70,000 full farming members will, in future, be allowed to elect council members.

Proposal rejected

The proposal to conduct the votes by postal ballot was rejected in favour of designated "election meetings" which the NFU will advertise through its regional magazines.

Also approved was a streamlining of the regional and county meeting system with the introduction of issue-led meetings at county level.

To cut administration and paperwork, county branches may get together to hold meetings on issues of particular relevance to them. Their findings could then be passed directly to council via county representatives.

NFU president Ben Gill said that the move to issue-led meetings was needed because the number of consultation documents produced by the government had increased and consultation periods were shorter.

"A rigid annual diary of meetings is no longer applicable to this situation and the new system will give us a far quicker response time," he said.

Two-year terms

It was also agreed that the unions national officeholders, such as the president, would, from Feb 2000, be elected for a two-year term rather than having to go through annual elections.

But despite a membership committee recommendation to drop the livestock and wool committee in favour of separate committees representing the individual species, the council agreed more research was needed and deferred a decision on the measure until January council.

NFU director general Richard Macdonald was due to release a consultation paper on the issue this week.

Against the recommendations of the report, council decided that the tax committee would should not be abolished. Likewise the parliamentary committee would be retained.