HomeRail NewsPast presidents call for IMechE special meeting

Past presidents call for IMechE special meeting

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At the end of March, members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) were advised that some members had questioned the finances and governance of the Institution and had called for a special meeting. This advice reassured members that the IMechE’s financial strength was robust.

It also mentioned that the Institution’s president, Carolyn Griffiths, former chief inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, will not chair the Trustee Board whist there is an investigation into complaints made against her by staff.

On their website, Mech Eng Matters , past Presidents calling for this meeting advise that she was removed from this role as she tried to discuss the financial state of the Institution with the Trustees she has been prevented from pursuing any measures to correct any financial and policy failings through her role. They raise questions over the conduct of the investigation and note that there was no reason to advise members of this ongoing investigation as grievances should be confidential. As a result this potentially harms the President’s reputation in breach of the Institution’s code of conduct which requires members to ensure they do not to injure another person’s reputation.

A month later, the IMechE’s 66,000 corporate and associate members received their notice of the special meeting to be held on 21 May.

This contained six motions, the first of which was a motion of confidence in the Trustee Board – tabled by the Trustee Board. The other motions included a call for an independent financial review as well as motions of no confidence in the IMechE’s chief executive Stephen Tetlow (CEO since 2009), president-elect Geoff Baker and honorary treasurer Ian Joesbury. These motions were proposed by four past presidents of the institution: Brain Kent (1994), Andrew Ives (2005), Roderick Smith (2011) and Patrick Kniveton (2013).

The eight-page special meeting notice started the voting process. It contains much to support the trustees’ position, including a statement from the Trustees Board, three pages of additional information supporting Motion 1, summarised accounts for 2017 and a recommendation, highlighted in red, that “Members vote in favour of Motion 1 and against Motions 2 to 6 (inclusive)”.

However, other than a copy of the letter from the past-presidents proposing their motions, it does not include any background information to support motions 2-6. When asked whether the past presidents had been offered the opportunity to explain their concerns in the special meeting notice, the IMechE replied: “The letter from four past Presidents of the Institution, containing their detailed reasoning for calling the Special Meeting and the motions they have put forward, was reproduced in full in the special meeting notice.”

One could question whether a photocopy of the letter calling for the meeting constitutes “detailed reasoning” comparable with the Trustee Board’s three-page submission, and ask whether it would have been fairer and more transparent for both sides of the argument to present their cases in similar fashion.

Speaking for the trustees, president-elect Geoff Baker stated that they were “naturally disappointed that some members have chosen to take this course of action. However, we welcome the opportunity to have a full, honest and open discussion based on accurate, factual information at the Special Meeting.” He also stressed that the financial position of the Institution is robust.

The past presidents explain why they have called for a special meeting on their website Mech Eng Matters. As well as the financial issues, the four past presidents and Christopher Simpson, who is a past chair of the IMechE’s Manufacturing Division and of its Management Group, explain their concerns about the way that the president has been prevented from doing her job as chair of the Trustee Board and criticise reduced support for the Institution’s regions, divisions and groups.

In addition, it seems that the critical motions don’t just stem from this small group of past presidents. The document continues: “We Past Presidents and Senior Fellows, and some 130 initial signatories including more Past Presidents, are so concerned about all of the above that we have gone to considerable effort, time and personal expense to call for the Special Meeting. We asked for the Motions 2 to 6. The Trustees have added their own Motion 1 to prevent the full situation from being revealed.   Some members are now so concerned about the situation at our Institution that it has been reported to the Charity Commission.”

IMechE Railway Division chairman Richard McClean advised Rail Engineer that the division’s members are “somewhat confused by the contradictions generated by the Trustees’ assurances as to the financial position of the Institution when they have seen cutbacks in the number and scope of the events that the Railway Division have been allowed by the Institution to deliver”. He added that members are “also very concerned about the extraordinary and highly unsatisfactory position that our elected President has been placed in.”

He considers that the special meeting will provide an opportunity for members to consider this unprecedented situation. With such strong language and forthright views already out in the open, it clearly promises to be an interesting evening.

David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEM
David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEMhttp://therailengineer.com

Rolling stock, depots, Scottish and Russian railways

David Shirres joined British Rail in 1968 as a scholarship student and graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Sussex University. He has also been awarded a Diploma in Engineering Management by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

His roles in British Rail included Maintenance Assistant at Slade Green, Depot Engineer at Haymarket, Scottish DM&EE Training Engineer and ScotRail Safety Systems Manager.

In 1975, he took a three-year break as a volunteer to manage an irrigation project in Bangladesh.

He retired from Network Rail in 2009 after a 37-year railway career. At that time, he was working on the Airdrie to Bathgate project in a role that included the management of utilities and consents. Prior to that, his roles in the privatised railway included various quality, safety and environmental management posts.

David was appointed Editor of Rail Engineer in January 2017 and, since 2010, has written many articles for the magazine on a wide variety of topics including events in Scotland, rail innovation and Russian Railways. In 2013, the latter gave him an award for being its international journalist of the year.

He is also an active member of the IMechE’s Railway Division, having been Chair and Secretary of its Scottish Centre.


  1. Today, Bank Holiday Monday 7 May 2018, I opened my usual annual pack for Trustee Board and Council Elections. I then discovered the Special Meeting Notice. However, there was NO FORM OF PROXY for voting on Motion 1 and Motions 2 to 6.. I shall e-mail Membership at IMechE to get one.
    Meanwhile, other IMechE members eligible to vote may wish to check whether they have a FORM OF PROXY. I am sorry about on-line shouting capitals, but I wanted to highlight the problem.

    I am grateful to David Shirres and Rail Engineer for this article. Until then, the only information I had was that in the letter from 5 IMechE members at the end of the Special Meeting Notice. It was only when I spotted that some of them were Past Presidents that I decided to check the Internet. I am also very grateful for the link in the article to https://www.mechengmatters.com.

  2. Hi David, great to see a proper engineer reporting on engineering rather than a lay journalist. Love to hear more about your experience with Russian railway

  3. Well as a 50 year member of the I Mech E and a Scottish RD member I am somewhat disturbed to find that when I tried to give my proxy for this meeting I could not get into the relevant document to do that. I have complained about this twice now, and time is running out to vote. Have any Scotticsh RD members managed to give a proxy? I doubt many of us will traipse down to London just to cat our vote.

  4. I would like more information on the particulars of Motions 2 to 6 as the notes are unclear

    Can you please provide me with the details

  5. My name is John Graham, member of IMech E, # 6512 4442 (1959), Consulting Engineer (Ret) and resident of Queensland, Australia. I became aware of the unsatisfactory organisational operation at the time when I received the voting papers for a Special Meeting of the Institute in late April 2018. I received letters from Andrew Ives, (President 2005/6), a set of Accounts (P&L, & Balance Sheet) also a very disturbing letter from President Carolyn Griffiths (2 May 2018), detailing the treatment she had to deal with while in High Office.
    There has been an attempt to ‘pull the wool over the eyes of Members’, who I regard as Engineers of Professional standing; the Voting and Proxy Documents only served to ‘block’ open discussion such that we ended up with a voting outcome that was totally contradictory merely intended to protect those elected who have not performed their duties with due diligence nor with regard to the Professional Reputation and Standing of the Institution as a whole.
    I hope those who can fix the situation are given the opportunity to restore the Governance and the operation of the imeche in accordance with the rules of the Constitution.
    Best Wishes,

  6. Well the SGM took place, but nothing will happen as the meeting votes are ‘not binding’. Do they want us to vote again? And again, and again like the Irish on Maastricht ? I am now contemplating a transfer (in my present grade as CEng MIET) to the IET who will welcome me. I guess a few others might join me eventually when they realise that our beloved institution no longer belongs to us, but to a cabal of entryists. We live in interesting times!


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