What’s the point of committees? Many of us are on school, church or charity committees, which are often battlegrounds between the old and the new. Every committee has people who like the sound of their own voice and unless the Chair is assertive meetings can go on for hours rather than minutes.  The Privy Council apparently doesn’t allow seating at meetings. Nobody likes standing around for too long.

Committee meetings at their best should be opportunities for people with a shared love, interest or involvement in a sphere of life or society, to find out what has been going on recently and what the plans for the future are.  Often the key players have been quietly getting on with things between meetings and this is their chance to update fellow committee members.  A good Chair should allow people to express their opinions but then assign specific tasks and responsibilities.  The noble minute taker can refer back to agreed actions at the next meeting and whoever is meant to have done something will report if they have done it or not.  This follow-up function is perhaps one of the biggest justifications for having committee meetings.

Whether it is at cabinet or local community committee level, there will be differences of opinion. The challenge for good Chairs is to lead their committee to a successful outcome.  People skills are crucial for an effective Chair, but there should be a limit on how long anyone serves as a Chair.  Power does often go to people’s heads and many domineering political dictators remind us that life without discussion or debate eventually leads to oppressive regimes.

So let’s continue with committees, but have shorter, more focused meetings which lead to something happening and for the good of all.

Andrew McMurtrie



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