Just say can't pay, won't pay

29th June 2001 at 01:00
I WELCOME Charles Gray's strong criticism of the high cost of many conferences these days. Indeed, I welcome him to our small campaign.

For several years the Scottish Parent Teacher Council has vetted conferences for cost and boycotted those we felt were unreasonably expensive. Our current limit is pound;80 for a one-day event, but then we are a voluntary organisation with a duty to spend our members' subscriptions wisely.

Trouble is, our boycott has gone unnoticed, as has our non-attendance. And, before anyone criticises me for speaking at conferences that breach our spending limits, let me add that I do not expect anyone to pay to come to hear me.

However, I did take great pleasure in telling the organiser trying to promote the Holyrood event that we would not be coming because it cost too much. And what is it with these professional conference organisers? It's not that hard a job to do in-house.

Of course, another reason for not going was that it was pretty redundant. We would be a poor organisation if we had not worked out how the parliamentary committee system worked by now.

Indeed, it is worth asking what is the point of conferences? Most organisations have an annual meeting and use the occasion for a conference on an issue that's relevant to them. Conferences can also be an invaluable way to disseminate information - in which case the approach should be the minimum cost for the maximum attendance.

Unfortunately, it would seem there is a growing trend to put on conferences either for prestige reasons or to make money. I hope everyone will read Charles Gray's letter with care and follow his example.

Judith Gillespie Development manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council

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