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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
WI branch resigns over fees row
All 17 members of a Cumbrian branch of the Women's Institute have resigned in protest at increased subscriptions and what they claim is a lack of democracy.

The women, from Cliburn, near Penrith, said they were not asked about the rise nor the introduction of a magazine.

They said they were left with no choice and are now setting up their own group.

The National Federation of Women's Institutes said with more than 200,000 members, it was impossible to achieve universal approval.

President of Cliburn WI Joan Hodgson said they were aware the board of trustees could set subscriptions.

This is the only way we can protest because we haven't had any joy writing to national so it's the only way we can make our feelings felt
Joan Hodgson

But she said the increases for 2007 were larger than usual and incorporated a membership magazine. She said all members would also be put on a database and there were concerns about that.

Ms Hodgson said: "We are very angry basically because we were not consulted. We were told when it was all arranged.

"This is the only way we can protest because we haven't had any joy writing to national so it's the only way we can make our feelings felt."

At the moment, members who subscribe to the magazine pay 37.60 and members who do not pay 22. Next year everyone will pay 26 and they will all receive a magazine.

Fay Mansell, who chairs the National Federation of Women's Institutes, said: "We are very sorry that members are upset about the introduction of this magazine but you have to realise that with over 200,000 members it would be impossible to achieve universal approval for any change let alone one which involves an increase in price.

"I know members have said, and this group in particular are saying, they are upset about the lack of consultation - there is no provision for consultation with members over the subscription rate, it is set in our constitution."

She said with 200,000 members and 7,000 women's institutes around the country, the board of trustees was elected and has the responsibility of running the organisation.

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