The president-elect of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) has defended the organisation against charges of “complacency” and set out a vision for its future.

Richard Steel, chief information officer at the London borough of Newham and Socitm’s president-elect, hit back in his ComputerworldUK blog after Socitm was criticised in an email newsletter put out by Public Sector Forums, a commercial online forum, after the Socitm conference last month.

Socitm – which represents IT managers in local authorities and other public bodies – was “at the moment unquestionably an Establishment outfit when it needs to be... well, something else, though quite what remains to be seen”, the newsletter argued.

It said Socitm had a “tailor-made role" putting IT managers “at the vanguard”, but cited an unnamed critic describing the organisation instead as the “provisional wing of the ODPM” – now the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The newsletter cited Sir Michael Bichard’s remarks that IT was “punching below its weight” in local government.

But Steel accused the newsletter’s writer, Ian Dunmore, of being “disingenuous” in failing to present a more rounded picture of Socitm.

Steel agreed with Bichard’s remarks that IT often over-promised and under-delivered. But he added that in the public sector 30% of IT leaders now sit at board level, which is “a very considerable improvement on just two years ago” and compared well with the influence wielded by other public sector professional bodies.

Steel defended Socitm against charges of complacency, arguing that as a membership organisation it had to act in line with members’ wishes. “That's a great strength, but it does limit our ability to make rapid changes – unlike an out and out commercial operation like PSF,” he said.

Laying out the ground for the future, Steel acknowledged “a real tension for us” in balancing Socitm’s good working relationships with government institutions and its responsibility to challenge bureaucracy, incompetence and waste, where it exists.

“I am inclined to agree that, at present, we've got the balance wrong, but that's something we aim to address, with the support of our members,” Steel said.