More bad news for BCA modernisers


Staff member
Hi all

Many of you will know of Gary Douthwaite, CNCC webmaster, who designed and runs the CNCC website and cave media so well.  He helped me enormously by developing the on-line cave booking system which has improved access to many great caves in the north.  He has also been responsible for developing the Eurospeleo website, Hidden Earth website, the Northern Caves website and a number of clubs sites too.  All as a volunteer.  More recently he joined the BCA team to try and modernise the BCA website and associated IT infrastructure.  I am really sorrow to have to report that he has tendered his resignation from all BCA roles.  It seems that the difficulties of working within BCA are just too great a sacrifice even for a committed volunteer.  In the post below you will find Gary's resignation letter, reproduced with permission. 

In addition to my role as CNCC access officer I am also the CNCC representative to BCA.  As some events unfold at BCA I feel there is a wider member interest in making public such concerning information.  After all, most of us pay into BCA either through our clubs or as individuals - it is our association.  Brushing these matters under the carpet, as some at BCA would wish, does no favours to anyone in the long run.

Tim Allen


Staff member
Reproduced with permission

Dear BCA Council

Apologies for the long email, however there are important matters I need to bring to the attention of Council. I would appreciate it if you could take the time to read this in full.

Firstly, I would like to update you all on the progress that I have made in the last few months regarding upgrading the website and related services.

New Website:

The new public facing website is now broadly complete and below is the temporary URL (link) to allow you to preview it. There are of course some bits of content to update although Matt has re-written and updated a lot of it already, and a few functionalities that have not yet been fully enabled.

Please remember that this site is just a beta (test) version and there are bound to be some bugs and some text amendments. Once Council have had look and made comments the next stage would be to make the site available to members and the public with the option to switch and always use the new site until its final launch if this is what Council wish.

To complement the public part of the website there is a back-end administration system for use by Council members which allows updating of the site as required. This admin area has a simple and user-friendly interface which requires no programming understanding whatsoever. Individual page content can be edited as well as bespoke areas for adding news, training, events, meetings and associated documents and newsletters. This area is not quite ready for general use but please see the separate attached document which is a preview of this admin area with screenshots and an explanation of the various functions. Matt has used this admin area successfully to update and upload a significant amount of the current content on the new website, and he is entirely on board with me saying that he isn?t always the most technically gifted at these kinds of things, so that should be testament to its simplicity.

Membership systems:

In addition to the above, extensive development has also taken place on a new, modern, unified membership system. This system brings together the current very fragmented way that members are organised, and membership renewals are made. It incorporates the following?

A new, user friendly members area (to replace what is now BCA Online) designed and branded to match the new public site.
Centralised members database allowing all member data to be live and in one place meaning that what Council members see is the same data as what the membership secretary sees, and updates are instantly reflected. There will never again be multiple (potentially different) versions of the membership lists floating around.
A mass mailing system to allow emails to be sent to all or selected parts of the membership (e.g. just individuals, or just groups etc) with inbuilt measures to ensure no single officer can abuse it, and that any recipient who requests removal from the mailing list is automatically dealt with to meet GDPR requirements.
Online voting (which is required now following all AGMs).
DIM and CIM renewals. This automates much of the process and will eradicate the need for clubs to send spreadsheets by email.
Direct Debit integration for those wanting to use this.
Options for auto-renewal of membership.

Most of the initial development on the above is complete although more testing is required. I tried to focus on autonomy and ease of use wherever possible to minimise the workload on our volunteers. Work is on hold indefinitely for reasons covered below.

A full and comprehensive technical manual would also be published to aid the continued maintenance by a future person in my role.

New To Caving:

Following the agreed purchase of the New To Caving website, it has now been fully transferred to BCA and is currently running on BCA?s server. I did not originally create the website and making changes to it in its previous form would have been awkward. With that in mind, I have re-built and updated the code, however the front-end design is almost identical. The advertising has been removed (but may return in due course via a BCA-agreement with sponsors) and the copyright details updated to BCA.

Further discussion will be needed as to its future with perhaps a new logo and some other alterations, however I cannot stress enough how important it is to have this site running and kept maintained. Having a quick and easy reference point for potential new cavers is incredibly important for the future of British Caving and we must build on the excellent work that Tim and Jane Allen have done in getting this ?brand? out there. This must NOT be allowed to go to ruin as TryCaving did.

Other important matters:

It is with a very heavy heart that I must announce that, despite spending much of a year of my life (literally hundreds of hours over the year) devoted to BCA and making all of the above progress, all work has now stopped. I will not be re-standing for any position at the AGM and no further work will be done on the new site or membership system, so unless someone else wants to continue my work, it will never progress beyond the current test stage. I will continue to maintain the current public site until the AGM as required, at which point I will fully resign. I will not be attending the AGM. This is not a decision I wanted to have to make.

Matt and I got involved with BCA as a team because we work very well together and I?m am truly saddened by recent events which has led to Matt?s departure from his role as Secretary. We both had such excitement and enthusiasm to make change for the better to carry BCA into the future, but this enthusiasm has been drained from both of us by the actions of some.

To say my role has been an uphill battle would be an understatement. I did not get into this to start a fight or play politics; I just wanted to make a difference and use what few skills I have to improve the BCA and British Caving for everyone. However, at every stage I have faced negativity, objections and lies intended to undermine me, and I am not prepared to continue. I have also seen the very profound effect his has had on Matt and no longer wish to be a part of it.

It will not surprise any of you that most of the difficulties have come from David Cooke. I did not want to see him pushed out in the way he was (albeit of his own making) however I had hoped that with his departure we could move on ? it seems not. The 14 proposals that have been put to the AGM by David Cooke and the CSCC have been cleverly designed to destroy all the brilliant work that has been achieved over this last year. Two of them are specifically aimed at removing the positions Jane and I currently hold; what greater attack could be possible on those fighting so hard to make the BCA a modern organisation?

Not satisfied with his own submission of proposals I find it disgusting that David Cooke and Alan Butcher have also manipulated the CSCC into doing the dirty work too. They are, for some reason, determined to keep the BCA in 2005. David Cooke has been manipulative, obstructive, possessive and a bully; a well-rehearsed (and frequently successful) routine designed to see-off anyone who threatens his BCA empire. He has done it to others who have come before me.

Even if these proposals are rejected by members (I hope they are) the damage is already done. The total failure of an entire caving region to recognise the good work and forward progress of the last year signals that this fight will never end. This was what brought Matt to the end of his tether.

With David Cooke, directly and via the CSCC continuing to call the shots, nothing will ever change, and I believe it will ultimately bring the BCA to its knees. I now understand what I was told (warned) about prior to taking my role and why so many good people who have tried to help in the past have given up in despair.

I can not put into words how genuinely sad this decision has made me. I am INCREDIBLY proud of the work achieved this year. Several people, not just Matt and Jane, have injected some great new ideas and were making such progress. I am particularly proud of what Matt, Jane, David Rose and I have created with the re-branding of the newsletter to ?British Caving? and I was hoping this was something we could continue to build upon.

Jane has done wonders putting out nothing but positivity and I have seen first-hand how her work has begun changing people?s opinions of the BCA. Social media has never been so alive with talk of British Caving and I have loved working with Jane to achieve this. Her infectious positive attitude has been hugely inspirational to me and we?ve made a great team and the two of us work far better and more productively than any committee could have. It is disgusting that the CSCC are seeking to use this AGM to reverse a decision taken at the last AGM. It is childish, and pathetic. The CSCC should be ashamed, and I sincerely hope that Southern cavers wake up to what damage to caving in the UK is being done under their name.

It seems that no matter how much energy and positivity people attempt to give to the BCA, the naysayers and those who thrive on negativity always seem to prevail. I don?t like to use the term ?old guard? (it implies that those who have been around for a while are all bad, which is far from true) but that?s what it comes down to ? those who want things to remain how they have always been ?back in my day? and refuse to accept change. People need to realise when it is time to move on and listen to the clear wishes of our members and STOP doing everything possible to make life difficult for the sadly small number of passionate new volunteers who do come forward.

I am sorry to Hellie, Rostam, Will, Howard and others who have also fought hard for change too in the last year, but life is just too short to put up with this kind of torment. Hopefully you?re strong enough to continue to fight for change ? and I hope you achieve it.

In the words of one of my best friends ? I just want to go caving.

Gary Douthwaite
28 April 2020


Well-known member
New site looks nice.


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Well I'm very sorry to hear this Gary, but I can't say I blame you (or that I'm very surprised).

We can only hope that there is another enthusiastic volunteer ready to pick up where you left off, otherwise I fear your hard work will never see the light of day. Likewise for everyone else who has recently resigned, or the BCA will be slipping back to where you have all been trying to drag it from.

Since the CSCC does not appear to have published the minutes from the meeting where their proposals to the BCA AGM were agreed, I have asked my club representative for his notes from the meeting, as I am very confident that he will have attended.

For what it's worth, the Cheddar Caving Club discussed the (then live) ballot on Matt's proposals at our AGM before Christmas. Both sides were represented and all present members voted, with a result in favour of supporting Matt in his drive for progress. As such, I am confident that our club CSCC representative will have used the club vote to oppose the latest round of bullshit from the CSCC.

I'm sure we aren't the only southern club whose members favour progress. It's not all doom down south  (y)

or is it...


Well-known member
Reading this makes me seriously reconsider my BCA membership next year, I don't want to be associated with a bunch of petty minded bully's, which sounds like soon, will be almost all that is left. I think it's only the liability insurance what is stopping me, but if an alternative is made to that, then I think I personally at least would prefer to no longer be associated with the BCA.

Maybe if enough people left then maybe the BCA "old guard" who run it, might change their ways, for there empire would be dead otherwise. But the liability insurance is the axe they hold above our heads, we need an alternative to it and soon.


Well-known member
Actually, you just need to vote against all the amendments at the AGM - opting out isn't possible if you're a club member anyway, unless the whole club do so.


More sad news on the BCA front. Both Gary and Matt have done brilliant jobs on our behalf and what is happening in the BCA is nothing sort of a a farce.

Stuart France

Active member
I have further bad news for you all.  The BCA constitution which says:

"8.9. Any person may speak at a General Meeting, subject to the Chairman's agreement. All motions arising from a General Meeting must be first voted on by individual members present at the meeting and eligible to vote. All motions with support from at least 25% of those individuals who vote, or 10 individuals (whichever is lowest) must be taken forward to an online vote. "

So if CSCC/Cookie's motions (in every sense of that word) fail at the AGM by a result which is say 100/10, then it will result in an online ballot, further extending BCA's misery.  Yes, just 10 awkward people can trigger a national ballot.  Whose daft idea was that?

So all these cavers-at-large who are fed up with the CSCC's wrecking tactics will need to turn up in Mendip whenever circumstances allow the next BCA AGM to take place there and not only vote down the CSCC's proposals, but also vote for some totally new faces on BCA council to deal with the process and aftermath of an inevitable ballot.

I've been involved now for 6 years and trust me:  you've got to be prepared for the worst when you get into this.  Politics isn't nice;  it isn't quick;  it often seems to be a waste of time and good road fuel to be sitting on a Saturday in a whole roomful of Dilberts.  But unless active cavers join forces and get a grip then the bad stuff will just go on and on.

As someone said:  it's time to take back control.


New member
mikem said:
Actually, you just need to vote against all the amendments at the AGM - opting out isn't possible if you're a club member anyway, unless the whole club do so.

No, I think everyone leaving and letting the them few arses in the CSCC do what they want with the few members they retain, is the way forwards. It is not for purpose. Burn it down and start again. So few people should not be able to cause so much shit for so many people.


Well-known member
I don't have any connection with the CSCC but I'll be renewing my DIM subscription as usual.

The BCA does a great many good things for our benefit and we shouldn't forget that. If there are some aspects which members don't like, get clued up on the constitution and change them. After all, the same rules apply to everyone. I'm not convinced that the "scrap it and start afresh" suggestion is very helpful.

But . . . . I'm extremely sorry to learn of Gary's intention to step down because I have a reasonable understanding of just how much he's done for us since taking up post.

Thank you Gary  (y)  :clap:


Staff member
Thank you, Gary for the kind words.  What a loss you will be to BCA  :(

I repeat a post I made a while ago on another thread after Matt's resignation as it applies to Gary's too.

Proposal 9.2
That the P&I Standing Committee be reinstated.
Reason: the business formally conducted by the P&I Committee is now brought to the BCA National Council for discussion and agreement meaning that the National Council is, in effect, the P&I Committee. This extends National Council meetings by up to 60 minutes. The National Council meeting in January 2020 included a lengthy report from the P&I Officer requiring discussion and decision. This could be more effectively done by a Standing Committee.

What business formally conducted by the P&I committee?? There wasn't one!  P&I previously did very little apart from check about copyright from what I could gather.  Seriously, do not think for one minute that this was an active committee - it wasn't!

Since I took on the role BCA now have a new logo, better adverts in Descent, New to Caving leaflets and Min Impact leaflets distributed, a stand at Hidden Earth, a dedicated BCA area on UKC complete with free advert, I've contributed to the BCA facebook page, a major campaign was conducted promoting BCA expedition insurance, Ghar Parau now mention BCA on their website as a major supporter, Cavefest was supported, questionnaires run at CHECC and Hidden Earth etc etc (read my reports, it's all there) and most important of all and helped to facilitate a new modern website which was desperately needed as the current was is not good at all.

I have received terrific help and support from Gary & Matt with the above, thank you both, what a loss to BCA you will both be :(

I make no apology for discussing some issues at Council and it didn't take an hour, though the extra long lunch some took more than did.  Not appreciated by those of us who had hours to travel back home.

This hurtful proposal is in my opinion simply made to get rid of me - well congratulations, job well done.  I'm not standing again.  Good luck BCA finding someone else to do it and filling that new P&I committee - BCA struggle enough filling posts as it is.

This is a CSCC proposal - I do wonder if the majority of southern caving clubs feel so strongly about the way I have conducted myself that they wanted the CSCC to propose what they have.  Were they consulted?  Do they care?

I've had enough.  Had enough of being rudely shouted at by fellow council members or receiving snide e-mails.  Enough of sitting for hours and hours listening to those who wish to thwart every single progressive idea drone on and on with their justifications/nit picking about minutiae of the minutes/constitution blah blah, enough of feeling sick with worry before attending council meetings - enough.

I tried my best and understand many will think I've 'given in to them', 'not fought on' etc but to be honest it's just not worth it any more.  I wish those who are prepared to carry on dragging BCA kicking and screaming into a modern era for caving all the very best, I will miss many of you  - others I will be glad not to have to sit in a room with ever again.

If BCA changes one aspect of the way it conducts itself is to be kinder in future.  Council members who are more sensitive souls should feel comfortable when at meetings and when conducting their roles for BCA, not hounded out by a small majority.

BCA could be so positive for British caving, good luck to all those who are working hard to make it so and sorry I can no longer be a part of it.


Here's a reminder of just some of the work Gary helped me achieve (without any blummin Working Group or lumbersome committee):
It would have been impossible without his help, thanks Gary.

New logo though some wanted to keep the old one....

New Adverts for Descent - positive messages rather than many of the previous ones being about disease.


The promotional campaign for the BCA Expedition insurance (which was a LOT of work)


The BCA stand at Hidden Earth:


There's more, read my reports if you are interested.

The Position of P&I is fundamentally 'Marketing' and should be renamed as such - it's common for Organisations to have a 'Marketing Dept'.  BCA is a relatively small Association and doesn't need lots of volunteers for this role - you cannot decide what to post on facebook by committee.  What the role does need is either someone who is able to design posters etc like the above or someone like Gary who will give freely of their time to help.  We worked well as a Team, it's all such a bloody shame.



Well-known member
Stuart; that 'daft idea' was mine, supported by the majority of members.

Prior to introduction of this wording, the decision on whether to accept or reject most of the CSCC and David Cooke's proposals would have been made by a majority vote of those present at the AGM. Given that this AGM is going to be in Mendips then undoubtedly the majority of attendees would be southern cavers, presumably voting to support their regional council's proposals.

Therefore all of the CSCC's motions would be accepted probably just due to a turnout of about 30 CSCC-loyal cavers (many of who no doubt dragged along there from the Hunters by CSCC chief-whips). Do you feel that system was better?

In an ideal world, participation at physical AGMs would be greater and more representative of all regions; but it isn't... usually 60 people (<1% of membership).

The point of the low minimum threshold (10 individuals) was to allow some level of filtration at the AGM (e.g. to consolidate conflicting proposals), but to avoid a rogue club or regional council whipping their members along to an AGM to block a motion that they don't like even if the rest of the membership do like it. I believe there have been some dirty tactics used in the past, so the routes enabling this needed to be closed off. The low attendance at AGMs made it too easy in the past for a small number to call the shots.

Individual members now get a say on all proposals arising from an AGM. Nobody can 'block' anything or take advantage of the AGMs locality to push through a regional agenda.

National ballots don't have to be the ordeal they used to be. Had I been staying on to run it, the ballot would be done electronically only (no postal) using a system as per the ballot last year... which takes a matter of minutes for people to vote in. The software already exists and the ballot could be set up in just a couple of hours at zero cost. Obviously, that's just how I would have done it, but the choice will be down to the next Secretary now (I have an excellent applicant lined up who I am working with already to facilitate a smooth handover).

Thanks therefore to this 'daft idea' I hope that all of the CSCC's and David Cooke's proposals can be rejected by BCA's members; rather than being accepted outright just because the CSCC cracked the whip to get 30 people along to a meeting.

Stuart France

Active member
You have missed the point:  a threshold of 10 people to send a failed AGM motion to national ballot is daft.  By the way I?m not saying that you personally are daft, only the arithmetic of this rule.

A failed proposal needs to be seen to have attracted a reasonable level of support at AGM in order for it to be re-considered by a national ballot.  My example was 100/10 so if 100 people vote against and 10 in favour then the motion should be dead there and then.  I think the rule would have been better saying 25% of those present or 10 people whichever is the GREATER as this more truly reflects the uncertainty in such an AGM result.

You?re saying it is there to prevent some local group hijacking the BCA at AGM by ensuring the losing side (i.e. all cavers from other regions who between them command only 10 votes in the room) obtains a re-vote at national ballot.  It also works the other way too:  if the non-locals win by simple majority what most normal people would regard as a sensible proposition then the losing locals (and with only 10 votes) effectively get a re-vote by national ballot.  It?s unlikely any AGM vote for any ?sensible? centre-ground position is going to be reversed by a national ballot:  but holding such a ballot has a cost, delays progress, and it fuels further argument in the forlorn hope of a different outcome in some months time.

All normal people vote for centre-ground common sense or compromises.

The problem BCA has is that the CSCC isn?t interested in the centre ground or compromise, and if it can?t get what it wants then all the toys get thrown out of the pram ad infinitum.

I honestly think BCA needs to become an all-individual caver organisation with one-person-one-vote whether the caver is in a club or is a DIM.  All these 'bodies' - and there are 13 of them - should become purely advisory at national level and not be able to propose motions or vote in BCA national council or at BCA AGMs.  Their executive role should be limited to regional level in the case of regional caving councils, or to the context of their own speciality such as diving, rescue, cave science, youth development, and so on.



Well-known member
Basically the break even point is only 40 attendees (25%=10) - not sure what the average of recent AGMs has been? If it was the other way around, as Stuart suggests, then even if only 20 turned up, you'd still have to get 10 to vote against, which would be a 50/50 split, so would need to go to ballot anyway - so a pointless rule at these numbers!


New member
Pitlamp said:
I'm not convinced that the "scrap it and start afresh" suggestion is very helpful.

It's the only way caving will move forward with a national body. For at least 10 years, a small handful of people have essentially held the BCA hostage. Stopped any meaningful progress as a national body, stopped it being ran for the benefit of it's members, not a small clique in a particular region.

At no point are they going to stop, they'll just become more overt and creative.

So the path of least resistance is just to eliminate them. Doing this through the BCA will just result in another decades worth of heel dragging, minutiae picking, agenda loading fuckwittery. Actively replacing the BCA with something fit for purpose and able to actually do the job it sets out to do, is, as far as I can see, the easiest option. It doesn't mean it's going to be at all easy to do, in and of itself, but it's far more likely to have a result the majority are happy with, given the obvious way the CSCC are actively looking to sink the good work already done, and people that have done it.

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
Stuart - I prefer to view the current constitutional set up as but a potential stepping stone to doing away with holding votes at AGMs on motions and directly seeking the votes by electronic means of all members following a discussion at the AGM.


Well-known member
Sorry NewStuff, you've not managed to convinced me. 
Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.  :)


New member
Pitlamp said:
Sorry NewStuff, you've not managed to convinced me. 
Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.  :)

If there's another 10 years of this, no-one will want to be bothered with it anyway. Then you don't have a national body at all, and bang goes the insurance because the membership doesn't meet a minimum economical threshold.

I'm good with either scenario, I don't need a national body, nor do I need or care about the insurance. But many do, and I'd like them to be able to have a national body represent them in a way that actually benefits them, not a few old blokes on Mendip.

Stuart France

Active member
Bob Mehew said:
Stuart - I prefer to view the current constitutional set up as but a potential stepping stone to doing away with holding votes at AGMs on motions and directly seeking the votes by electronic means of all members following a discussion at the AGM.

Yes it would be nice to have the technological means for as many cavers as possible to attend a BCA AGM via the internet and then to exercise an immediate personal vote at a distance.

BCA has done half the job which is stop these 'bodies' including CSCC having a vote at AGMs by abolishing the "Two House" voting system.

But the other half of job that has not been done is getting these 'bodies' off BCA National Council so they can't vote on day to day business and have executive control of caving at national level.

Whether BCA is transformed into something that serves cavers better, which I feel is the best approach, or whether another national body is set up to replace BCA, there will still be a need for decent and committed volunteers to run it.  They are in short supply and become quickly disillusioned as we have seen.

That's the problem.  I've been involved in the "serving cavers better" business for 6 years now by taking a public role in caving.  I never imagined myself in the role or that I would last more than a year.  Sometimes I'm portrayed as a bad man from Wales for my trouble by predictable sources.  It should not be necessary to be combative, but getting BCA to do anything in a coordinated way is like herding cats.

Just look at the BMC for a comparison:  it's well organised, it's climber focused, everyone is working hard in a coordinated way, their website is full of current topics, features and information beautifully presented, their officers are engaged in working with government and other sports bodies on planning the resumption of outdoor recreation as covid unwinds, and so on.  Admittedly many of their staff are in paid posts, but my point is the BMC is not self-serving and is not in the business of self-destruction and no part of it is working to undermine climbing either.


Well-known member
They also have over 10 times as many members (& more of them are individual rather than club)...