BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution

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"For clarification, this post is from David Gibson, the secretary of BCRA. It is not a posting by BCA"

All members of the British Caving Association should have received an email (or a letter if your email address failed) describing the ballot that is currently taking place on constitutional amendments that would change the way voting is performed at future General Meetings of the British Caving Association. This includes a change from the present two-house voting system (groups and individuals) to a single-house system. As BCRA is a Group member of BCA, BCRA Council has had to discuss how we would cast our group vote in this ballot.

Council noted with regret that the ballot email was not clear about what was being voted on and that BCA's online documentation also lacked clarity. In particular we felt that it was poor practice to expect voters to read a 37-page document before casting their vote.

In our discussion it was noted that the proposer of the BCA motion may have missed a key point when he asked "/whether a group vote is really indicative of the feeling of the members/" as historically the Group vote has been present to cover "corporate" issues affecting Groups. Hence, it is not simply an aggregation of the votes of the group's members, which would indeed be rather un-democratic. BCA's activities are currently predicated on the existence of Groups which are given similar weight to individual members. The role of the groups, of the regional councils, of BCRA and other specialist bodies is important to British caving; and their voice needs to be heard at a "corporate" level within BCA.

During our discussion, an alternative argument was made by one member of BCRA Council who felt that Groups may have failed to live up to their responsibilities and hence we should support the BCA proposal.

However, the majority view of BCRA Council was that no good reason had been presented for a change to the "status quo" and that the situation would benefit from further thought and discussion. Council therefore decided that we would cast our group vote in a way that kept the issue open for further discussion, voting 7 to 1 to REJECT the proposed motion, with one abstention.

As BCRA is a charity, the trustees have personal legal responsibility for the running of our organisation and, whilst we do, of course, listen to our membership, the way we cast our Group vote is the sole responsibility of the trustees (i.e. BCRA Council) and not of our members. Similarly, Council will not be making a recommendation to our members on how they should vote in their own "house of individuals". However, Council would recommend that individuals try to inform themselves of the arguments. With this in mind we note that there is a commentary on the ballot at and there is discussion at

One reasonable reason for the change is that currently 5 people can set up a group and then they have an equal "corporate say" to the British Cave Research Association.

Not only this but the current system makes it difficult for people to join the BCRA. CIMs can't join the BCRA without a amount of beaurocratic faff precisely because the membership structure (and the BCA databases etc that underpin it) are old, outdated and barely functioning.

Thanks for the post it's useful to hear another opinion. Would be good if other non-regional groups weighed in (scouts, pengelly etc)

BCA Secretary:
I would like to clarify that the opinions above expressed by David Gibson are those of the BCRA (British Cave Research Association) and not the BCA.

A few people have been in touch already with me to query this post assuming it was in some way related to the BCA (and thus finding it confusing thinking that the BCA was announcing its own stance on the proposal half way through a ballot). For clarity, the BCRA is a separate organisation to the BCA, with its own Council and its own membership (although there are some historic ties that mean the membership systems for the two organisations are partially integrated, but these links are irrelevant in this situation).

The BCRA is a constituent body of the BCA (in the same way as the regional councils, the BCRC, CDG, CHECC, NAMHO etc) and thus has a group vote in the ballot alongside all member clubs. I appreciate the BCRA Council discussing the ballot in such detail and sharing their thoughts openly on this forum.

Matt Ewles
Secretary, British Caving Association

David Rose:
I find it impossible to understand this argument, as it is presented. Please clarify it. How is it not undemocratic if a group votes on an issue without consulting its members? How is that mitigated if a vote is about a "corporate" issue?

And what do you mean by claiming that BCA activities are predicated on the existence of groups? Surely, this is simply a tautology?

The Scouts have asked its members of the national SASU for their opinion, we will vote for the majority. we have not tried to influence any of them one way or the other.


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