Author Topic: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down  (Read 8468 times)

Offline Badlad

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BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« on: April 06, 2020, 10:06:36 pm »
Sad to see it come to this.  Matt was our one hope of dragging BCA out of the dark ages.  Other modernisers will go with him.

He attributes this to the actions of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.  They represent clubs and their members from Mendip and other parts of the south.  I hope this is what the majority of you wanted.

Full letter below - posted with permission.

Offline Badlad

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2020, 10:07:09 pm »
Dear BCA Council

Being a BCA Secretary with a modernising agenda has not been easy. When I came into the role last summer, I did so with great enthusiasm and optimism for what lay ahead, and with a Council of volunteers keen to see the BCA change and better serve British Caving.

The BCA was bogged down with excessive sub-committees (to which matters were being frequently deferred) many of which were severely understaffed by the volunteers they required. Change, of any kind, therefore happened at snail pace and the BCA had fallen years behind. It has become a million miles from what a national caving body would look like if set up from scratch to represent the UK caving community as it exists today.

A group specifically focussed on bringing about a new vision for the BCA is already at least a year behind schedule due to suffering a chronic lack of participation.

Despite this, I have been so inspired by many of our Council who have been supportive of modernisation and change when individuals come forward offering to try to deliver this. I include in this our excellent Treasurer who has supported me from within the BCA Executive team.

There have been challenges over the past several months, the major one being the ongoing disputes with the former webmaster, IT Working Group Convenor and current Web Services Officer, David Cooke, which led to the agenda items at the October and January Council meetings.

The situation that led up to, and that occurred at the January meeting had a profound effect. You all know the story as it was told in detail in my report to the meeting. We had no choice but to dismiss David from his ITWG role for withholding access to critical BCA systems, and in doing so refusing to comply with the wishes of our members and of BCA Council.

Did I want to dismiss someone who has served in BCA since it started? Obviously not. I felt shit for weeks after. As much as I profoundly disagree with David’s way of working and his vision for BCA’s future, and as much as I dispute some of the things he has accused Gary and I of, and the way he has treated us, it is still upsetting to see any aspect of caving turn so personal and sour.

Equally though, I knew when I took on this role that tough decisions were going to be needed if we were going to enact member’s wishes, and turn the BCA from the dinosaur it was (and in many ways still is) into something modern and sustainable.

So onward we went from the January meeting, with instruction from Council that they didn’t want to hear any more about the disagreements David and Gary/I have over BCA’s IT, and a proposal for Gary to present ideas for the future to Council. I really hoped that would be the end of the story and the unpleasantness and we could move on with some positivity.

Sadly, things have continued to worsen since January, with accusations in the last few weeks from David that I am abusing my position and confirmation that he will be pursuing a formal complaint.

The Welsh Government issue highlighted to me how quickly some people on Council can turn against you. The BCA Executive made a decision in unprecedented circumstances on how to conduct an email vote on this matter following cancellation of the April meeting. Given that this represented a high cost proposal, with tight deadlines (i.e. not much time for BCA Council to consult back with their councils/bodies) and outside the remit of our constitution, we chose to require a majority of the entire council rather than just those who replied. This was intended to safeguard the decision and provide counter-argument when it is challenged later by our constitutional pedants. While some people were moderated in their questioning of the decision (which is fine), the language in the criticism was extremely upsetting.

Saturday was the deadline for agenda items for the AGM in June (which is likely to be rescheduled for later in the year). Naturally, I was expecting a few proposals that I would find a little unpalatable, but I was perfectly prepared to make some compromises to my own ideologies to ensure everyone felt engaged. I was keen to try to build bridges with southern cavers, who I know do not (assuming their Regional Council is anything to go by) support the recent changes.

I certainly did not expect to receive EIGHT proposals from the Council of Southern Caving Clubs and SIX proposals from David Cooke.

You will see these proposals when they are published. The CSCC ones are particularly troubling and go way beyond being ‘a little unpalatable’.

In combination, the CSCC propose creating FIVE new voting Council positions including two new Standing Committees. Where are the volunteers for these going to come from when we struggle to fill the existing roles? For most of the last year, we have had vacant Council positions. I have given up hours advertising and trying to find people to fill these positions. Increasing the number of positions is hardly in line with my wish to reduce bureaucracy, nor does it reflect the reducing volunteer pool that the BCA has experienced over the last several years.

The BCA, unlike some of our sibling organisations, is almost entirely volunteer run. If more sub-committees and increased bureaucracy is what is wanted, we are going to need to explore the possibility of more paid employees which will mean higher membership costs.

The proposals aim to displace Jane Allen from her current P&I Officer position and reinstate a Standing Committee (a childish attempt to use this AGM to reverse a decision taken at the last AGM). This is totally outrageous, because for the first time in years, the BCA has an extremely active P&I Officer who is getting things done thanks to being freed from the unnecessary bureaucracy of a Standing Committee. There seems to be an aspiration to put a stop to this and return to having an overly bureaucratic and understaffed Committee that gets nothing done.

The proposals also include formation an IT Standing Committee, to which Gary, our Webmaster, would have to report rather than being able to get on with his job as he has been. Development of a website via a Committee would take decades. Filibustering progress with unnecessary Committees is the exact reason the BCA is years behind where it should be in so many areas.

Cumulatively, the CSCC proposals are an attempt to reverse outcomes of the last AGM and return the BCA to where it was years ago. Everything that has come on in leaps and bounds since the last AGM would once again become hampered by excessive beaurocracy.

Furthermore, I have absolutely no doubt that these proposals are a retaliation for the changes that have been made over the last year which the CSCC have not supported, and an attempt to drive me, Gary, Jane and other modernisers out of the BCA to prevent further ‘damage’.

We now move towards an AGM probably in Autumn, with >14 proposal from the CSCC/David plus others. Many of these proposals aim to undo the progress that has been made in the last year. As Secretary I would be expected to attend this AGM, which will be in the CSCC’s home region. This, along with the continuing attacks from David Cooke and his pending formal complaint, and the insults I have received over my handling of the Welsh Government vote is simply too much, and although I am a very strong person, even my mental health has limits. No voluntary role is worth this level of stress.

I accept that these are just proposals, and they may not pass at the meeting or in the resulting membership ballot. However, my dismay of seeing them put forward in the first place at a time I thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel is crushing. The knowledge that as Secretary I would have to attend that AGM, fills me with total dread.

Therefore, I will be standing down as Secretary immediately prior to the AGM assuming it can be scheduled for Autumn (I will not continue beyond Autumn regardless of whether we have an AGM then). I will continue essential Secretarial duties until then, but I will not be attending the AGM or any further meetings before then. I simply cannot stomach the thought.

The revised agenda notification will contain advertisement for the position of Secretary.

Sadly, what southern cavers want from the BCA, and what northern cavers want from the BCA have become so severely different that it will take a better diplomat than me to deal with this. We have a situation where a northern AGM has changed something, and a southern AGM the following year is trying to change it back. This ping-pong is clearly not a sustainable situation.

My continuation in the BCA is impossible, but that doesn’t mean I am against the BCA as an organisation. Having a national body remains critical. Without one, caving will struggle to have a say on national access matters at Government level. There would be no central pot of cash to distribute out to the various regions for conservation, access, training and anchoring initiatives. There would be no national Public Liability scheme, no caver-arranged travel insurance scheme, nobody to administer the national awards (CIC, LCMLA), nobody to fund research into areas such as radon, nobody to issue guidance on important matters such as safeguarding etc. A quick glance over the last few newsletters will help anyone understand the good a national body can achieve.

It seems a logical conclusion that my successor should be considerably more impartial about the future direction of the BCA, making them better able to bring together our divided regions without their own agenda.

I really appreciate all the support and encouragement so many people have given me in this role. The BCA has some amazing volunteers, and I have been so impressed by the work and enthusiasm of some of our regional council and constituent body reps, officers and appointees. However, please do not try to change my mind, as I have given this considerable thought. I think the recent Coronavirus situation has also helped me realise that life is too short to put up with this.

I will happily work to ensure a smooth handover to the next Secretary.

Before the AGM, I will continue working with Gary to get the new website test version out for review. I think you will be pleased because it looks great, and I do not want the several months that Gary has invested into this be wasted. Other than this, his work moving forward will be caretaking of the existing membership systems only up until my departure, when he will step away from that role. There seems little point in him putting forward proposals for any new systems now that the future of BCA’s IT Infrastructure and management is once again uncertain (i.e. the potential future formation of an IT Standing Committee if CSCC’s proposal is accepted). Gary has no desire to run a Standing Committee should one be created; it is just too much bureaucracy.

Gary will happily continue management of the new website after my departure and on a voluntary basis if asked to do so; but not as part of a complex sub-committee and not if his hands are going to be tied. He is a professional web developer so the BCA would be unwise not to accept that offer. The website has been written to modern coding standards, so that any professional or semi-professional web-developer will be able to take it on, so if Gary left completely (or his continuation at managing the website was rejected) then it would not be difficult for someone else to pick this up.

Most critically, the new website it has a very intuitive back-end admin section which will allow even the most non-computer savvy person to update key website text, advertise meetings, post events and news items, upload associated documents and photos, and edit the diary, without any difficulties whatsoever (much simpler than the old website).

I am looking forward to having more time to go caving, more time to focus on my own clubs, and less time fighting a losing battle and worrying about what stress/abuse/unwelcome news the next email is going to bring; Overall I will be a much happier person and able to enjoy caving again.

Kind regards

Matt Ewles
BCA Secretary
6th April 2020




Offline 2xw

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2020, 10:15:43 pm »
Will these proposals be voted on by attendees at the AGM only or put to the membership via the online voting?

Offline Pegasus

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2020, 10:21:28 pm »
I cannot express strongly enough my sadness at reading the above. The amount of work and dedication Matt (and Gary) have put in to BCA has been nothing short of extraordinary, they have had so much support but also so much unnecessary shit to deal with.  Why anyone would choose now of all times to lodge yet another formal complaint is beyond me....Is this really what southern cavers want?????

When Matt leaves, I'll leave - save you the trouble of hounding me out like you have Matt.

Good luck to you BCA, you're going to need it.

Jane Allen
Publications & Information Officer
BCA

Offline AR

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2020, 10:28:45 pm »
Will these proposals be voted on by attendees at the AGM only or put to the membership via the online voting?

If it's the former then I may well make one of my rare excursions outside of the Peak, even if I have to pay for care cover for my wife and ponies.
Dirty old mines need love too....

Offline Dave Tyson

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2020, 10:43:47 pm »
I am absolutely appalled that a regional council would have the temerity to undo all the good work which Matt and others have put it to make the BCA fit for the next decade or more.

The behaviour of the CSCC and their protagonists is beyond belief - I am sure a lot of the members of CSCC are against the rabid behavour of a few individuals, but its down to them to sort the issue out.  Maybe the BCA should have a vote to exclude the CSCC and they can run their own group with there own rules, website etc. I am sure the rest of the regional councils will continue to value the contributions of the individuals who have tirelessly worked to modernise the BCA and make it more appealing to both old and new members.

Dave 

Offline Pegasus

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2020, 10:51:58 pm »

The behaviour of the CSCC and their protagonists is beyond belief - I am sure a lot of the members of CSCC are against the rabid behavour of a few individuals, but its down to them to sort the issue out   

Indeed

Offline JJ

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2020, 11:13:47 pm »
O.M.G. .......... I am absolutely horrified. I find it impossible to put into words my thoughts regarding the CSCC.

R.I.P.  ....BCA, unfortunately I can not see any way back.




PS My full hearted thanks to Matt, Garry, Jane etc


Offline Roger W

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2020, 11:18:07 pm »
The "like" button just isn't appropriate here - an "agree" one might be.

What on earth (or under it) is going on?

Maybe the CSCC could explain what they are trying to do?
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves:  you don't know how far they go back, sometimes... or what is waiting for you inside."   JRR Tolkein: "The Hobbit"

Offline mrodoc

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2020, 07:01:58 am »
This is a very complex situation and throwing mud about (in my view a very apt metaphor) doesn't help. I think anybody posting should have attended meetings both of BCA and CSCC before they make comments

Offline MarkS

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2020, 08:00:55 am »
I was extremely disheartened to read Matt's email posted above.

This is a very complex situation and throwing mud about (in my view a very apt metaphor) doesn't help. I think anybody posting should have attended meetings both of BCA and CSCC before they make comments

Given that 99% of BCA members likely don't fall into this category (myself included), can someone who does please enlighten the rest of us as to what some of these complexities are?

« Last Edit: April 07, 2020, 08:40:12 am by MarkS »

Offline yrammy

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2020, 08:23:33 am »
 As one of the few paid employees of the BCA struggling to keep things going during the lockdown,  (I am still working although my workload has dropped dramatically)  I just want to say how saddened by the whole  state of the BCA.  I am not speaking as someone on one side or another.

I applaud  all you volunteers out there - without you I would not have a job.


Mary Wilde  - Training Administrator

Offline JasonC

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2020, 09:09:05 am »
I was extremely disheartened to read Matt's email posted above.

This is a very complex situation and throwing mud about (in my view a very apt metaphor) doesn't help. I think anybody posting should have attended meetings both of BCA and CSCC before they make comments

Given that 99% of BCA members likely don't fall into this category (myself included), can someone who does please enlighten the rest of us as to what some of these complexities are?

I fully echo Mark's comments.  Knowing little of the history of the disputes, I'm not in a position to throw mud, but it seems very distressing when someone who gives every appearance of being enthusiastic, level-headed and well-meaning feels this way. 
I do hope the situation can be resolved without the departure of the individuals who seem to have had such a positive influence on the BCA in the last year or so.

Offline HardenClimber3

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2020, 09:21:34 am »
The BCA has made massive progress in the last year.
We've seen both the BCA and BMC bogged down in destructive timewasting struggles against change. The BMC seems to have managed to step back from its deathwish. There seems to be an unwillingness in parts of the BCA to accept democracy. We can look back at the CRoW debate and how energy was lost dealing with people subverting the mandated direction of travel.
If the BCA is weakened by small interest groups we will all lose. (An example of what happens is perhaps the original CRoW legislation).

Thank you to those who have tried to do good.

and
perhaps, someone could explain what they feel is so bad about the direction the BCA has been taking?

Offline aricooperdavis

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2020, 09:28:37 am »
So sorry to hear it Matt, you were the right person to be leading the way for the BCA, and you put a huge amount of work in, achieving some great things.

The BCA is only worth anything because hard working, invested cavers make it so. The more this squabbling alienates people, the less useful it becomes. But the caves and the friendly cavers we go underground with aren't going anywhere!

Keep caving (when we next can!) :)

Offline Pegasus

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2020, 09:47:40 am »
I have attended BCA meetings and I have attended a CSCC meeting.  At the CSCC meeting a while ago I witnessed with my own eyes hands being slamed on the table in what I thought was shocking behaviour.  Sadder behaviour was seeing one young caver asking politely whether or not there could be an 'accord' (I remember the use of the word well as it reminded me of Pirates of the Carribean) and his thought being dismissed.

I don't think the issues are complex at all - I believe a relatively small numbers if cavers are vehemently against access under CROW and despite the majority of cavers being for better access, do everything they can think of to thwart progress. The majority of cavers aren't interest in caving politics (how sensible) and just want to enjoy their sport, however this allows those that do get involved to have a great deal of influence. This can be a good thing, there will be a new BCA website and it will look great I'm sure and was one of the major changes I joined BCA to help facilitate - Gary has worked tirelessly on it (for free) and we should all thank him for this. However there is also the flip side to influence.

Next thing will be accusations of 'bullying, threats to sue for liable, complaining to the information commission about GDPR, more formal complaints etc, blummin etc. It's being going on for years, it's ridiculous.

So please, if you post on this thread or any other on the forum, don't say anything that will give those same few any reason to give others more grief.


I hope a new generation of kinder, less spiteful cavers move up and support those in BCA and caving in general who work so hard on your behalf.

There are many on BCA council who volunteer hours of their time and care deeply about supporting cavers and caving.  If you can bear it, get involved and help bring about change.

Wishing you all well during these awful times, Jane

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2020, 09:51:21 am »
What a terrible, terrible shame.  I really struggle to understand why anyone would be against the sort of modernisation and caver-focused changes that Matt seemed to be suggesting.

I would love to read a summary of what the primary objections are.

I really feel, based on what Matt did (with great help from others I am sure) with the CNCC, that this is a big loss for the BCA.

Thanks for your work thus far. Enjoy the lack of stress!



Offline 2xw

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2020, 10:04:07 am »
This is a very complex situation and throwing mud about (in my view a very apt metaphor) doesn't help. I think anybody posting should have attended meetings both of BCA and CSCC before they make comments

Given the vanishingly small number of people who could (or would) attend these meetings, it would be helpful if the CSCC uploaded the minutes of the meeting they had about this two months ago. (It's almost as if they want to be deliberately opaque)

This whole issue is caused by a tension between what these individuals want, and want the membership wants (and has voted for). That's the reason one of them was booted and has now submitted their revenge motions.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2020, 10:26:22 am »
It is language like 'revenge' that does not help discussion. It is possible that regional philosophies cannot be reconciled. Personalities are usually involved. That is why there are several amateur diving organizations in this country eg SAA, SSAC and BSAC. PADI and the other organizations are primarily commerce based.  BSAC nearly came apart trying to straddle being both an amateur set up and a commercial enterprise.

Offline Pegasus

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2020, 10:35:39 am »
If it quacks like a duck.....

Why not refer to it as revenge? That's exactly what it is.  For far too long it's all been about appeasement - and look where that has got us....


Offline Mark Wright

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2020, 10:50:22 am »
One step forward, two steps back.

Maybe the BCA would be better off folding and splitting its our money between the regional councils and other constituent bodies.

Assuming the Hunters survives the current lockdowns, the CSCC can blow the cobwebs from their pewter mugs and get back to the dark ages they love so much.

Mark

Offline Ed

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2020, 10:59:02 am »
its got to the point where the CSCC is thrown out or the BCA is dead.

May be an agenda item for the AGM / EGM-- put to the full membership (inc postal / on line vote): Should CSCC be excluded from the BCA


Offline MJenkinson

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2020, 11:02:01 am »
Maybe the BCA would be better off folding and splitting its our money between the regional councils and other constituent bodies.

Is this a realistic option; can we forgo a national body and "devolve" the powers to regional councils? How would this sit with insurance for example?

Other than a massive census for all members (not regional bodies) asking in detail what EXACTLY we want from a national body and thus putting it quite clearly to the BCA what WE want, I see no way to progress if the opinions of regional councils are so disparate.  We can't keep "ping ponging" changes can we.

Offline MarkS

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2020, 11:14:55 am »
Given Matt has spelled out his position and rationale so clearly, politely, and openly, it seems only reasonable that the CSCC do the same. I would have thought it is strongly in the interests of the CSCC to do so.

Let's remember that on the plus side, thanks largely to Matt's efforts, all motions that achieve sufficient support at the next AGM will put to an online vote of all individual members, so the outcomes of any AGM motions are now decided by a more democratic process than they once were, and it is now much harder for any minority to push through changes that the wider membership are not supportive of.

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2020, 11:22:17 am »
Matt, Gary, and Jane have been doing important and positive things. Even if you ignore the politics -- for fear of making an insufficiently informed judgement, perhaps -- just look at the fantastic CNCC website and booking system, the TryCaving website, and the modern newsletter design. It's excellent work, and I say that as someone who builds websites.

Getting that for free is incredible. Collectively, we should be thanking and encouraging them, not making their lives so miserable that they quit. How wasteful and petulant.

Matt, I'd just like to say that I admire the way you've handled yourself throughout. It's been exemplary. Most of all, I admire you for prioritising your mental health and saying so publicly. It's the correct decision, and it's the decision of a strong person. I'm really sorry you've had to deal with all this shit.

 

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