Author Topic: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down  (Read 8467 times)

Offline Stuart France

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #150 on: April 12, 2020, 11:33:46 am »
Thank you MarkS.  Let’s get back to Matt and the state of the BCA, i.e.  the subject of this thread.  To summarise:

Matt said he had received a raft of AGM proposals from CSCC as a group, and from David Cooke personally, which from Matt's perspective are wrecking motions intended to reverse the BCA’s more caving-friendly direction of travel of recent years.

Matt’s a decent man, and he’s rightly had enough of banging his head against the BCA brick wall and people insulting him, and so he’s resigning shortly so as to spend more time with his caves.

Fast forward a bit.

I’ve asked repeatedly for these AGM motions to be made public, or at least copied to me.  Matt says he’s too busy with his undoubtedly important professional life to do ANYTHING for BCA for several WEEKS to come, which includes those few moments it would take to forward me copies of the (presumed) emails from CSCC and DC.

Why is that important?

Because BCA is involved in a Judicial Review case about “CROW caving”.  One of these AGM motions is a move to prevent BCA funding/running Judicial Reviews.  I don’t know the details of the motion as BCA Executive, as it happens led by Les Williams of the CSCC, refuses to share them with anyone right now.

Why is that important and what’s the rush?

Because the cut-off date for filing court papers is 21st April if the defendant wants to make life as difficult as possible for our side.  That is because the decision we are challenging was made on 22nd January (though kept secret by the Welsh Government until 24th February) and there is only a 3 month window to file court papers on a disputed government decision.

In 9 days time the BCA will have to stump up some more money (either as cash paid on account to reassure the solicitor we’re serious or simply as new budget if he trusts BCA to pay up later) as the next court stage of the case commences.  At the moment BCA only agreed a budget for the preliminary case preparation work and that will be used up by 20th April.

But the CSCC/DC proposals concern an AGM that can’t take place until much later this year, so they don’t really matter now surely?

Wrong.  BCA Executive is now effectively saying that because a proposal has been received that could at a date long into the future prevent BCA from taking legal action over “CROW caving” susequently, then we should behave NOW as if such a motion had already been passed .  Their rationale for this piece of double-think is to deflect any future criticism of mis-using BCA funds in the present, but I suspect more that it is aimed at wrecking "CROW caving".

Ladies and gentlemen, the BCA Council and its Executive seem to me to be looking for ways to stop the CROW Caving judicial review by cutting off funds or simply by wringing their hands (enjoyably no doubt) until the deadline for filing court papers has passed and they can all feel safe again.

But does that make the BCA safe again?

No.  BCA is now in an existential crisis.  You have not seen the emails, but I can tell you there is a civil war going on.  Forget about insurance, it’s a side issue.  The coming week will decide whether the BCA has any future at all.

Either BCA sides with CSCC and David Cooke and dumps "CROW caving" without any mandate from the membership at large for that - or they support the membership at large and uphold existing policy passed at past AGMs and affirmed by national ballot to pursue a “CROW caving” agenda, and that includes taking legal action in support of it.

Even if they decide to support "CROW caving" in principle, has this deeply divided and habitually ineffectual national representative body got what it takes to run a High Court case?  Or do cavers at large now urgently need a Plan B?


Offline BCA Secretary

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #151 on: April 12, 2020, 12:05:49 pm »
Stuart, I said a few weeks, not several weeks.

As I explained, I am working seven days a week at the moment due to current circumstances. The CSCC's and other proposals will be published as soon as I possibly can, but as part of a proper interim agenda document rather than just floating them out ad-hoc into the public domain. Despite my work, in response to the pressure you have been putting on me, I am still putting in an hour or two each evening to get this document ready for publication. Hopefully it can be out this coming week.

Your pressure on me has been to publish the proposals, not to email you them personally. I will happily email you them today.

At what point has BCA Executive said BCA should behave as if that AGM motion has already been passed? I certainly said nothing of the sort. I emailed you to give you some 'heads up' that such a proposal had been put forward because I though you deserved to be be made aware (I wish I hadn't). So unless another member of BCA Executive has emailed specifically to say we have to change actions now due to a proposal not due to be discussed until later this year, then this is simply your incorrect interpretation of the situation.

As far as I'm concerned, a proposal for the AGM is just that... it has no bearing on what the BCA does before that AGM, which is driven by the outcomes for the last AGM and the instruction of Council.

Stuart, you know perfectly well that many of the very offensive insults that led to me resigning came from YOU. Please don't try to paint me in a bad light for just doing my job to the best of my ability. I have given nothing but support for the CRoW campaign for over five years.

Offline Fjell

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #152 on: April 12, 2020, 02:10:44 pm »
It does often seem life would be easier if the land was just bought. The BMC has been doing this for years. Most fells are worth buttons round here and income is increasingly just from conservation.

Offline Stuart France

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #153 on: April 12, 2020, 02:38:09 pm »
Matt, I appreciate how you must feel from personal experience.  I have been involved with BCA and CCC since 2014 where I have seen several friends arrive enthusiastic then leave having lost heart.  I am sorry that I have added to your burdens. 

I also understand that you need to give your professional work top priority and I also understand clearly the importance and relevance of your professional work.  This does, however, leave a problem for BCA in that there is legal filing deadline fast approaching us, and with it comes the need to allocate a new budget.  What to do?

Thanks for emailing me this morning with the “Cookie” motion that concerns the JR.  I can now see the jist of it is a £50,000 cap on legal expenditure and any increase beyond that figure needing a national ballot.

At the moment the agreed BCA budget is an order of magnitude less than that cap as it only covers pre-trial work.  We have a hard legal deadline of 21st April if the proposed defendant won’t agree to extend it somehow during the coming week. 

I’d like to suggest that BCA Executive appoints an experienced and trusted pair of hands from National Council almost immediately to relieve you of that part of your secretarial work that concerns the JR.  S/he as your deputy would get the agreement of National Council members, also literally in the next few days, and obviously by email in the circumstances, to raise the budget to match the worst-case scenario envisaged by our solicitors – which is filing the case and then losing it.  This would come in at under £50,000.

If we lost this case, being an environmental one, the loser (us) would pay £5,000 of the winner’s (government) costs where the loser is a person, or £10,000 if the loser is corporate.  In addition, both the loser and the winner must meet their own respective pre-trial and incidental costs.  Alternatively, if we win, then the loser (government) would have to pay much more - our costs up to £35,000 which is deemed the reasonable top end for JR cases.

The CROW case has in fact been brought by “David Rose a member of the British Caving Association”.  It is not clear if the claimant is therefore an individual or a body – but it is certainly not the Cambrian Caving Council’s case as stated in the “Cookie” motion, or me personally.

It’s a grey area whether an unincorporated members club, a non-legal entity like BCA or CCC are, can bring a legal action in their own name.  Generally legal cases can only be brought by private individuals or incorporated bodies because they are formal legal entities.  In the case of an unincorporated club like BCA, especially one lacking any Trustees, it is the individual members of BCA (you and me) who are jointly and severally liable for club actions because the club itself is not a legal entity.

I’ve looked at other national-scale bodies like The Ramblers, British Mountaineering Council, British Cycling, Welsh Rugby Union, Open Spaces Society, Mountain Bothies Association, to name but a few, and every one of them is a company.  They are all the “Cave Access Ltd” and "Charterhouse Caving Company Limited" type of company without shares and limited by guarantee.  In nearly all cases they have obtained exemption from putting “Limited/Ltd” after their name.

So in the wake of this JR case, questions will have to be asked as to whether the BCA as currently constructed is legally fit for purpose and agile enough to handle any future legal cases in more timely and focused ways.

It will also need to be asked during the process of sorting out a legal status, whether BCA should also be restructured in other ways too so as to ensure the interests of the majority of individual cavers receive priority.  The BMC and MBA have gone through these processes in recent years, which were both protracted and contentious, so we should study that and perhaps ask to draw directly on their experiences in taking BCA along a similar road to give it a more secure and clearer future operating framework.



« Last Edit: April 12, 2020, 02:51:07 pm by Stuart France »

Offline Pete K

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #154 on: April 12, 2020, 06:06:18 pm »
The fact that we have got to the stage where good people are being bullied out of roles that they have done fantastically well in is absolutely shameful.

Offline royfellows

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #155 on: April 12, 2020, 06:51:46 pm »

This could not happen unless some of the material extracted was sold. This is the part of the law which distinguishes "mines" from other excavations such as a basement or cellar, or railway tunnel etc. It lies in the legal definition of a mine.

Does it have to be sold by or on behalf of the owner? In other words, could you turn a dig (or a cellar) into a mine by going in without permission, finding an interesting lump of rock, and selling it?

I would say that it would have to be sold on behalf of the owner.  Anyone who removes something, such as spoil, and sold, it would be guilty of common theft, the material sold stolen property, and the contract of sale invalid.
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #156 on: April 12, 2020, 06:56:56 pm »
The fact that we have got to the stage where good people are being bullied out of roles that they have done fantastically well in is absolutely shameful.

The fact that it's literally a handful of the usual suspects in one small region that are able to do this is even more shameful.
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Offline cavemanmike

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #157 on: April 12, 2020, 07:31:12 pm »
The fact that we have got to the stage where good people are being bullied out of roles that they have done fantastically well in is absolutely shameful.

The fact that it's literally a handful of the usual suspects in one small region that are able to do this is even more shameful.

And completely avoidable if more people where pro-active at agm's. Just turn up man.
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Offline darren

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #158 on: April 12, 2020, 07:43:08 pm »
The fact that we have got to the stage where good people are being bullied out of roles that they have done fantastically well in is absolutely shameful.

The fact that it's literally a handful of the usual suspects in one small region that are able to do this is even more shameful.

We currently have several people named as a cause of the resignation. I know Dave Cooke and the CSCC  are from the South West. Is Stuart France from the South West as well?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2020, 08:14:00 pm by darren »
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Offline mch

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #159 on: April 12, 2020, 07:56:36 pm »
Stuart is CCC's Access & Conservation Officer

Offline alastairgott

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #160 on: April 12, 2020, 09:39:09 pm »
As an organisation we voted and mandated Dave to proceed with the case of BCA vs CROW. This mandate was delivered both at the Derbyshire AGM and also via the member vote afterwards.

As an unincorporated association, the BCA cannot sue or be sued, however it can serve for a judicial review as in Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum v Leeds City Council & Ors [2020] .

Needless to say Dave is mandated as an officer of the BCA to serve this judicial review, as per our votes, the fact that he has done so in his own name does not matter as he is acting in his role on the BCA committee as BCA CROW Liason officer (or words to that effect).

This is a public law matter, as it is the welsh government making the decisions and as such it is the right of the BCA in the public interest of it's members to challenge the decision in the Welsh courts.

I have no idea why this has so much to do with Somerset, cos it hasn't, the case will be brought in the Welsh courts (unless i'm mistaken).

Offline darren

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #161 on: April 12, 2020, 10:13:27 pm »
Thanks Alister, helpful if a bit aggressive.

Have you replied to the right thread?


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Offline alastairgott

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Re: BCA secretary gives notice of standing down
« Reply #162 on: April 12, 2020, 10:32:14 pm »
Hopefully Darren, but at least I didn't tweet it to NRW.

Offline kay

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