/ OPINION: The BMC AGM 2019 - An Alternative Perspective

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UKC Articles - on 29 Apr 2019

The BMC AGM 2019: Positivity and Change?Simon Lee offers an alternative perspective on the 2019 British Mountaineering Council AGM.

Alongside 100 other BMC members I attended the 2019 AGM at the Devonshire Dome in Buxton. Afterwards Rob Greenwood, BMC Peak Area Chair, asked if I would write a follow up article for UKC. We both felt that an alternative account was in order as whilst the official write up of the AGM is titled "Positivity and Change", that didn't reflect everyone's take on all the proceedings and results.


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Andy Reeve on 29 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good effort putting this together Simon, thanks.

I would be really interested in hearing s response to some of the critiques from the BMC, particularly on issues around a lack of transparency, and why the BMC AGM report reads so different from this one (i.e. the lack of transparency in their reporting of the AGM to their own members).

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Steve Woollard on 29 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

A very thought provoking article. Well done

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Pedro50 on 29 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Very interesting Simon, thanks.

Peter

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Tyler - on 29 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

What have you done? Poor Offwidith is going to get RSI typing his replies to this thread!

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Andy Syme - on 30 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Simon

Firstly it is worth going back to 2017-2018.  The removal of the FD post and going for the OPTION of elected NDs was based on strong member concerns about the perceived lack of member 'representation and control' of the Board.  Similarly the President was included on NomCom to ensure members had a stronger input. 

I think the NomCom and ND decisions remain right (subject to clearly defined and communicated processes).  The FD decision, which I was less keen on but understood the concerns, will need to be reviewed after Huw has had a few years in post, but I think/hope it will work out OK.

The articles are complex, and will be tweaked and reorganised I hope, that said, having done some more thinking and reviewing, I'm not sure that the unintended consequences are actually article related per se.  For example the ND process allows for a single nomination from NomCom or filtering candidates for member election as appropriate.  Those statements remain valid and sensible, but if the process used to identify the roles and elect the candidates is unclear or muddled you get the unintended consequences.  Also without transparent documented processes we will always be changing to fix last years problem or circumstances which is a bad approach.  Clear processes and transparent actions will allow the articles to be tested and we can then ensure we change only what needs to be changed.

Discretionary Votes 

This is far more complex than I first thought.  Some rules first:

  1. By law you can nominate anyone as your proxy - So we can't stop Board Members being proxies even if we wanted to.
  2. As I understand it you can't force someone to vote rather than give their vote to their chosen proxy to decide on the day based on the outcome of discussion at the AGM. 

So discretionary proxies will I suspect remain.

I believe people use discretionary proxies for 1 or more of the following reasons:

  1. The haven't had/made time to read the material;
  2. The material is too complex for them to understand and reach a clear decision;
  3. They believe that the AGM discussions may reveal new information so don't want to have their decision fixed prior to that.

In all 3 cases they then pass their proxy vote to someone they trust in 'good faith' that they will make a better decision.

Reason 1 is outside the control of the BMC 'organisation' and is down to members making time; though clearly there are things the BMC can do to help.  Reason 2 is difficult to address.  If the issue is simple then it's simple to write a paper that people can easily digest; but it's probably not needed.  If the issue is complex.....   If you could remove discretionary votes I suspect people in 1 and 2 would either not bother voting or just select anything to 'do the job and get out'.  That is not a good outcome.

Also without discretionary votes what is the point of the AGM?  The numbers attending are so 'swamped' by the proxy votes that even a major 'revelation' at the AGM would not change the outcome.  I'm assuming that getting more people to attend the AGM rather than use proxies while it would be very democratic has a very low probability of being achieved.

We must then go back to the basic principle that you only give your vote to a proxy you trust to make the right decision and will act in good faith.   But how do you ensure that is done?

Well the quick answer is I don't know but it is something that the NC and Board will to discuss.  My gut feel is that:

  1. Members need to be encouraged to vote; removing the proxy discretion issue where possible
  2. Members need to understand the implications of discretionary votes and use them wisely.
  3. As you identified, transparency.

The issue with transparency is how to do it fairly?  Do you publish everyone's vote; admin nightmare for staff; or just block votes?  How do you ensure people are treated fairly particularly if their 'block' swayed the vote; would people 'troll' the proxies and discourage future participation?   I'm not convinced that forcing people to be transparent does not have other unintended consequences.

Ultimately the BMC 'organisation' and particularly the key volunteers like the President, Board and 'the Wise, the Great and the Good', need to be trusted to act in good faith.  I think clear processes can help this, possibly with some article tweaks, but ultimately it is up to the individuals by their behaviours and actions to show that they are worthy of this trust.  Even when making decisions people don't like or agree with IMHO an ongoing approach of voluntary total transparency is a good way to achieve that trust.

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Max factor - on 30 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for the write up, and whilst I will admit to not quite having the stamina to finish it, the impression I get is one of Death.by.Committee.  

More of my money going to access, inclusion, grants and events please - anything that gets us all out climbing and walking, and less on roles that are fostering the institutional navel-gazing over governance procedings.

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Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2019
In reply to Tyler:

I'm too busy to go into full detail at the moment but I am very concerned with what looks to me, in the Nominated Director election section, very much like a 'sour grapes' based attack on the organisation using selective information and some stuff that looks just wrong  (but only the BMC Board will know in order to be able to respond). I'm really surprised Simon wasn't more circumspect, given his clear conflicts of interest,  and questioned things a little more, rather than make so many assertions, some unbased in any evidence (at least that I'm aware of) and with too many dark hints of possible bad practice; and in one case (proxies) seemingly against the required company law. I certainly don't think the BMC is perfect (and have been involved in heated campaigns to change it in the past ...eg the campaign against club block votes) and there are things I'd like to see changed now; but the reality is the Board had a rather torrid winter with (amongst other big unexpected problems) having to deal with the insurance issue and ensuing subs discussions, at the same time as ongoing ODG work; all of which must have involved the brand new BMC chair with much rapid decision making and action. The Board seem to me to deserve congratulation for getting so much done.

I found the contributions in the article by the two newly appointed directors very useful.

Like Simon (who's 'pals' lost the election) , I'm clearly conflicted here, as a lot of this is seemingly levelled at Lynn. However I have to say I am really annoyed at this patronising view about her being incapable of dealing with governace nitty gritty... where is there any scrap of evidence for this.... until its provided, this sort of argument of her being ' lacking in governance detail' but 'excellent at PR' is worthy of 20th century Board gender politics. She is as well qualified in governance terms as almost any on the Board. She has worked professionally  at Board level, has dealt with two Public Inquiries at work, including highly sensitive  investigations (as responsible AD on a PCT Board). She has had sought and received good advice from people in senior positions across various sectors. She has boosted her knowledge in BMC respects as much as she could in her two years as BMC Director by talking to as many BMC experts past and present as possible. She has grounded it all by seeing as many members and volunteers this year as possible. Realising it was a close to a full time job she chose to give up paid work for 14 months from February, on a sabbatical basis, to ensure she could cope with the basics and have time do a bit more (especially on member focussed stuff)... she is not from my perspective struggling to cope. But hey, please remember I'm biased. 

All the candidates for the Nominated Director election were above the line and electable according to the Board.  As such, Simon's continued insistence that John was the best candidate by far (for that particular post) is very insulting to: the Board and its Nominations Committee, the other candidates, those holding proxies, and the voters; and is in clear fact a view that far too few members shared (365 first preference votes for someone like John is a disaster: he should have been getting individual mandated votes in the thousands). I voted for John and on the UKB thread Andy and I pointed out some likely reasons (if anyone is that sad to dig through such sad ashes). John on UKB was also at one point playing the gender card on his post but failed to clearly explain why he didn't stand down and press for an election of the two women (or stand down at the AGM and support Kaye). Similarly, I really hope Gron complained before the election (from what is said by Simon above he too probably should have stood down ) ... trouble is, I simply don't believe this; in particular, that the Board didn't tell him it was a contested election at some point would seem unthinkable ( I thought they were informed by the Board in writing, as well as ideally for a potential Director, being aware of the process from the articles and from their proposers well before the interviews).

The stuff on undemocratic proxy votes is bizzare for someone like Simon who I thought wanted professional company behaviour. It's a legal requirement and cannot change in anything other than in fine detail. These proxies are simply not block votes (unlike the old club block vote) they are individually appointed in a democratic manner, one by one. A chair is the normal default for the main named proxy in companies. There are some things that could be done.. again this was discussed on UKB ... but its really up to the Board. The BMC as Andy says needs to work on getting more to vote and more of those proxy voters to mandate a vote.

Finally John himself said the ODG is mostly progressing well and should hopefully be OK without him. Others involved tell me the same thing. Andy's concerns were not about current ODG progress. An awful lot of good work seems to have been done in the less than half year since late autumn (when everything was finally in place). Simon's assertions directly contradict all this.

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JR - on 30 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> John on UKB was also at one point playing the gender card on his post but failed to clearly explain why he didn't stand down and press for an election of the two women (or stand down at the AGM and support Kaye). 

Whilst I'm minded to directly avoid comment on some of these issues, I wanted to clarify this point. Particularly as I stood down from a VP election previously (in 2017) to allow Lynn (and Fiona) to stand for VP in order to ensure a female candidate was elected. It's also pertinent to some of the other points you make.

I didn't know any of the names of candidates put forward to the AGM until very shortly before the AGM papers were released, nor the gender breakdown, nor who I was standing against in my category. As a Board member at the time this was still the case as I was not in the Nominated Director conversations for obvious conflict of interest, and I assume this level of knowledge would have been the same for all candidates.

The only candidate I was aware of was in advance was Rebecca Ting (who dropped out for a variety of reasons) prior to the AGM papers being printed. We only knew we had each applied and were both in the same category, by nature of having spoken to each other directly.

The fact remains that the Board is only 25% female, against its 30% Sport England/SRA target. Whether or not it's seen as "working towards" target or not, the BMC (the Board) had a real opportunity here to increase Board diversity, with great potential candidates, that was missed.

Whether or not it's a target due to Sport England, or just because it's better for the BMC is in my mind irrelevant, and if a contentious point to some, it's a separate discussion. I believe it to be better for the BMC if it had a more diverse Board, providing the candidates are suitably qualified. I did raise the issue of gender balance prior and during the process and generally with other Directors, but again, I was conflict of interest on actual discussions.

I could have dropped out to campaign for Kaye, but didn't.  The situation did, in part, lead to me not publicly campaigning for my own election. Given the vote breakdown, with Kaye getting more votes than me anyway, it probably wouldn't have mattered, but that is hindsight and hypothesis. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Nonetheless, I believe that there being a process that does not disenfranchise any candidate who is "above the line" in terms of ability and experience, and particularly those from more diverse backgrounds, is critical. I can only really speak for myself, but I can't honestly say that people weren't frustrated or disenfranchised by the process, when people feel as they do, and when one female candidate dropped out before the AGM papers were published, one female candidate abstained from the process on the AGM day, and neither were appointed. This despite the SE target, the BMC's commitment to diversity that goes with it, and both female candidates being "above the line" with NomCom.

Regardless of the individual outcome of any of the elections, I think it's unfortunate that the BMC is in this position, and my personal view is that the Board/NomCom didn't do a good job here, and there are lessons to be learned (which it would be sensible for the BMC to publicly recognise too), but things need to move forward.

Post edited at 22:42
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Offwidth - on 01 May 2019
In reply to JR:

I agree with the sentiment of that John. Yet you were still a Director with those concerns  and the gender balance issues or your views were not obvious at all to the voters. I struggle to believe you could not have swayed other Board members if you felt that strongly. If you had told me of your concerns I would have run with it publicly. You could also have campaigned for it or stood down at the AGM and talked about gender as the reason to vote for Kaye. In the end, articles like Simon's unfairly attacking the BMC Nominated Director election process and under the guise of 'openess and transparency' seemingly trying to reopen analysis of voting (thats what knowing proxy numbers would almost certainly provide) get us nowhere good. In contrast, a review is constructive and seems to be welcomed by all parties involved. Working harder to get more people to vote and to vote for candidates they most want is also possible.

The Board gender target is an aspirational one, the BMC have regained Sport England funding despite the 25%.  I think it's important to try and meet it soon though and my view was always that some similar organisations in a similar position to the BMC in a 3 post election would have had one reserved spot for a female candidate above the line. Its not clear if ours is a position supported by the majority of BMC members as yet.

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lagerstarfish - on 01 May 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for taking the time to write this up Simon

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Deadeye - on 01 May 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well Simon, we could all write a piece on how we would like it to have come out, and what we think are the solutions, and why it not turning out like that is some dirt of conspiracy or injustice.

But it did turn out like that... And although I agree with a couple of your views, I accept the outcomes.

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Andy Reeve on 01 May 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

> Well Simon, we could all write a piece on how we would like it to have come out, and what we think are the solutions, and why it not turning out like that is some dirt of conspiracy or injustice.

> But it did turn out like that... And although I agree with a couple of your views, I accept the outcomes.

Deadeye, let's keep the debate constructive rather than condescending.

Irrespective of which way the votes went, I think some problems with the process of appointing nominated directors has been highlighted. What aspects of the process which Simon sees as problematic do you think work fine, and why?

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Howard J - on 01 May 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

From what I can find on its website, women make up approximately 25% of BMC membership, so on that basis a balance of 25% women on the Board appears entirely proportionate.  Is the 30% target based on something or is it plucked out of the air?

The problem with discretionary proxy voting is that it only works well if your proxy is someone you know well, who thinks like you, and if possible has had a chance to discuss the issues with you.  They should know your initial opinion on the matter and expect to cast the proxy vote that way, unless they are persuaded by argument on the day to change it.  Giving a proxy to a stranger to vote as they think fit seems pointless to me - if you do not have an opinion on a matter, why vote at all?

I don't feel enough information on issues is given out beforehand, and there seems to be very little on the BMC website (and what is there is difficult to find).  Also there is no official forum to discuss issues beforehand so that those members who wish to can gain some understanding before deciding how to cast their proxy vote.  The MONC was an exception, but only after there had been extensive but fragmented discussion on here and other forums, as well as private letters to members of certain clubs (which were leaked).

I didn't attend the AGM, but I did attend the clubs meeting on Saturday where we were presented with an unbelievably complex proposed structure for communicating between clubs and the BMC.  As I pointed out, if my club were to have an issue my first point of contact will be the head office, and then a Board member (probably the President or Chair) if I don't get a satisfactory response. - not some convoluted flowchart.  For god's sake, keep it simple.

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UKB Shark - on 04 May 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thank you Andy Reeve, Steve Woollard, Pete and Lagers for your positive comments.

It was particularly appreciated as it was a difficult article to write (and no doubt read) as I took no pleasure in washing the BMC’s dirty laundry in public or sticking my head above the parapet.

It would have been preferable if my (and others) behind the scenes contact immediately after the AGM had elicited a public statement or response from either the President, the Chairman, The Board or CEO. So far nothing. Uncertainty and delay is not good for building trust

The primary purpose of the article was to inform a wider audience of what is (and isn’t) going on behind the scenes and hopefully sting some of you into action to hold those responsible for modernising the BMC to account if momentum for the agreed ODG reforms does not pick up again.

The next round of Area Meetings will soon be upon us and is an opportunity for you to ask awkward questions and express concerns that can be escalated up the chain. This is what meaningful membership engagement looks like.

It is understandable that those volunteers closely involved with modernising the BMC will feel constrained and conflicted in commenting publicly and full credit to Andy Syme commenting here and on UKB.

The Board formally meets next Wednesday and I (and I hope others here) challenge them to issue a clear public statement in response to all the issues raised rather than merely passing the buck back to National Council or the ODG or gloss over matters in the way the official report on the AGM did.

Simon

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Deadeye - on 04 May 2019
In reply to Andy Reeve:

> Deadeye, let's keep the debate constructive rather than condescending.

Yes - fair point.  Simon, I apologise.

> Irrespective of which way the votes went, I think some problems with the process of appointing nominated directors has been highlighted. What aspects of the process which Simon sees as problematic do you think work fine, and why?

The issue with membership organisations is that every member has their own view on what's important and what works well and what isn't and doesn't.

Since you ask, my (personal) list is that I want to pay for access work (which works well) but not for competitions or grants supporting other people's trips.  I also think the whole two-tier thing based on the founding clubs is a complete anachronism.  Why should individual members subsidise the big clubs?  And I am dismayed by the continuing distraction and sideline-sniping that Pettigrew started but is rumbling on.

However, aside from sending in my votes, none of that matters really.  I get frustrated to see yet more apparent knocking of a set of people working very hard on our behalf - particularly as some are doing it unpaid.  The comments around handing the Chair your proxy vote being a problem are, in my view, nonsense.  Every plc in the country uses the same approach with shareholders... and you do have the chance to direct your vote.  Just read like scraping up non issues to create more noise.

And thank you to the BMC officers and employees - must feel like a horrible job sometimes.

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Offwidth - on 04 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Maybe they haven't replied yet as its highly embarrassing to have to 'out' a Board election candidate and finance committee member saying things that I think simply can't be believable about the process. Also its embarrassing an ex BMC employee, well connected with the organisation and effectively acting as a journalist, had not bothered to fact or sense check a whole load of what he is saying (much of which is plain insulting to good volunteers) nor thought about the wisdom of doing this whilst being in a clearly conflicted position in the election process. What frustrates me in this (as no less a moderniser in outlook than Andy S) is I'm sure it would have been possible to just focus on any real lessons and possible ways forward (as Andy S did). The misinformation and barely concealed personal attacks do you a disservice if you are genuine in wishing to help the BMC progress. 

You could also argue that the Board, being busy and strategic, shouldn't normally place any interest in responding to any latest internet attack. I'd say a reply, if needed,  should be operational (but agree in this case due to some serious, probably false, accusations there should be one). This so called 'official report' you are moaning about was a news item.

I do agree that contributing to area meetings and making written contributions to the formal change process would be very welcome but I'm guessing the following link is still very quiet:

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-give-feedback-on-odg

In reply to deadeye

Thanks for that common sense contribution. The BMC must be well used to it... over on the UKB thread I copied quotes about attacks from the floor in the 1969 AGM (thanks due to Peter Holden who spotted it).

Post edited at 11:05
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HP06 - on 04 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

You're long on defending, but what about commenting on some pretty damning specifics from Simon's article. Such as:

There was scarcely any ODG discussion at the AGM, which hopefully does not reflect it diminishing in importance.

That does seems odd considering the ODG, and all the commotion leading up to its recommendations, were the BMC's #1 issue for the past 2+(?) years

However, there was a handout listing all 51 of the ORG recommendations. Disappointingly only 7 of those 51 recommendations had been ticked as completed. Furthermore 5 of the 7 had already been completed by the 2018 AGM.

So on the face of it, 2 out of 46 recommendations outstanding since the 2018 AGM have been completed.

At the current rate of progress it'll be another 23 years before the ODG's recommendations are implemented... Or is there more going on in the background than people realise? In which case, what? It would seem to come down to transparency again.

Therefore, on the face of it, not much has been achieved by the ODG since its inception.

The much discussed "Memorandum of Understanding" whilst not an ORG recommendation, occupied much ODG time and could have been a completed result if it had been signed off at the AGM as intended, but it seems to have been forgotten.

Post edited at 12:37
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Offwidth - on 04 May 2019
In reply to HP06:

JR presented an ODG summary to the AGM with opportunities for Q's. It was possible to talk in some of the other weekend events in meetings or individually to JR and other ODG members.

JR (outgoing chair) has said ODG work is mostly progressing well. Only Simon has come up with the weird criticism about overall slow progress and I have no idea why. The work-stream teams were only finalised in the late autumn.

The MoU was supposed to be ceremonially signed but the meeting over-ran.

Several areas Simon raises prior to his unfair comments on the Nominated Director elections I'd agree with but none are serious in my view.

The accounts issues looked serious to some but the meeting clearly felt otherwise as it said any remaining corrections to the narrative need not come back for an AGM vote (a sensible move in my view, led by Dave Musgrove ex President). At no point were any of the financial details in the accounts incorrect. 

Show me some areas of substance with evidence that the BMC got wrong and I'll be agreeing with you. So far we mainly have rumour, misinformation and personal sniping (especially on that election section.)

The BMC is an organisation that I've volunteered extensively for a quarter century and care deeply about and you expect me not to defend it from things I know are wrong??? I was at the AGM and know the organisation in detail and know some things being said simply cannot be true and some opinions are being incorrectly expressed as fact and rumour is being misused. Elected volunteers have been insulted (notably Jonny, by shark,  on the UKB thread). All candidates were interviewed and agree to be appointable; and so I think this is outrageous that this is being done as an outcome of an election, even though I too was one of the suprisingly few who voted for JR.

Post edited at 13:47
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Andy Reeve on 04 May 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

> The issue with membership organisations is that every member has their own view on what's important and what works well and what isn't and doesn't.

> Since you ask, my (personal) list is that I want to pay for access work (which works well) but not for competitions or grants supporting other people's trips.  I also think the whole two-tier thing based on the founding clubs is a complete anachronism.  Why should individual members subsidise the big clubs?  And I am dismayed by the continuing distraction and sideline-sniping that Pettigrew started but is rumbling on.

> However, aside from sending in my votes, none of that matters really.  I get frustrated to see yet more apparent knocking of a set of people working very hard on our behalf - particularly as some are doing it unpaid.  The comments around handing the Chair your proxy vote being a problem are, in my view, nonsense.  Every plc in the country uses the same approach with shareholders... and you do have the chance to direct your vote.  Just read like scraping up non issues to create more noise.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like we agree on some things (the unfairness of a subs system weighted in favour of clubs instead of individual members, and partially agree about competitions); but disagree on others (I’m pro funding expeditions out of my subs). But to my eyes this isn’t really the point. The point is that having robust systems in place (i.e. good governance procedures) is what allows the membership to be heard, and then the organisation as a whole to work in the right direction for the membership, without individual members feeling suspicious about the decision-making process and so feeling confident to leave the organisation to it for the majority of the time.

What you characterise as sniping I think can be broken into two different things. The Pettigrew et al sniping, which was generally anti-modernisation; and articles like Simon’s, which is pro-modernisation and shows a frustration at the lack of good governance which is required to take the organisation in that direction [Simon: I hope that you feel that’s a fair characterisation of your article]. I really don’t think that this article is intended to exact damage onto the BMC, but to point out where problems with governance exist. To be fair, if the BMC news item had mentioned that some people believed that there were some issues and that these would be given some attention, then I doubt Simon would have felt the need to write the article. I don’t see it as an attack, but an attempt at communicating the issues in the lieu of the BMC doing so.

> And thank you to the BMC officers and employees - must feel like a horrible job sometimes.

On this we fully agree. The time and energy that many people invest is extraordinary. I certainly hope that all my comments come across as wanting the best for the BMC, even when that means pointing out where there is room for improvement.

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UKB Shark - on 04 May 2019
In reply to Andy Reeve:. 

> articles like Simon’s, which is pro-modernisation and shows a frustration at the lack of good governance which is required to take the organisation in that direction [Simon: I hope that you feel that’s a fair characterisation of your article]. I really don’t think that this article is intended to exact damage onto the BMC, but to point out where problems with governance exist. To be fair, if the BMC news item had mentioned that some people believed that there were some issues and that these would be given some attention, then I doubt Simon would have felt the need to write the article. I don’t see it as an attack, but an attempt at communicating the issues in the lieu of the BMC doing so.

Thank you Andy.

Yes, your characterisation is spot on. I set out to be constructively critical and dispassionate and hopefully most folk read into it the way you did.

My aims are for a modern and progressive BMC capable of acting properly, reform and making and implementing good decisions.

Putting yourself out there risks being misconstrued which comes with the territory I guess. 

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Offwidth - on 04 May 2019
In reply to Andy Reeve:

So you support the lazy, at times chauvinist and sometimes insulting characterisations of Dave, Lynn, Jonny etc and a farcical view that everyone voting should share his highly positive opinion on JR. What on earth has that got to do with good governance? I'm pretty sure the stuff around Gron is just plain wrong and if so so those governance concerns go from serious to trivial. The ODG being slow is plain wrong (JR as chair himself said the opposite). The subs changes this time applied equally to clubs and individuals (timing wise possibly putting some club finances at genuine risk) and the late changes due to a real-time shifting of the impact on BMC finances (and these final changes were to the detriment of clubs). There is no hard evidence of the BMC anywhere not being in control of its finances; again, there were never any changes to the finance numbers when the accounts changes to narrative were made. The accounts concerns seem bizarre to me.... silly narrative errors are not a sign of financial mismanagement: the AGM felt so too and signed off any remaining small changes in advance. This stuff about undemocratic proxies are bull given the fact they are a normal company procedure and legal requirement. Moaning publicly about the BMC response whilst in his BMC job and linking this in to these other concerns is just sad really (and unfair on the organisation as they could never respond fairly on such employment matters). The Articles ARE complicated and clunky... read them and then read British Canoeing:  having spoken to Dave on this he seemed to me to want to retain the full intent but just in better written form. As I said on UKB, I thought Lynn's decision rather than being 'backtracking' was very good chairing, as it probably saved time and energy in a tight schedule ( otherwise we faced wrangling about if the meeting wanted to hear from the candidates or not.... as I though the majority of the meeting did, despite raising a point of order about there being some dissent). I'll lay a large bet on Lynn not going against any legal advice, so I'm not sure where that came from. Time and time again these so called concerns Simon raises simply don't stand up to any examination and nothing serious seems to have any hard evidence. If this was Bob P saying these things people would be howling him down (my big problem with Bob was never his opinions, that I disagreed with, just the secret dishonest ways he dealt with them).

So after this examination of what Simon says we are left with a few minor issues at a time of massive change and super-tight deadlines for the organisation and the start of a new Chair of the Board (what must he feel like right now?) . There is the balance of power question on Nominated Director appointments:  the President being on Nominations  Committee and also taking the normal organisational proxy votes (nothing I can see an easy way round, as although there could be a choice between President and BMC Chair on the standard voting form in future.... the BMC chair is also on Non Com and faces the same risks). The only practical solution is to get more people to vote and chose a candidate when they vote. There are concerns about the Nominated Director posts not being advertised individually (a sensible holding compromise in my view given the pace of change at that time and the then brand new Chair). There are what I see as dangerous opinions about releasing proxy numbers (which would enable a good chance of back engineering the election results and hence working out how those people voted, and the risks and potential fall out of that). There are concerns about the missed narrative errors in the accounts but in this there are also possible concerns that the Board seemed to have be caught napping, which I feel really falls on the Board members last June, especially any Independent Directors with audit responsibility and the acting Chair. I would have ideally expected a new Board under new governance arrangements to have fully examined the accounts, planned a new approach to them and have hence have likely spotted these errors early (well before audit). In a way, the exact opposite problem to what Simon described .. the 'modernisers' missed an opportunity (but I see this as a much lesser problem than him, especially given the workload and amount of change). The modernisers also missed opportunities in not reserving a gender post in the Nominated Director elections (this would have been controversial),  in not reserving an ODG post (... this might have upset people as being seen as a shoe-in for JR), in pushing for stronger pro voting material for the membership.... all completely forgivable given what else was going on.

We are also left with those using proxy votes, clearly disagreeing with Simon's views... and Simon's very disappointing response to that...... welcome to elections  (something that, down to my decades of experience of bad behaviour and fall-out,  I always maintained was unwise for Nominated Directors).

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Andy Reeve on 04 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Steve, as I see it, what’s happening on this thread is an unhelpful polarisation of views stemming from defensiveness, which is only likely to exacerbate the difficulties the BMC faces. Let me elaborate.

Clearly you are being very defensive of both Lynn and the BMC. And who would blame you. However, it is important that the BMC remains open to feedback, even if it hurts, and even if it is unpleasant to read. Simon isn’t the only person who attended the AGM who has these concerns. However, the BMC news item failed to report on any of them. The disparity between the BMC official line of how the day went, and what everyone else I know who was there has told me, is striking. I am not prone to cynicism, but it’s hard to feel that the BMC is taking these concerns seriously when it's own news item fails to mention any concerns whatsoever, despite the number of people who had such concerns with the processes on the day. This is reflected in the lack of BMC communication at all about the AGM (that I could find at least) until three days after the meeting. Not even a quick FB or twitter post to say which way the votes went. I certainly like to think that I am on good terms with both Lynn and Dave (I’ll ignore your suggestion that I may be endorsing chauvinistic insults about Lynn, although quite where you got that idea from I’m unsure), but the lack of transparency does pique my suspicion. This could easily be read as the organisation acting in an overly defensive manner. Which begs the question, why?

Clearly you are unwilling to accept very much of Simon’s article, and that parts that you do accept you play down as being unimportant. If anything, by defending the BMC so aggressively you are adding to the sense of defensiveness (despite you not even officially representing the organisation!)

Despite the MoNC, Climb Britain thing, Sport England funding difficulties, ORG upheaval etc, I probably only know half of what the BMC has had to face over the last two years. So it is no surprising that – as an organisation – it is not willing to put itself in a position of being vulnerable to further criticism. However, I think that by working so hard to avoid confronting these issues the BMC is paradoxically increasing the suspicion around these issues and undermining its efforts to be seen as a trustworthy organisation.

I mean this in the most constructive way possible: (and if I was saying this to you in person you would see that it is meant that way) but I think that your refusal to acknowledge that some people are genuinely concerned, and that this concern comes from a position of genuinely wanting the BMC to do well, is only likely to increase people’s antipathy towards the BMC’s response (well, lack of response) to the issues Simon has raised.

I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that I think you add in a lot of valuable context and knowledge of the machinations of the BMC, but please leave out the patronising dismissal towards other people’s well-meaning critiques.

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Offwidth - on 04 May 2019
In reply to Andy Reeve:

If Simon focused on those concerns I'd have agreed with him... I am fully aware many people are concerned but I bet hardly any of them told the BMC that. I voted for JR and was concerned as well, that doesn't give us licence to engage in unhelpful sour grapes with a decorative sugar coating of misinformation and personal bias. Getting worked up about the positivity of a BMC web news item is way OTT and nothing to do with governance.

I fail to see calling out very likely untruths and rumours dressed as fact and opinions dressed as fact, as being defensive: its about caring for the BMC and for truth. I agree with a lot of the article before the voting bit, I'm sure I would have agreed with a lot more if Simon had bothered to fact check and sense check that section properly. I'm also guessing its not all Simon's fault and he has been briefed by people with dishonest agendas.  So I think it's a terrible piece where it strays into that election nonsense and subsequent insults, where without that it could have been very useful. Because it's Simon sadly some people will tend to believe it, for now. I'm sure the BMC will respond at some point but I'm glad it wasnt immediate as I don't want them becoming constrained to answer every internet complaint promptly and as I suspect some investigation is clearly needed and some sensitivity (I can't see one person coming out of this well at all). I also don't see it as a Board issue.  Hence, given the seriousness of the accusations and the flimsy and heavily biased evidence used to justify them, I think you are the one being patronising (to me) and defensive (of Simon), but we will have to wait and see when the real facts come out. Go through my points and email me privately about where you think I am wrong in critiquing what Simon says.

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UKB Shark - on 07 May 2019

With regard to this evenings upcoming BMC Board meeting I have sent the below list of observations and questions that I have concerning the issues surrounding the Nominated Director election issues to Simon Mccalla the Senior Independent Director as follows:

The advert for the 3 Nominated Director positions was posted for about a week and the interviews took place about a week after that limiting. Why were the time scales so compressed ? 

Does the Board agree the short timescales were unreasonable for three senior posts and will have limited the number of applicants and made the process look rushed? Was it in fact rushed and did this contribute to mistakes and poor process?

Was there a written procedure at the outset for how the selection of candidates, the interviews and the post interview actions? If so can this document be publicly disclosed in its original form for member scrutiny. If there wasn’t a written procedure at the outset why not? 

Can you confirm that the interview panel was comprised only of Gavin Pierce Chairman, Lynn Robinson and Mick Green of National Council and clarify how the members were decided. Was anyone else on the Nominations Committee but not on the interview panel?

Is it true that the original terms of reference for the Nominations Committee required an Independent Director to participate in the interviews yet  not only did this not happen but also that the terms of reference were changed after the interviews took place that removed the requirement for Independent Directors to participate?

In terms of deciding the specialist requirements for the three pools of candidates is it true that determining the pools were largely carried out by Lynn Robinson and Dave Turnbull and if so  was that part of any written procedure and does that mean Dave Turnbull was on the Nominations Committee?

Is it true that the candidates statements were made up of a section of the Nomination Committee comments and the candidates own comments and if so why wasn’t that made clear that was the case in the candidate statements presented to members?

Is it the case that candidates were initially asked for referees rather than a proposer or seconder? Was this a mix up or were referees not required or were both required and they did not need to be the same people? How clearly and in what way was this communicated to candidates and the mooted referees? Were any of the referees/proposers/seconders contacted or approached for validation or references?

Is it true that at least one of the successful nominated candidates was not informed the election would be contested? Was this communication just verbal or was it made in writing and by whom? Was the same manner and content of communication made to all the candidates?

Was it clarified to candidates that they would or wouldn’t be expected to present at the AGM? How was this communicated?

Overall how clear and consistent were communications with the candidates and were they up to the Boards expected standards? Where lessons not learnt from the issues arising from Amanda Parshall’s on the importance of correct procedure?

At the AGM Lynn Robinson made clear to the audience that candidates would not be speaking (unlike at previous AGM’s). When was it decided this would be the case and by whom and why wasn’t that stated in AGM papers?

At the AGM in response to audience protest Lynn Robinson used Chair discretion to change that decision and asked the candidates to speak. Was that a reasonable Chair decision? Was it fair to candidates? Was it also fair to proxy voters who had already cast their votes?

Prior to making that decision the BMC solicitor from Womble Dickenson counselled from the floor that letting candidates speak would put the elections at risk to legal challenge. Was the Chair right to overrule this counsel and how serious is the legal risk?

With regard to discretionary voting the Chair typically holds a lot of discretionary votes. Is it a conflict of interest that this person is also a member of the Nominations Committee and on the interview panel?

On reflection does the Board believe that the number of discretionary votes held by the Chair at the 2018 AGM represent an unreasonable concentration of individual power?

At the end of the AGN Phil Simister (one of the Nominated Director candidates) asked from the floor whether discretionary proxy voting numbers would be made available. Lynn Robinson replied that they would be made available at the end of the meeting and published online. This did not happen. Why?

Why was the precedent from the 2018 AGM when a proxy voting decision and the numbers was disclosed immediately after a Director vote not followed at the 2019 AGM?

Why has further member requests to the Office and the President  for disclosure of discretionary proxy votes by the Chair been refused? Was this a Board decision prior to the AGM? Is it right that this information is withheld? If so how is that balanced against openness and transparency?

Regarding the AGM report published on the BMC website - why was it delayed for so long?

Is it true that whilst the report was drafted in the Marketing department it was circulated for review for editing to Lynn Robinson and others? If so who was it circulated to and what amendments were made?

Given that a number of complaints have been levelled in person and online after the AGM why has there been no public acknowledgement of these concerns from the President, Chair or Board?

Have all or any of the candidates who participated in the process including any who withdrew been approached for feedback by the Nominations Committee? If not will they?

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Offwidth - on 07 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

What is your motivation to continue to ask such clearly biased questions? Is it because the candidates you supported lost? Would we be here if they had won?

Pretty much all these assertions of problematic process are either: a result of company law on voting; or reasonable adjustments to get the nominations process completed at a busy time; or unconfirmed assumptions being presented as fact; or chairing decisions allowable under the rules; or a private candidate verbal statement that seems to me almost impossible to be true.

There was no shortage of qualified candidates and all three posts were contested by candidates above the line. There were no process errors in the election process.

One new point made here for the first time is that there was an offer at the AGM of providing numbers of proxy votes. I was there, and I clearly heard the offer was of the written copy of the voting count (only at that point presented verbally). Yet more misinformation.

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Andy Syme - on 07 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Simon

As you know there were, in my view, a number of errors in the run up to, and the execution of the AGM.  I recognise your passion; and I understand the slow response from the 'Office' may be fuelling this.  There are some areas where I may be able to help.

> Was there a written procedure at the outset for how the selection of candidates, the interviews and the post interview actions? If so can this document be publicly disclosed in its original form for member scrutiny. If there wasn’t a written procedure at the outset why not? 

I had a conversation with Gareth about getting some procedures written shortly after he was appointed and we agreed it would be a good idea.  Unfortunately life got in the way and I forgot to chase this, or do a draft myself; I assume the same happened for Gareth.  It needs doing for next year would be my take away.

> With regard to discretionary voting the Chair typically holds a lot of discretionary votes. Is it a conflict of interest that this person is also a member of the Nominations Committee and on the interview panel?

The President is on the Board and NomCom because that is what members wanted (ORG suggested President should not be in the Board if I remember correctly).  This, along with discretionary proxy votes, has implications for a membership organisation which is probably different to a 'normal company'. 

> Why was the precedent from the 2018 AGM when a proxy voting decision and the numbers was disclosed immediately after a Director vote not followed at the 2019 AGM?

While I think Nick made the right decision at that time, I do not think it is a good precedent to just nullify the discretionary votes in all cases; the effective result of splitting them.  We need to think how do this in the future and ensure we inform members in future on discretionary votes so that people are clear how they will be used and people can then make informed  decisions.

> Why has further member requests to the Office and the President  for disclosure of discretionary proxy votes by the Chair been refused? Was this a Board decision prior to the AGM? Is it right that this information is withheld? If so how is that balanced against openness and transparency?

It is not just the President's vote that was proxied.  I'm not sure, given the precedence of not revealing proxies, that the office can retrospectively disclose this fairly when this was not made clear before to the proxy holders.   One concern I have with transparency is how it is handled by others.  If we disclose how do we protect people from being attacked online by others who don't like the decision?  Transparency is good, but open to abuses that need to be thought through. 

For what it's worth I think in the future a ballot (show of hands) is public (you can see who I raised my hand for) so there is no reason in my mind why the same openness is not applied to proxy votes.  But a poll is 'hidden' as you hand in the paper so again same should apply to proxy votes.

> Is it true that whilst the report was drafted in the Marketing department it was circulated for review for editing to Lynn Robinson and others? If so who was it circulated to and what amendments were made?

This sounds a bit 'witch hunt' like.  In every company I've worked in important communications are vetted and edited by the 'senior staff' before issuing.  What purpose would disclosing this serve?

I think there are some good points and I'm working on a paper for NC which I hope will address many of them. 

But I think as Andy Reeve says there is a danger here that we are moving towards a polarising set of opinions.  When this happens people get defensive and then others see conspiracy and once the trenches are dug movement becomes impossible.

So:

  1. Your points are heard and are being looked at. 
  2. People have made mistakes, and assumptions have been misaligned because they were assumptions and many peoples assumptions were/are different, they should have been made clear before hand.  I, and many others on Board and NC, recognise this needs addressing and we aim to address it.
  3. Even where 'bad decisions' have been made it has, IMHO, been done in good faith.  People are trying to do the right thing but are too busy or rushed and errors happen.  You are absolutely right to raise the issues, and Steve to defend or correct errors he sees, but we need to keep in mind that we are all working to improve the BMC and get things right and we would do well not to fall into the trap of assigning the issues to conspiracy rather than cock up.
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UKB Shark - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Thank you for disclosing there wasn’t a written procedure prepared. Your suggestion that proxy voting at the AGM is also by show of hands too makes sense - if someone is uncomfortable with that then they needn’t act as a proxy for others.

Regarding the BMC article Steve has characterised this merely as a ‘news item’. In response I am looking to establish whether it was a pure product of the marketing department or not or whether it was more than that. Either way it is the only official comment on proceedings for members to go on. The article was entirely unrepresentative of many people’s view of the AGM and that lends suspicion to it being an exercise to pull the wool over the eyes of the membership that everything was fine and dandy.

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Offwidth - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Thanks Andy

I have never knowingly challenged or denied fair concerns. Being 'defensive' is normally about avoiding answering such. I am 'defending' the BMC, an organisation I care deeply about,  against very specific things, point-by-point, that are wrong or look wrong... a very different thing.

On your points, you too need to be careful with semantics: if people have made 'mistakes' (I'm not sure if they have yet) this needs to be based on fact, not opinion; I see no 'bad decisions' and I voted for JR (and much to my current embarrassment, having trusted Shark's advice) for Gron. A better decision being available next time doesn't make the current choice 'bad' now and in any case representative democracy is commonly regarded as 'games' in the realms of the best of unfortunate alternative systems. As such, I just see democratic fair decisions, where my candidates lost, as too many others disagreed with me;  and I see process decisions most probably made for practical reasons, rather than any need to assume conspiracy (and that if any are to be regarded as 'bad' they must be fact based). You cannot speak for the Board on this.

The BMC cannot get round discretionary proxy voting as its a legal requirement and for the chair to split votes by any formal convention would disenfranchise all those voters and so  cannot be legal (they can choose on the day to do this though). You can add extra organisational proxy names to the ballot but you cannot legally have quota limits;  members have to be allowed to choose to proxy who they want. In an 'alternative world'  possibility for this election process the Chair of the Board holding the proxy votes would have be conflicted in the same way as the President (and be less good for member democracy). The membership elect a President to represent what they sees as being in the best interests of the members and to hold the Board to account (with much confidential work that will influence opinion but cannot be explained in public). Hence, I think releasing proxy numbers would be a terrible idea (and know there might be legal difficulties). I think seeking proxy numbers has always been about 'reverse engineering' the vote and apportioning blame... damaging and shameful if true.  I would prefer it if all AGM votes were secret (probably possible soon with electronic support) as I've seen too much intimidation in open meetings that use a show of hands.

I'm not going to shut up any time soon on this subject as I've been fighting poor election practice and dishonest sour grapes all my 'political career' in my academic trade unions (including being a member of UCU National Executive Committee) and in my University governance representation elections. Whilst I acknowledge people have different politics,  I'm sick to death of people, when they lose, putting such petty dishonest political sniping before the good of any organisation I'm involved in. The irony here is my broader BMC political views have always been pretty close to Simon's.

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Offwidth - on 07 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

I suspect the article was representative of most people at the AGM but clearly not for that of at least a signifcant minority (of whom you are the most vocal). I agree entirely with you on this. Knowing the BMC I would be amazed if it wasn't just a standard marketing piece, ie. news, its certainly not a formal report of the meeting (that would be the minutes of the meeting).

Post edited at 11:20
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Andy Syme - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> On your points, you too need to be careful with semantics: if people have made 'mistakes' (I'm not sure if they have yet) this needs to be based on fact, not opinion; I see no 'bad decisions' and I voted for JR (and much to my current embarrassment, having trusted Shark's advice) for Gron. 

Mistakes - Not getting some documented processes on ND etc - Hands up from me.  I'm pretty certain there were others.

Bad Decisions - How ND process was done for example or not asking me to explain what was meant if they thought the articles were complex (following on from the mistakes maybe).  I agree that who you voted for is subjective on whether bad or not so that is not the issue (for me). 

> The BMC cannot get round discretionary proxy voting as its a legal requirement

I have said I'm checking this but you may be right.  Proxy is a must, discretionary less clear.

> for the chair to split votes by any formal convention would disenfranchise all those voters and so  cannot be legal (they can choose on the day to do this though). 

I think I already said that so yes.  Though we can be a little more nuanced if we want.

> Hence, I think releasing proxy numbers would be a terrible idea (and know there might be legal difficulties). I think seeking proxy numbers has always been about 'reverse engineering' the vote and apportioning blame... damaging and shameful if true.  I would prefer it if all AGM votes were secret (probably possible soon with electronic support) as I've seen too much intimidation in open meetings that use a show of hands.

I disagree with your fundamental point, hide everything, but agree with the underlying concern as I said above.

> I'm not going to shut up any time soon on this subject 

I don't think I asked you to shut up, if you thought I did then my error and apologies.  I do however think both you and Simon are becoming more heated and confrontational as the discussion progresses and that won't help things IMHO. 

While there will always be a few who will complain about anything, Simon is not alone in his concerns; there are many 'steady heads' (not that Simon isn't I hasten to add) who have also contacted me with concerns albeit not through the public Forum route. 

There are enough rumblings that it doesn't feel like 'we' got it right this time, so lets understand why, see what is fixable and ensure next time people both understand the processes and can back them. 

When people are only moaning about the result and that their favourite lost, not the correctness of how it was achieved, then we will be in a much better place. 

Post edited at 16:18
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Offwidth - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Those are your opinions on a mistake and a bad decision... and you are not even on the Board. Is this really the sort of thing that you think that makes Simons attack a reasonable one. Past BMC mistakes vary from typos through genuinely serious things like Climb Britain, to nearly bankrupting the organisation: in terms of Board level commentary I think they need to be substantive and substantiated. I really don't think what you are talking about counts (and even if it did, it is small and heavily mitigated). I think a genuine mistake was having AGM elections for Nominated Directors at all (but I'm also not involved other than as a member). My view on this is an opinion, not an organisational fact; something others might admit about their own opinions.

Unless I've missed something you are also not in charge of the feedback process. People should be at least sending questions and concerns to the BMC weblink, not just to you.

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-give-feedback-on-odg

I'm trying hard to stick to the issues but Simon but despite feedback to him is still pushing really serious stuff that he must know by now almost certainly can't be true (especially Gron's comments). He is also insulting various Board members in his various posts (especially on UKB). Why are you not commenting on all this, as you must realise the same?  It must be possible to make a case without such behaviour?

If we know proxy discretionary blocks in the small numbers they exist in the BMC AGM, back engineering of the vote is inevitable, as is the true motive of that: being able to publicly attack the voting proxys... this will at least worst be a strong disincentive for people to volunteer to act as a proxy in future; it could lead to massive and unfair bullying. If the BMC makes retrospective changes and releases discretionary proxy numbers and drops democratically engaged people 'in the mire' like this, I will be disgusted. I'm amazed you can't see how bad this potentially is for BMC company democracy, and for the civil engagement of political difference in the organisation.

I don't care about rumblings from unnamed people, I care about facts. What do we actually know has gone wrong?  The BMC rumblings for the last decade in some circles might make us think we are in a political equivalent of the geology of Iceland when in fact its more British:  the ground is usually stable and political groups of people have agendas and like moaning. Most volunteers just want to get on with stuff like access work and members just want the organisation to help to them get on with it.

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UKB Shark - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> I'm trying hard to stick to the issues but Simon but despite feedback to him is still pushing really serious stuff that he must know by now almost certainly can't be true (especially Gron's comments). He is also insulting various Board members in his various posts (especially on UKB). Why are you not commenting on all this, as you must realise the same?  It must be possible to make a case without such behaviour?

I have no reason to doubt Gron's statement ( a Chartered Accountant and previous PLC Director) and nor should anyone else at this point. There has been no information that has subsequently come to light to cast doubt on his feedback. There are 3 new Board members who will have experienced the contested recruitment process and be in a position to feedback directly on their experiences at the upcoming Board meeting. I think it would also be good practice to get the feedback of candidates who were unsuccessful too in order to learn for next time. 

As for insulting Board Members on UKB by which I take it you mean Jonny Dry maybe you are confusing someone else's comments with mine. What I posted was this:

In his short talk he came across as likeable and energetic but his grant funding experience was largely limited to getting funding for his films and he’s not held a Board post before.

I think experience is more important than enthusiasm for Board positions which makes it tricky if you are looking for youthful representation though JR is still in his 30’s so not ancient. I talked with one former BMC Director who was youngish who candidly admitted they felt out of their depth and ill equipped experience-wise to make a proper contribution.

If the organisation wasn’t going through such a difficult time of change then it wouldn’t matter so much.

Wish him well. He’s stepped forward for a time consuming and potentially stressful unpaid role.

   

  

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Andy Syme - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Steve

I quoted both mistakes and bad decisions in the original post.  I think they are/were, you're free to disagree. 

Not sure what reason being on the Board has on the validity of opinions here!!! 

If you look on UKB I requested feedback on AGM issues at the request of Gareth, with the agreement of Gareth and Lynn it would form agenda items at next NC and Board.  So on that I am leading feedback.

The fact that people chose to raise issues in private not here doesn't make their opinions any more or less valid. 

I'm not agreeing with everything Simon says or everything you say.  I have said his approach is not ideal IMHO but like you he is free to say what he believes is correct regardless of my opinion! 

As I said I will record the issues perceived, look at options and implications and come up with some suggestions for the NC.  Then the NC can decide on some action s and discuss with the membership. 

You have some valid concerns, but so do others. 

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UKB Shark - on 07 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> Simon

> While I think Nick made the right decision at that time, I do not think it is a good precedent to just nullify the discretionary votes in all cases; the effective result of splitting them.  We need to think how do this in the future and ensure we inform members in future on discretionary votes so that people are clear how they will be used and people can then make informed  decisions.

Andy - sorry didn't pick up on this before. The precedent I was referring to wasnt the splitting of the vote but the precedent of the Chair revealing how they voted in an election and, correct me if I'm wrong, the number of discretionary votes that were used. 

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Andy Syme - on 07 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

I don't think he declared the number, just he had enough to sway the result.  All the minutes say is

"The Chair declared that he intended to split the discretionary votes given to him equally for both candidates."
https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=1639

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Dave Garnett - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> For what it's worth I think in the future a ballot (show of hands) is public (you can see who I raised my hand for) so there is no reason in my mind why the same openness is not applied to proxy votes.  But a poll is 'hidden' as you hand in the paper so again same should apply to proxy votes.

I was left wondering how much what anyone said or how anyone voted on the day actually made, given the postal and online votes already cast.

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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I was left wondering how much what anyone said or how anyone voted on the day actually made, given the postal and online votes already cast.

Greater participation in AGM voting has got to be a good thing, but realistically how many would turn up in person (and if say 10% did there would be some cost and admin issues to 'host' 8000+ people)

Live streaming and online voting is possible, but not cheap, and I'm not sure how many BMC members would chose to sit in and watch the AGM to vote (particularly if it was a nice day!).

So I think online voting is here to stay.  But as you say the larger the online vote the less relevant the AGM day actually is UNLESS the majority of online votes are discretionary.  And with large discretionary votes there are other issues in perception at least. (see above!)

Ideally there would be a couple of hundred people at the AGM each with a couple of hundred proxy votes, freely given.  No single person with the deciding vote, AGM debate would be really relevant and good membership participation.  But you can't force that to happen; unless you went back to block voting which is not a good solution.

Maybe it's a problem we can't solve trying to enact the legal requirements of the Companies Act (or charity law if we were a charity) with the ideals of a membership organisation.  But we can at least try and identify any improvements.

Post edited at 08:31
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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I was left wondering how much what anyone said or how anyone voted on the day actually made, given the postal and online votes already cast.

It was very significant.

If you look at the distribution of votes on the photo of the voting form on the article that indicates around half the votes were discretional proxy votes cast on the day by the Chair and others in the room. 

I would like to confirm the number but the information has been withheld 

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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

> If you look at the distribution of votes on the photo of the voting form on the article that indicates around half the votes were discretional proxy votes cast on the day by the Chair and others in the room. 

Given about 200 attended we can say that about 2000 proxy votes were cast.  What we don't know is how many of them were discretionary (and it will have varied by item).  As to whether we should know retrospectively is a discussion point.    

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> Given about 200 attended we can say that about 2000 proxy votes were cast.  What we don't know is how many of them were discretionary (and it will have varied by item).  As to whether we should know retrospectively is a discussion point.    

Absolutely we don’t know, but we can guess. Uncertainty is not healthy and gives the impression that there is something to hide.

If if we don’t know then that hinders learning any general lessons on how to improve.

It is also an affront to openness and transparency.

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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Simon

Big picture I agree with you, with some caveats.  Retrospectively publishing when that is not precedent and practice is more tricky.  

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

That can be achieved (with respect to the Chair’s number of discretionary of votes and how the votes were applied) by persuading Lynn specifically and the Board in general that disclosure is the right thing to do. 

As mentioned above there is something of a precedent as Nick Kurth disclosed how he applied the discretionary votes entrusted to him even though he wasn’t obligated or even asked to do so.

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Dave Garnett - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> Given about 200 attended we can say that about 2000 proxy votes were cast.  What we don't know is how many of them were discretionary (and it will have varied by item).  As to whether we should know retrospectively is a discussion point.    

I'm coming round to the view that perhaps we shouldn't have discretionary proxy votes at all.  It's fair enough that if you can't make the AGM in person you should be able to vote online - although it does bother me that the result might be a fait accompli despite anything said at the meeting, no matter how persuasive.  Indeed, when candidates were unexpectedly called back to make a short pitch during the voting process, some refused to do so on the corollary of this principle - that many people had already voted without having heard this further information.

However, if you can't make the meeting in person and can't even be bothered to make a decision and express a preference, I don't see why you should register a vote without even knowing who you've voted for.  At least one person abstained by proxy, which, although fairly pointless, was neutral.

I don't mean this necessarily as a criticism of anything that transpired at this year's AGM but the possibility that a wad of discretionary votes could be used to overcome the clear preference of the vote in the room, without the originators of those votes even having heard the discussion, is troubling.     

Post edited at 12:13
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Toerag - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

"*To my knowledge club members share the same benefits as individual members except they don't get a BMC membership card, only get the Spring edition of Summit magazine (without the handbook) and don't receive the £10k cover for personal accident insurance which is a bolt-on policy and should not to be confused with the more substantial combined liability insurance with its £15m cover which all members benefit from. A club member upgrade is available to bring the benefits in line with that of individual members at a cost of £15.20pa but I'm led to believe that scarcely anyone upgrades."

Speaking as a club member, we get a BMC membership card (printed on the cardboard stiffner/flyer that comes with the summit magazine and easily chucked in the recycling ), one issue of Summit and the handbook.  Many people don't realise their subs can be upgraded to get the personal liability insurance. I don't know what the current process is when clubs submit their member lists, but it would probably make sense to allow upgrading to be done as part of that process i.e. clubs could submit people as normal or 'enhanced' members and be billed accordingly.

As someone living in Guernsey and well away from many of the issues facing mainland UK climbers and 'out of the loop' in terms of who's who in BMC activism more clarity on who's who might garner more people to make active voting decisions rather than going for proxy voting. It seems strange to allow people to proxy vote and decide what that vote is. I can understand postal voting, or allowing proxy voting for people unable to attend the AGM, but to allow proxy voting without the member knowing what their proxy will vote is certainly open to an abuse of power.  Do people actively advertise their proxy providing services in an effort to gather support for their pet proposal?

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Rob Parsons on 08 May 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> Speaking as a club member, we get a BMC membership card (printed on the cardboard stiffner/flyer that comes with the summit magazine and easily chucked in the recycling ), one issue of Summit and the handbook.  Many people don't realise their subs can be upgraded to get the personal liability insurance.

You mean 'personal accident insurance.'

> It seems strange to allow people to proxy vote and decide what that vote is.

Not necessarily. That has a reasonable function if, for example, club members want to give their proxy votes to the representatives of their club who will be attending the AGM in person, and casting their votes having listened to the detailed arguments made at the meeting on any particular issue.

Post edited at 14:04
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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> Speaking as a club member, we get a BMC membership card (printed on the cardboard stiffner/flyer that comes with the summit magazine and easily chucked in the recycling ), one issue of Summit and the handbook.  Many people don't realise their subs can be upgraded to get the personal liability insurance. I don't know what the current process is when clubs submit their member lists, but it would probably make sense to allow upgrading to be done as part of that process i.e. clubs could submit people as normal or 'enhanced' members and be billed accordingly.

Thanks for filling in. Ive only recently become a club member so wasn't sure. Therefore 3 issues of Summit and the piffling £10K personal accident (not liability!) insurance are the only real diffrences between club memebrship and BMC membership other than the price. Quite frankly I can see why hardly anyone spends £15.20 upgrading.     

> Do people actively advertise their proxy providing services in an effort to gather support for their pet proposal?

Club Chairmen or their committee members traditionally act for their club this way which I guess stems back to the Club bloc vote days. I gather that the Alpine Club rep failed to make it to this year's AGM so all those nominated proxies were wasted! I wouldn't be surprised if Bob Pettigrew proactively sought to gain discretional proxies for his motion of no confidence as he seemed particularly pleased with himself to announce in his speech that he had Joe Brown's backing. All acceptable stuff within the current rules   

Post edited at 14:10
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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Proxy voting is a legal requirement for the current form of the BMC, so its irrelevant what anyone thinks. The vote in the room is a fraction of the membership and the voting membership have to have the same weight... most can't afford the time and money to go to the AGM so chose to engage with mandated proxy votes or discretionary proxy votes (which allow their trusted proxy to listen to the debate first).

In the end the Board signed off that all candidates in this Nominated Director election were above the line, so all were electable. I doubt very much any proxys were gaming the system... they just proably had different views to Simon (and to me) and he doesn't like that and seems determined to make as big a stink as he can, seemingly following a long tradition of electoral sour grapes. I spoke to several 'normal' people I trust in the room who when I expressed my surprise said they preferred the elected candidate. 

One day when we have single issue folk who stack the AGM meeting to vote for views which differ from the average member,  people will remember why proxys are important. In my trade union Congress all sorts of stuff got passed that the average member was really annoyed with, as the more extreme activists were always incentivised to take any places available. Occasionally (as in one example an Israel University boycott), Congress was recalled, at some expense, to reverse a vote. 

Abstaining on a proxy is not pointless as they may want to do that on one or more voting items on the form but still wish to vote for or against other items on the same form.

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Graeme Alderson on 08 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

On a different but related topic, I was wondering how you guys, Steve, Andy and Shark, view the governance of the BMC nominating someone to the IFSC Europe Executive Board without consulting the BMC Competitions Committee (indisputable fact as I am a member of that Committee) or the BMC Executive Board or National Council? Comments please.

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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

It's sad I know but in my research so far:

324 (1) of companies act states "A member of a company is entitled to appoint another person as his proxy to exercise all or any of his rights to attend and to speak and vote at a meeting of the company."  All BMC Members are members of the company.

324A says "A proxy must vote in accordance with any instructions given by the member by whom the proxy is appointed"

So there doesn't appear to be a legal requirement for discretionary votes.  BUT later on it talks about "the member's instructions (if any) as to how the proxy is to vote" which implies the need for discretionary votes.

I am trying to get a definitive legal opinion.  

But also worth noting that IF we removed discretionary votes would we just get large numbers not bothering (bad for democracy) or abstaining because they couldn't make a decision (bad for democracy but also a risk for special business (i.e. all the complex stuff) where you need 75% of voting members to pass a resolution)

Ultimately every option has pros and cons and I am keen we only change if it is to something that is demonstratively better than what we have now.  

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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

In the end its up to members what they do to help any organisation they belong to. Some do a tremendous amount, such that the member fee is dwarfed, and others do the bare minimum and just enjoy the benefits. In the BMC, given the history and the huge amount of BMC voluntary work (and similar voluntary work done in the spirit of BMC aims) done in clubs and by club members (much more on average than non club members contribute, as far as I can see) and the very real financial situation of some clubs, I don't think the current fees are far wrong in financial or moral terms. We also have to remember a minority of club members don't want to be in the BMC and just tolerate the fee as their committee assure them it's necessary (it is for the 3rd party insurance most need).

I'm not currently a club member (but was for 20 years.. my Uni made it difficult for me to stay with a £100+ annual AU fee, lots of paperwork and ear bleed inducing views on safety). Some people I know are members of several clubs (and don't claim a rebate), upgrade to individual member as well, and are giving much volunteer time.

Whatever we think of the fee level, it gets agreed at AGM by democratic vote.

Post edited at 15:56
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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

> On a different but related topic, I was wondering how you guys, Steve, Andy and Shark, view the governance of the BMC nominating someone to the IFSC Europe Executive Board without consulting the BMC Competitions Committee (indisputable fact as I am a member of that Committee) or the BMC Executive Board or National Council? Comments please.

So it doesn't break the Articles (which are silent on such things) but does sound odd as written.  Comps Committee consultation would seem polite as a minimum and I don't know how someone could be nominated to represent the BMC internationally without Board sign off?

But I have no idea why or how it came about or what the precedence on these nominations is so can't fairly comment on whether it is right or not.   

To be honest though my plate is rather full with AGM stuff ATM

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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

I am not saying anything in detail as my anger might lead to knock-on problems. I know exactly what you mean and I hope the message I thoroughly disagree with what I have heard about this action is clear though, from both democratic and finance perspectives (BMC budgets are very tight and international travel is expensive). One thing that would interest me (off the record) is the last time the person in question actually attended a BMC comps committee meeting or a BMC run comp.

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Dave Garnett - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Proxy voting is a legal requirement for the current form of the BMC, so its irrelevant what anyone thinks.

I was about to respond by saying the availability proxy voting is a legal requirement but discretionary proxy voting seems far more arguable, so it very much is relevant what people think.

Now Andy Syme has responded more fully and I agree that a proxy is obliged to follow the instructions of the member of company, which would include using their own discretion if so instructed, but the BMC doesn't need to make this such an easy option.  I would encourage BMC members to exercise their right to choose by submitting mandated proxy votes.  

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Dave Garnett - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> But also worth noting that IF we removed discretionary votes would we just get large numbers not bothering (bad for democracy) or abstaining because they couldn't make a decision (bad for democracy but also a risk for special business (i.e. all the complex stuff) where you need 75% of voting members to pass a resolution)

Hmm.  Maybe.  Or maybe you could explain the issue clearly enough (and express the committee's clear preference) so that you reach the 75% threshold.  

I think the idea having such a threshold is that if you can't persuade 75% that it's a good proposal, then perhaps it isn't.  

Also, perhaps recent events have made me cautious about encouraging people who don't really understand something to vote for it.

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Graeme Alderson on 08 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

As far as I am aware the person in question has never attended a BMC Comps Com meeting and has never attended a BMC National event. The Minutes of CompsCom will show the former is correct but it is not possible to prove lack of attendance at National events. I doubt the person has even attended Regional events. And according to the CV/email that Nick Colton sent me, the person is interested in Governance and is an 'expert' in Climbing Competition Betting. 

Edit for clarification. I have been on BMC CompsCom since 1993 so I think I might remember who has been on the Committee.

Post edited at 16:27
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Andy Syme - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

David

I understand your point in principle, but a simple issue is easy to convey simply, a complex issue isn't; believe me I tried and tried with 2018 articles but there was no simple way to explain all the changes needed and when it was simplified (videos and articles) many people were not happy with the lack of nuance/information in the simplification or the fact that the committee were stating their clear preference!!!  Most people don't/won't/can't make time to understand complex and probably boring issues no matter how important.

Discretionary proxies allow you to pass your vote to someone you trust to do the work for you.  I good idea in many cases but has implications.  

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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Maybe you would, but many want someone they trust to listen to the debate before their vote is cast. Also mandated votes can be more easily scuppered by procedural stunts, like aggressive amendments from the floor. It seems to me to be a least worst scenario. 

The Board could possibly have:  chosen an ODG Nominated Director position, or proposed to co-opt the ODG chair to the Board (non voting),  or could have chosen the Nominated Directors to be elected by the National Council (as they did for proposed Deputy President). All these could lead to interesting questions I'd regard as much more fair and valid than Simon's, some of which could potentially better improve future outcomes.

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Graeme Alderson on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Fair game Andy about having lots on your plate.

CompsCom Meeting was last night but I was unable to attend due to working at a Comp in Japan (common theme in early May) but I just wanted to raise the issue. The lack of consultation with CompsCom doesn't not really align with the BMC's public mantra of good governance.

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JR - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> or could have chosen the Nominated Directors to be elected by the National Council (as they did for proposed Deputy President)

That wouldn't meet the SE governance code (no more than 33% council nominated directors).

Post edited at 17:34
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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

> On a different but related topic, I was wondering how you guys, Steve, Andy and Shark, view the governance of the BMC nominating someone to the IFSC Europe Executive Board without consulting the BMC Competitions Committee (indisputable fact as I am a member of that Committee) or the BMC Executive Board or National Council? Comments please.

> On a different but related topic, I was wondering how you guys, Steve, Andy and Shark, view the governance of the BMC nominating someone to the IFSC Europe Executive Board without consulting the BMC Competitions Committee (indisputable fact as I am a member of that Committee) or the BMC Executive Board or National Council? Comments please.

I'm no expert as you know but it must have Board approval in some form and with the Board now having primacy it hasn't broken any rules unless it has overridden the Competitions Committee's terms of reference. If it has then that could form a material basis of complaint.

Rules aside there is also the matter of governance best practice. The ORG relied heavily on the Sporting Recreational Alliance guidance on best practice guide in its approach though I don't think the BMC actually signed up to this (perhaps it should!). If you are going to lodge a formal complaint on good governance grounds it would probably be a good starting point to reference that guide's suggestions on best practice particularly with respect to openness and transparency:  

In terms of best practice in this regard this is what they say:

www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/pages/principles-of-good-governance

Principle 6: Accountability and Transparency

As guardians of the sport, the board is accountable to its stakeholders. To ensure there is an open and transparent culture, boards should engage with the wider sector as often as possible.

What does this mean to your board?

It is the board’s responsibility to provide accountability and  transparency  for  stakeholders.  The  board  must ensure that relevant information, like audited accounts and  board  policies,  are  published  and  made  publicly available to members and other stakeholders, to allow for  proper  scrutiny  of  the  board’s  work.  The  board should  have  a  structure  in  place  to  manage  queries  or questions related to these disclosures, allowing the organisation to be held to account and should also be prepared to deal with formal complaints and disputes from members.

A  commitment  to  accountability  and  transparency  is  key  to  ultimately  promoting  organisations  in a positive  and  trustworthy  light.  Organisations  will  be  encouraged  to  act  with  propriety, and stakeholders will feel valued. The reputation and public standing of the organisation will benefit hugely.

Supporting governance actions

The board must operate in an open and transparent manner to allow stakeholders to understand and scrutinise its actions.  

The board should maintain appropriate complaints and appeals procedures and these should be communicated to members. 

The board should publish an annual governance statement either in their annual report or on their website to ensure stakeholders have visibility on its governance matters. 

The board should actively seek stakeholders’ views through annual surveys, roadshows or other meetings on a regular basis.  

Organisations must publish their audited accounts and ensure stakeholders have access to the information at the end of each financial year.  

The board should maintain a stakeholder engagement policy and review it regularly. 

The board must publicly disclose information on their governance structure, board activities, individual director biographies and either summary or full board meeting minutes. 

The board must promote transparency and inclusivity by ensuring stakeholder views are heard and considered in the decision making process.

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Tyler - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

>  is an 'expert' in Climbing Competition Betting

Is here a betting market for climbing comps? If so which companies will give odds?

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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to JR

They would not be Council nominated though, just Council elected from a short list of Board selected and interviewed candiadates. The rest of the process would be the same.

Plus just checked and British Canoeing seem to have 6 elected from the National Councils plus 5 Independants and a Chair. They also seem to have a 25% gender profile on the Board (and looking to improve)

Post edited at 18:54
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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> I am not saying anything in detail as my anger might lead to knock-on problems. I know exactly what you mean and I hope the message I thoroughly disagree with what I have heard about this action is clear though, from both democratic and finance perspectives (BMC budgets are very tight and international travel is expensive). One thing that would interest me (off the record) is the last time the person in question actually attended a BMC comps committee meeting or a BMC run comp.


I cannot categorically state that this person has never attended a BMC national comp, but i've never seen him at one, and i've been chief judge at virtually every comp for the last 5 years...... 

Maybe channelling some of Offwidths unhappiness with this, comp comm were not consulted on this person attending IFSC plenaries, we were just told it was happening, so that the BMC could help forge links between the IFSC and the UIAA, and check up on IFSC governance. The person under discussion being a member of the "BMC30", I was personally disappointed / disgusted  (delete as applicable) when we were told the BMC was sending a second delegate to an IFSC plenary meeting (alongside Rob Adie, who as comps programme manager also attended), as it was made very clear to me that even as comp comm chair that there was no money available for me to attend any plenary meetings.

Given the original subject matter of this thread, which isnt a comps v BMC thread, some good may come out of it; governance in the IFSC is so far ahead that of the BMC, surely some best practice can be brought back for consideration.........

As regards betting on climbing comps, go to your local William Hill (other betting shops are available) and ask to place £5 each way on Nathan Phillips, and report back on how it goes.......

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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

> I'm no expert as you know but it must have Board approval in some form and with the Board now having primacy it hasn't broken any rules unless it has overridden the Competitions Committee's terms of reference. If it has then that could form a material basis of complaint.

We collectively minuted our displeasure at the decision, and were ignored. It didnt break any rules, but is as clear an example of bad practice (and financial mismanagement) as you could find. It was disrespectful to the comp comm, and even worse imho, disrespectful to our athletes, who pay for the privilege of competing internationally. The money spent could have been better spent on athletes attending comps, or coaching. We didnt send a team to some comps that year; the money spent on attending this meeting would have helped significantly to getting a stronger team to the Euro Junior Champs, for example.

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Offwidth - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

At least this gives me a chance to prove I'm no BMC 'troll' on 'autodefend'.

Part of the joy of travelling around is meeting all these wonderful volunteers like you who are busy getting on with it and have practical suggestions on how to improve things (and who can occasionally be a source of useful constructive internal gossip). It's another reason Simon's public questioning based on plenty of innuendo but no clearly established  serious facts annoys me... we have had several years of institutional distraction from sorting out important issues, a few of which that don't seem to me to have sensible reasoning or proper governance or good financial control, although this is the worst example I'm aware of and that key volunteers have moaned to me about.

Post edited at 19:59
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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> Maybe channelling some of Offwidths unhappiness with this, comp comm were not consulted on this person attending IFSC plenaries, we were just told it was happening, so that the BMC could help forge links between the IFSC and the UIAA, and check up on IFSC governance. The person under discussion being a member of the "BMC30", I was personally disappointed / disgusted  (delete as applicable) when we were told the BMC was sending a second delegate to an IFSC plenary meeting (alongside Rob Adie, who as comps programme manager also attended), as it was made very clear to me that even as comp comm chair that there was no money available for me to attend any plenary meetings.

Spending money on a quixotic attempt to attempt to heal the rift between the UIAA and the IFSC on what would appear to be an attempt to appease the likes of Bob Pettigrew with his historic grudge against the IFSC President Marco Scolaris is time, money and energy focused in precisely the wrong direction when the BMC has yet to issue a statement with respect to recommendation 15 of the ORG report that: "The BMC should give clarity to members, partners and stakeholders on its level of support for the Olympics Policy" which I see is down as Dave Turnbull's responsibility: https://odg.thebmc.co.uk/hc/en-gb/articles/360015773434-Recommendations-Matrix-and-Dependencies

Have you thought of writing a UKC article Ian? I'm sure Natalie would be amenable..

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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

> Spending money on a quixotic attempt to attempt to heal the rift between the UIAA and the IFSC on what would appear to be an attempt to appease the likes of Bob Pettigrew with his historic grudge against the IFSC President Marco Scolaris is time, money and energy focused in precisely the wrong direction when the BMC has yet to issue a statement with respect to recommendation 15 of the ORG report that: "The BMC should give clarity to members, partners and stakeholders on its level of support for the Olympics Policy" which I see is down as Dave Turnbull's responsibility: https://odg.thebmc.co.uk/hc/en-gb/articles/360015773434-Recommendations-Matrix-and-Dependencies

> Have you thought of writing a UKC article Ian? I'm sure Natalie would be amenable..

I have, but i'm 55 now, and have the blood pressure to think of. I think you are as aware as most as to the amount of energy i expended / wasted trying to get the bmc to promote comps to the benefit of all (not least the BMC itself), obviously to no avail. Lynn R is putting in a hell of a shift trying to modernise etc, but its an uphill battle. I think she sees where the organisation has to get to, but is finding it almost impossible to get it aligned. I dont envy her (or anyone else who tries......), as i think its an almost impossible task. And despite all the time she devotes to the organiation, she even spent all of last sunday judging and doing the presentations at the YCS final in Sheffield - the BMC's single biggest participation event. Dave T came to visit the bouldering on Saturday, but I dont recall seeing any other bmc luminary at either day apart from Steve McClure, also doing presentations.

Here's a thought for the day - the BMC will almost certainly be the NGB for comp climbing in the UK for the 2020 olympics - do you reckon it will still be by Paris 2024?

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> Here's a thought for the day - the BMC will almost certainly be the NGB for comp climbing in the UK for the 2020 olympics - do you reckon it will still be by Paris 2024?

I do.

Logically and hopefully it would be in the form of re-branded subsidiary and incorporate Talent Development.    

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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

> I do.

> Logically and hopefully it would be in the form of re-branded subsidiary and incorporate Talent Development.    


Your use of the words logically and hopefully seem somewhat odd given some of the other comments of yours on this thread!!

I agree that would be the best way (dont forget my suggestions of 4 years ago at NC), but while it is considered an annoying sideshow and doesnt conform to IOC or IFSC / UIAA governance guidelines regarding board representation, I wouldn't be so optimistic.

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johncook - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

Is the name of this person being kept as a BMC secret or is it lack of communication, or some other reason? I cannot remember seeing it mentioned anywhere, and I am an avid reader of anything to do with the BMC?

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> Your use of the words logically and hopefully seem somewhat odd given some of the other comments of yours on this thread!!

I’m not sure what you mean by that?

I can’t see an organisation or individuals with the funding and credibility building a case to wrest it away entirely and even if they did I think the BMC would resist such a move so I don’t think it separating in the next 5 years is likely.

Given the above I hope and think it logical that it is allowed to develop its own brand (ie British Climbing) to help attract substantive sponsors and continue to develop infrastructure to the benefit of the sport. It’s operation is consistent with Talent Development which continues to attract Sport England funding. Those for comp climbing appear to want a degree of separation and those against it seem to agree.

However, as you note internal reform is hard to achieve and it may indeed be external pressures are what is required to provide the necessary stimulus (again!)

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to johncook:

Given the clues I would guess Colin Knowles

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Steve Woollard on 08 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

> But also worth noting that IF we removed discretionary votes would we just get large numbers not bothering (bad for democracy) or abstaining because they couldn't make a decision (bad for democracy

But isn't a discretionary vote the same,  an abdication of responsibility and bad for democracy 

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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Indeed, but Colin isnt the problem so I was avoiding mentioning him. He is in my experience honest, impartial (except for the BMC30 abberation....) and thoughtful. The problem is the process, and why it was done with no reference to those in the BMC most closely involved with the IFSC. And indeed against their will.

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UKB Shark - on 08 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

Yes agree with all that - he was on National Council same time as me. 

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Ian W - on 08 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

> I’m not sure what you mean by that?

> I can’t see an organisation or individuals with the funding and credibility building a case to wrest it away entirely and even if they did I think the BMC would resist such a move so I don’t think it separating in the next 5 years is likely.

Then look harder......

> Given the above I hope and think it logical that it is allowed to develop its own brand (ie British Climbing) to help attract substantive sponsors and continue to develop infrastructure to the benefit of the sport. It’s operation is consistent with Talent Development which continues to attract Sport England funding. Those for comp climbing appear to want a degree of separation and those against it seem to agree.

> However, as you note internal reform is hard to achieve and it may indeed be external pressures are what is required to provide the necessary stimulus (again!)

So maybe we just need the IFSC to say "do x, y, and z by 31/12/2021 (for example), or we no longer recognise you". Hand forced, subsid set up, all happy, onwards to Paris.

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Andy Syme - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Steve Woollard:

> But isn't a discretionary vote the same,  an abdication of responsibility and bad for democracy 

You could argue that, or that they are positively saying I don't know but trust X to make a better decision for me.  Also without discretionary votes, and assuming we can't get large numbers to attend in person, you can argue that the AGM is meaningless (except as a legal requirement) as the decision would be made before anyone entered the room.

I personally would like many more people to vote and to vote for an issue not pass it to someone else.  That requires the BMC to be better in it's comms in some cases but it also requires members to actually take the time to read the information produced, even if it isn't as simple as they would like, and make a decision.  Probably a big ask for most AGM topics (which don't really light peoples fires) when people have buy lives.

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Andy Syme - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Ian W:

> Given the original subject matter of this thread, which isnt a comps v BMC thread, some good may come out of it; governance in the IFSC is so far ahead that of the BMC, surely some best practice can be brought back for consideration.........

Ian

What is, in your view, better about ISFC governance?  Or what best practice would you want brought in?

PM me if you prefer or think the response will clutter up this thread. 

Andy

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Offwidth - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

What a thread...maybe you are too nice to be here... I thought that was Ian's wry humour given the concerns about IFSC governance from some BMC grandees and on a similar subject we also have Steve (one of the 'BMC 30') lecturing us about democracy.

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Andy Syme - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Maybe I am 😁

To be fair the BMC 30 proposal wasn't anti democracy just proposed a form that would not allow BMC to go forwards as I thought it needed to. 

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JR - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I’m not sure that’s quite correct, Steve, or at least it's more nuanced. What you're inferring wouldn't pass with SE, but what was recently passed in their 9th March resolution would. The BMC's NC couldn't appoint/elect/nominate a further 3 Directors and be compliant.

At British Canoeing, it’s 6 directors appointed by national bodies, including 3 nominated from their “English Forum"  - their recently renamed National Council.

Then one nominated from the separate home nations bodies of:

  • Canoe Wales
  • Scottish Canoe Association
  • The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland

Then 5 independents and the CEO. One would assume the Chair is from the independents (although I haven’t re-examined their articles in that detail), not a further role as you wrote.

Canoe Wales is a separate legal entity, as is Scottish Canoe Association, as is The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland. It’s the equivalent of Mountaineering Scotland, Mountaineering Ireland (with caveats) and an organisation in Wales that doesn’t exist for the BMC. Had the BMC asked Mountaineering Scotland to provide a nominated director I’m sure they would have done, but I don’t think it’s quite correct to say it’s 6 appointed from National Councils (hence the change to the articles recently one would assume). There was robust discussion about Mountaineering Scotland being on the Board during and post-ORG and it didn't happen.

Also the British Canoeing President(s) (life, elect or honorary) isn’t on the Board as of right in the articles (nor are the VPs). And the Board are the proposers of the President and the VPs, not the members/council.

Much of the situation above (i.e. roles from other home nations bodies) would be achievable with current BMC articles, if desired under the nominated directors.  Not sure direct comparisons like this are helpful at this time, as the BMC nominated directors provide flexibility, it just needs a better, documented process to decide on the roles required and appoint. I'm sure it will evolve over time...

Post edited at 08:35
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Ian W - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Will PM - this isn't the place.

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Offwidth - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

An interesting view. Collection of proxies (yes them) for the MoNC by private distribution of letters and emails containing easily disproved misinformation, not anti-democratic eh? :-O

In reply to JR

Maybe you can give the specific regulation for us. I can see in the main SE code that exceptionally a co-option for a year was possible for say a chair of ODG. On the real life construction of Boards I see many different models in practice and until I see that ND selection has to include election by the full membership I won't be convinced that SE require it. I do agree that SE say only 1/3rd of Board members can be elected from Council but ND candidates are not members of our National Council. Maybe you have detailed legal advice on this that members need to know about? Something else I thought about today that needs asking, is were you not offered an opportunity to apply for the Club ND role ( if not I would be very concerned) ?

https://www.sportengland.org/about-us/governance/a-code-for-sports-governance/

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JR - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> until I see that ND selection has to include election by the full membership I won't be convinced that SE require it.

It doesn't, and I haven't said it does, so not sure why it's become conflated with the point about electing from councils, as what you were saying about Nominated Directors to be elected by the National Council isn't possible, and is clear in the code, as you acknowledge. The final ORG board structure didn't have Nominated Directors it would have had:

  • Finance Director (staff)
  • Mountaineering Scotland (nominated by them directly)
  • Funded Partner director (nominated by them directly)

At least the bottom two of those roles are much closer to what you were saying RE British Canoeing. As you'll recognise, this got changed into what we have now with Nominated Directors upon discussion with the Exec/National Council/IG/membership etc.

> Something else I thought about today that needs asking, is were you not offered an opportunity to apply for the Club ND role

Whilst I'm a member of AC and CC, I wasn't comfortable in that "bucket", as I've had no role in club governance, but have within funded partners, and particularly SE funding, and it made sense to apply for the most appropriate role.

I'm sure we could both hypothesise things that the Board and individuals on it could have done things differently if they wanted to ensure particular outcomes, but as I've said before, I (and others) were CoI for most of this. The outcomes are as they are, bizarre/frustrating as they may be to some, and I'm sure the Board will reflect on this, and perhaps NC too, and ensure that improvements will be made to the general process.

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Offwidth - on 09 May 2019
In reply to JR:

Fair enough on the Club ND... glad you were at least offered the choice.

I think we are talking at cross purposes on the ND elections. I interpret the 1/3 limit as Board members elected from council membership (to stop undue influence from that Council membership) but not as preventing election by council from a different membership (in this case interview selected ND candidates). I'd need to see clearer legal advice to agree this is not possible.

Post edited at 16:41
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JR - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

You (BMC) would be better off asking SE direct than legal, on a matter like that, although, I’m 99% it wouldn’t run. I’m sure Andy Syme could tell you, given he had these conversations directly.

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Andy Syme - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> An interesting view. Collection of proxies (yes them) for the MoNC by private distribution of letters and emails containing easily disproved misinformation, not anti-democratic eh? :-O

The PROPOSAL was not anti democratic (it was to carry on with the processes we had already).  I didn't comment on how they conducted their campaign.  That said misinformation is apparently not anti-democratic post Brexit anyway. ;-)

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spenser - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I may be wrong here but can't any member apply to the Nominations Committee to enable them to be nominated for a specific director role?

There is a vast wealth of experience in the BMC's membership across a wide variety of professional areas, if the board chooses to only recruit from people who its members know they will miss out on some fantastic candidates with significant experience. There are a good number of people who sit on club committees who value what the BMC does and make a significant contribution to the wider community, however they are limited to only taking an active role in one such group. Just because someone is not well known by BMC volunteers on a national scale certainly does not need to mean that they should not be considered for nomination.

If the BMC continues to draw board members/ NC members etc from its specialist committees/ mates of prominent people without putting time limits on roles I am concerned that it will wind up stuck in a rut sooner or later. I seem to remember being told that Andy Syme had only recently joined NC when the stuff with the new articles arrived on the scene. He's done a bloody good job with a lot of pressure from every which way. There are significant advantages to be found from a higher turnover rate of volunteers (or at least ensuring that they can step down and then later return in a different role after a bit of a rest), an organisation like the BMC is a mightily complex beast, no matter how brilliant a person's ideas and drive to get things done are eventually the organisation will benefit more from a change of person in that role than it will from keeping the same steady hand.

Now I'm off to enjoy myself in a very sunny Salzburg!

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Andy Syme - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Steve

To bore everyone else and go all TLA on you...

SE Definition "Nominated directors means directors whose appointment to the Board arises from provisions in the articles of association of the organisation permitting the election or nomination of directors by the sport’s membership or by particular stakeholders (e.g. geographical areas or sporting disciplines) within the sport."

1.4 of code says "1.4 Where Councils are permitted to appoint directors, such appointments shall reflect not more than one third of the directors".  Interestingly their view was that the President, despite being elected by the members, by virtue of chairing the NC counted as an NC appointment.

They were also clear that NC could not have 'more rights than members' or 'undue influence on the Board'.  So NC getting to appoint 3 people, plus the President, and 'elect' 3 more even if based on NomCom submissions was seen by SE to breach those principles.  In essence 7 people on Board who owe their place to the NC votes.  To be clear NC is not in SE's mind a stakeholder group.  Hence NDs are either elected by membership at AGM or nominated by a specific stakeholder group in our articles.

Re co-option, you are right 2.5 says "In exceptional circumstances a director may be Co-opted (‘temporarily appointed as such by the Board outside of the customary appointment process’) onto the Board" SE were clear that this was ONLY to fill a gap and could not breach the 12 person rule.  I did say well what about 1.9 "The size of a Board shall not exceed twelve persons unless agreed with UK Sport / Sport England" and was told that this was provided purely to allow sports with bigger boards to downsize and that "there were no circumstances I could conceive where we would agree to upsize from 12".

To be clear this isn't legal advise it is the SE interpretation of their code taking account of what they have accepted as good practice in other bodies.  

So while We could, IMHO, have done the ND process better we can't go for NC appointed NDs

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Offwidth - on 09 May 2019
In reply to spenser:

The adverts for ND were open to all but SE insist we fill gaps in a skill matrix so the skill set requirements this time were, by organisational neccesity, predetermined. All Board posts have term limits. I get your sentiments though.

In reply to JR

Thanks, so not strictly a legal requirement but in fact loaded advice from SE.

Then people wonder why some in sports governance don't trust SE when given their rules are already pretty stringent they then seemingly make extra stuff up over and above them. 

Post edited at 19:41
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spenser - on 09 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I struggle to see why filling gaps in a skills matrix would be defined as a bad thing as long as it doesn't wind up with the tail wagging the dog (I.e. with the matrix not representing the experience/ expertise requirements of the board for the period in question)?

I suspect the board post term limits are there partly to avoid such issues from arising. I would very much welcome it if members of clubs would be more ready to step forward to do things enabling term limits to be put in place for committee members for the same reason.

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Andy Syme - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Thanks, so not strictly a legal requirement but in fact loaded advice from SE.

Legally, under Companies Act, I'm not sure exactly what 'limits' there are on Board composition, but I'll assume they are pretty open.  Unfortunately that's irrelevant to this.  This is not loaded advice, it is SE telling us what is and is not acceptable under their rules in order to be eligible to receive the public money they are authorised to distribute.     

> Then people wonder why some in sports governance don't trust SE when given their rules are already pretty stringent they then seemingly make extra stuff up over and above them. 

You might question why SE get to write the rules and then assure compliance, but that is the situation as set up by the Government so we have to live with it.   If you've ever been through any accreditation the issue of 'interpretation of rules' is very subjective and annoying, but if you want the 'tick' you have to accept the accrediters interpretation and do it, even if you interpret it differently, otherwise you fail the test.  C'est la Vie!

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Offwidth - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Thats not true though is it, they set the rules out in the code and are applying extra rules here dressed up as advice. What I meant by law in this case is the legal remit they have to give out or withhold tax payer money. So, I'm not convinced they do have the legal right to make extra stuff up, but I agree you would have to go to law to challenge it; or apply political pressure to get their remit changed. I think such political pressure will have to happen at some stage, as the government through SE seem to be indicating they want us, as sporting bodies receiving participation funding, to become financially iindependent of their funding. Stuff that... participation benefits the health of the nation and this cuts tax spend elsewhere. I don't think the BMC or anyone else should be doing that sort of government work for free.

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Offwidth - on 10 May 2019
In reply to spenser:

I never said it was a bad thing. The choices made did however seem to lead to this bout of apparent sour grapes. Post limits are just good governance.

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Andy Syme - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Thats not true though is it, they set the rules out in the code and are applying extra rules here dressed up as advice.

The rules have lots of guidance etc but there are areas where there is no definitive statements either way.  The problem is that what you may see as extra rules, they see as within the 'spirit' of an existing rule.  

As to how governments decide how to pay out public money I agree the current system is very rigid, but that's just because the pendulum has swung post things like Kidscape where money was handed out with too little control. 

As to whether we need subsidies and what they should be used on I think I'll leave that hot potato alone

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Offwidth - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

The spirit being in this case that SE want an ND to be more of a political appointment elected by the full membership as opposed to someone elected by members reps. What type of spirit would that be .. some vapour form? I presume they would be OK with a Board appointment on an ND with no member input,  but spirits somehow forbid we chose a middle way!?

Ignoring such hot potatoes is why the country got in the health mess that its in. I'd prefer intelligent people, who can see the impending public health disaster, campaign ....write to their MP etc ....when things that might help are being subjected to counter-productive cost savings.

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Andy Syme - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I'm the messenger, they aren't my rules.

I guess I'm not intelligent enough to engage with some of the issues, sorry to disappoint you ;-)

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Offwidth - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Andy Syme:

Come on Andy, I'm not blaming you...I'm just frustrated with illogical advice where we are talking about access to taxpayers money. I don't see why you need to defend such.

If you can't see the impending crisis in Public Health and the fantastic way that SE funded BMC activities can really help some people, with great value for money, then I'm not really sure what to say. I think it is very unfair that SE seems to expect a transition to where partners (and if we cant find those, then members subscriptions) might be expected to replace what is currently funded through SE, for work that saves the government a fortune in tax expenditure on the NHS, and Social Services down the line. Mulitply that up across all SE funded sports and that to me is a huge potential political scandal in the making.

Post edited at 11:56
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UKB Shark - on 10 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Every penny spent on helping already active teens to gain bionic finger strength is a major step forward in averting a national obesity crisis.  

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Graeme Alderson on 10 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Surely we should be devoting resources to helping greying, middling aged men get up the Oak. I would pay 2p more on my subs for that.

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danm on 10 May 2019
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

> Surely we should be devoting resources to helping greying, middling aged men get up the Oak. I would pay 2p more on my subs for that.

If we all chipped in 2p we could buy him a ladder.....

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UKB Shark - on 10 May 2019
In reply to danm:

£1,700 will buy a danm fine ladder

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Offwidth - on 10 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Finally met Savvas today (Mountain Spirit).  He is genuinely looking forward to you completing the almost Sisyphean task (a real nice guy). He seems to have memorised information on projects for all sorts of top climbers.

SE funding could support any participation in climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking, not just the steely fingered indoorsman.

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JR - on 10 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

I’m sure Tom Randall will sell you an Oak lattice Board and an oak guaranteed coaching plan for £1,700 ;)

Post edited at 21:48
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UKB Shark - on 11 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Finally met Savvas today (Mountain Spirit).  He is genuinely looking forward to you completing the almost Sisyphean task (a real nice guy). He seems to have memorised information on projects for all sorts of top climbers.

> SE funding could support any participation in climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking, not just the steely fingered indoorsman.

Opportunity knocks. You and Savvas could be SE funded BMC diet buddy ambassadors. 

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Offwidth - on 11 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

Meow  ;-)

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UKB Shark - on 11 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> If you can't see the impending crisis in Public Health and the fantastic way that SE funded BMC activities can really help some people, with great value for money, then I'm not really sure what to say. 

If you are waving a BMC banner of ‘climbing as obviously healthy’ it helps your advocacy if you look the part.

If I was at Sport England and viewing curry eating trad climbers at one end and sport climbers pushing the limits of low body mass at the other I would be sceptical of the particular health contribution climbing makes especially when the range of activities has an obvious risk of death and hospitalisation which isn’t healthy at all. 

There is a case but it isn’t as glaringly obvious as you suggest but fortunately SE’s remit isn’t just health.

The healthiest and safest activity with the highest participation covered by the BMC is probably hillwalking where we get no SE funding or ever have done to my knowledge. I am guessing that most of current and probably historical SE funding for the BMC goes on Talent Development which is mainly indoor and youth based. 

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Offwidth - on 11 May 2019
In reply to UKB Shark:

I though it really funny as a joke but it's sad if you mean it.. I've got medical issues with my metabolism, bunions, am in my late 50s and if I overdo exercise I start to get joint and tendon problems. I simply don't see myself as a standard health role model. My feet don't allow big winter days anymore, or running. I'm fabulously greatful I can still enjoy climbing. Sure I could be a bit more healthy (especially a bit less booze) but so could you and nearly everyone but we want to live as well so it's about balance.

As a climber things are different: I'm still as keen as mustard in trad, bouldering and have done indoor comps since they started and love hearing about what motivates other climbers. I'm just as happy soloing all over Milestone Buttress with you, as on big multipitch 5.9 on my hols, or with pals at Font, or helping Sav with an introduction to gritstone and work on his gear placement skills (he also has some physical disabilities, but exemplifies natural enthusiasm).

On the subject, the participation within the BMC remit is already huge. The BMC just need recruit more of them to help ensure people are doing things that meet their aims (access, conservation, sustainability,  skills and safety ). What on earth has happened with you that you keep spouting all this misinformation: I though everyone interested knew the BMC get SE funding for hillwalking and given you are a climbing journalist, didn't you think to just google first. I also can't believe as a climber who's views on risk I admire is peddalling risk exaggeration in that way. I'd add that one of the great things about the BMC activities compared to most sports are the much higher improvements in mental health outcomes... something UKB is really great for highlighting and I thought you might have thought about.

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/11-bmc-things-funded-by-sport-england

Post edited at 15:04
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UKB Shark - on 11 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Sorry. Didn’t know that

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