Statement to members from the BMC Board

Posted by Alex Messenger on 24/08/2020
Your voice is the most important. Photo: Alex Messenger.

Following recent Board resignations, BMC Chair Gareth Pierce presents some more information for BMC members.

Dear fellow members / annwyl gyd-aelodau

As we seem to be hastening into a busy autumn following what’s been a difficult summer in several respects, I thought it appropriate to provide an update from the Chair’s perspective on a number of matters, some of which we’ve already drawn to the attention of members.

The resignation of three directors in short order is clearly a matter of serious concern and also of extreme disappointment, especially in view of the valued contributions that each of Amanda Parshall, Jon Punshon and Matthew Bradbury would otherwise still be making.

In relation to the two independent directors, their resignations because of behaviours within the Board is understood to include concerns about lack of respect towards persons and processes. In relation to the Council-nominated director, the main issues related to the length of time being taken to progress an investigation in which he was involved (as an investigator) on behalf of the Board, and perceived lack of support (including from me as Chair) in ensuring promptness in obtaining access to information that needed to be provided.

Whilst in no way diminishing the impact of their loss from the Board, it is much appreciated that Matthew continues as Chair of the BMC’s Access & Conservation Trust, Amanda also remains a member of the BMC and Jon has agreed to see the investigation through, alongside the associated Committee Chair (as the matter under investigation is confidential, no further details will be provided about this, other than that it relates to a procurement matter over a period up to 2019 and was considered by the outgoing auditors to not require a provision in the accounts at that stage). As departing directors are not the only ones with concerns about behaviours within the Board, we are planning a facilitated session so that continuing directors are able to explore aspects of behaviour. A Code of Conduct for directors is also being developed.

Whilst the resignations indicate fractured relationships recently within the Board, it’s important to recognise that the Board has worked on a consensus basis through a range of issues that have been prominent on its agenda since 2018. These have included the impact of insurance premium uplifts; the need to increase membership subscriptions; developing a strategy framework based on five main themes; taking forward the governance and management of Competition Climbing through a new internal department; establishing Pwyllgor Cymru (BMC’s Wales Committee); progressing a range of other ODG workstreams; responding to priorities arising from the Covid-19 situation, including in staffing, financial terms; and exploring arrangements for working with the Mountain Heritage Trust and the Access & Conservation Trust.

Looking forward, the Board’s priorities are to develop the BMC as an organisation that is responsive to its members’ needs and in order to do so we’re placing an emphasis on direction, on resources and on relationships.In setting the direction, for 2021 and onwards, we are working with staff and committees to update the strategy framework and identify the priorities for a Covid-impacted era, so that we are in a position to seek views through the website and from Area meetings up to early September. The strategy update will be a major element within the Board’s work through to November, with the work of developing an operational plan and accompanying financial plan being taken forward in parallel.

In terms of resources and capacity, we are at the final stages of appointing an Interim Executive (IE) to work alongside the CEO and deputy CEO for a period of 3 months, taking a a lead role in progressing and co-ordinating the work relating to strategy, operational and financial planning. Also, we propose to establish a new senior post, Head of Operations and Development: as well as bringing additional leadership capacity and experience into the organisation, this would allow the deputy CEO to focus on a new lead role in the area of Competition Climbing. We recognise that developing the BMC’s capacity further depends crucially on growing our income, and the strategic plan will place greater emphasis on achieving growth in membership as a foundation for being able to do more for our members.

In terms of relationships, feedback on the BMC’s work during lockdown suggests that the excellent work of staff and volunteers has led to strengthened valued relationships within the sector. Internally, communications from staff have led us to recognise that there are several themes that we need to address including clarifying roles, responsibilities and inter-working relationships (across Board, Council, Special committees, CEO, SMT and staff), defining efficient processes between SMT and Board for handling urgent matters and better articulating the duty of care for staff. The frequency of updates to National Council as the members’ representative body has increased, including those on confidential matters to ensure that the Board is taking appropriate actions with a duty of care and due diligence.

Given the extent of unexpected change in Board membership, we’ve naturally been in contact with Sport England, and in the context of their supportive stance we look forward to a meeting that Paul Drew (Senior Independent Director) and I will have with them on 2nd September. They have also encouraged us to bring forward the external evaluation of the Board, which is something we are committed to doing every four years and was initially scheduled for the turn of the year.

In the meantime, the early stages of the process of appointing a new Chair and two independent directors is already underway, led by the Nominations Committee, with an additional member of National Council supporting the committee.  National Council will determine its timeline for appointing a new Council-nominated director. All appointments are of course subject to members’ approval through a general meeting or annual general meeting, and together with National Council, the Board is exploring the timeline for this as well as the use in the meantime of discussion opportunities such as webinars to ensure that we keep members fully informed and engaged.

Until the Board is operating again at full strength, a decision was made with the support of National Council to appoint three advisors who could provide additional support during the period until new appointments have been made. We are pleased that these positions have been accepted by Rab Carrington (Patron and former BMC president), Colin Knowles (Secretary General of the IFSC’s European Council Board and former member of the BMC’s Executive Committee) and Louise Stewart (CEO of Alexandra Park and Palace and trustee of the BMC Access and Conservation Trust). They will not be voting members nor take on director responsibilities, but will ensure that we continue to have a breadth of thinking and challenge in our decision making.

Throughout all our proactive and reactive work, I wish to assure you that the Board places the greatest emphasis on ensuring that the BMC meets the needs of its members: your voice is therefore the most important for us and therefore please do continue to share with us your perspectives.

Best regards / cofion gorau

Gareth Pierce
Chair/Cadeirydd BMC

Following the publication of this statement, the Board have provided an additional update

We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.

Did you know that we've just launched a new U27 membership offer for just £1 / month? And with full membership from £1.66 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work:

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