BMC president Rehan Siddiqui. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

BMC president Rehan Siddiqui. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The governing committee of the representative body for mountaineers in England and Wales will face a vote of no confidence at its annual meeting.

The British Mountaineering Council’s chief executive Dave Turnbull had cited procedural issues with the motion, but its proposer Bob Pettigrew confirmed the matter will now be discussed at the April gathering.

Mr Pettigrew, a former president of the Manchester-based BMC and recipient of the George Band Award, said he had received confirmation on Tuesday this week that the motion would be placed on the agenda for the meeting at Plas y Brenin in north Wales. The deadline for receipt of motions was 5pm on Wednesday.

Among those supporting the motion is BMC patron Doug Scott who, along with Dougal Haston, was the first Briton to successfully climb Everest.

Others believed to be in favour of the no-confidence motion include mountaineering luminaries Stephen Venables and Paul ‘Tut’ Braithwaite. But Dave Turnbull had disputed whether all signatories actually supported the move. He told Mr Pettigrew: “In conversations with Paul Braithwaite and Frank Cannings they both reported that they had not seen the wording of the motion as submitted and both were very firm in stating that they did not in fact support it.”

Mr Turnbull had also said, after taking legal advice, he believed the motion was not in an acceptable form. Any motion to the organisation’s AGM needs 25 voting members to support it; Mr Pettigrew said he has at least 30 signatories to the motion.

At the heart of the former president’s complaint is the lack of consultation over the aborted change of name last year to Climb Britain; the increasing move towards competition climbing rather than traditional outdoors mountaineering and over-reliance on Government handouts and commercial funding for its finances.

Mr Pettigrew said the BMC is also not complying with good sports governance guidelines issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Since climbing was announced as an Olympic sport, Mr Pettigrew said, the BMC had become a sport governing body as well as its original role as a representative organisation.

He said the name change decision had been made in March 2016, a month before last year’s AGM at Losehill Hall in the Peak District.

He said: “By deliberately concealing a momentous policy change from the grassroots membership the BMC management team is in serious breach of good governance, unprecedented in my experience.”

The chief executive admitted there are issues over his organisation’s governance and its future development. He offered to meet the members behind the motion at the council’s headquarters – a move rejected by Mr Pettigrew.

Dave Turnbull: 'ongoing issues '. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Dave Turnbull: 'ongoing issues '. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Writing to the former president, Mr Turnbull said: “I should also like to say at the outset that the BMC fully accepts there are ongoing issues concerning the governance, operation and future development of the organisation (we are in very complex and changing times), and that there must be an opportunity to discuss these at the AGM weekend and in the AGM meeting itself.

“For this reason the annual report agenda item at the AGM will include a detailed presentation by the president and CEO of the BMC’s work in 2016 together with an overview of key issues for 2017 and beyond.

“This new approach was agreed at a meeting with the BMC patrons held in September 2016, at which Doug Scott made the strong and convincing case that BMC AGMs must be more transparent, give notice of major projects in the pipeline and allow for active engagement with members on important future policy issues.

“To me this is a very positive step forward and one which will hopefully stimulate a much more lively debate than has tended to be the case at recent BMC AGMs.”

Mr Turnbull said the BMC’s national council had decided to set up a formal working group to review the governance of the BMC and make recommendations as to how it should be improved. “The detailed terms of reference and scope of the review are still under consideration but it is likely to encompass such things as the BMC’s democratic structure, organisational decision making and the respective roles of national council and the executive committee, and how best to deal with the key challenges facing us in the future.” He said.

“The national open forum which also takes place on 22 April will provide a further opportunity – as in previous years – for members to express their views and raise questions with BMC officials and staff.”

Mr Pettigrew has also been critical of what he sees as the BMC’s acquiescence to the setting up of the International Federation of Sport Climbing and the move away from traditional climbing towards competition climbing. He even disputes the term ‘sport climbing’ used by the IFSC, saying it should be more properly termed competition climbing.

Stephen Venables, left, and Doug Scott. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Stephen Venables, left, and Doug Scott. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Doug Scott also criticised the governance of the BMC and the direction it had taken recently. He said its executive had failed to conduct a review every five years as recommended by the Moulton Review. It should limit the period of tenure of senior staff and avoid becoming dependent on government grants. He said the organisation should promote climbing for its own sake and resist government inducement, via Sport England, to become in effect an arm of the NHS in its campaign to reduce obesity and diabetes.

He said: “I therefore support Bob Pettigrew’s motion as it is imperative that change comes about quickly in light of the above.

“It is particularly important that changes are made bearing in mind the imminent involvement of the BMC in the Olympics and because the current finances of the BMC are apparently in a very parlous state. It appears the BMC are now totally dependent upon grant aid from Sport England and at a time when the current government is pursuing a programme of austerity.”

In a statement posted on the BMC’s website on Friday, president Rehan Siddiqui said: “The BMC can confirm that our AGM on 22 April 2017 will include an agenda item from Bob Pettigrew and others calling for a vote of no confidence in the executive committee of the BMC (the board of directors) on the grounds of the ‘wilful and deliberate withholding of future policy decisions from the members in attendance at the annual general meeting,’ in April 2016 and that this was, ‘very poor governance by the executive committee’.

“The BMC strongly refutes this motion and the accusations levelled at the executive and we will be publishing a full and detailed report on the matter shortly.”

Mr Siddiqui said the BMC understood that the future policy decisions referred to in the motion relate to the Climb Britain rebranding exercise. “At the time of the AGM (16 April 2016), any potential name change was a work in progress and it was not until the executive committee meeting of 18 May 2016 that a decision was reached to trademark the name Climb Britain and put it to the BMC’s main policymaking body – national council – for consideration and a decision on 18 June 2016,” he said.

The motion proposers rejected a meeting at the BMC's headquarters in Didsbury, Manchester. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The motion proposers rejected a meeting at the BMC's headquarters in Didsbury, Manchester. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“The national council voted unanimously in favour of the rebrand with one abstention. Once member disapproval became apparent, the BMC admitted that this Sport-England-funded rebranding had been a mistake and reacted quickly to rectify this – which shows that the BMC’s democratic process does work.

“The executive believes that during the rebranding it acted at all times in good faith and in accordance with the rules of the BMC as laid down in its articles of association.”

Mr Turnbull has previously said the £25,000 cost of the rebranding was paid for by the publicly funded body.

Mr Siddiqui said: “The motion of no confidence specifically does not mention subjects such as the Olympics and governance of the IFSC and members should not be confused into thinking they are voting on these issues through this motion.

“As the motion of no confidence has been filed against the executive committee, I would like to ensure that all members are aware of how this body is compiled. With the exception of the salaried chief executive, all members of the executive committee are volunteers and are only appointed for three-year tenures with the exception of the treasurer who stands for five years.

“These executive volunteers are highly regarded individuals in their professional spheres and many, like all the other hard-working and appreciated volunteers who assist the BMC, devote considerable time and effort regularly at the expense of their career and family commitments for the good of the BMC.

“Tenures are staggered so that the composition of the executive is regularly changing. Some of the policy grievances that signatories of this motion have referred to in public forums are matters that were voted on by national council and executive prior to any of the current volunteer executives being in office.

“In addition, some members of the executive will be ending their tenure on the day the motion will be debated and voted on at the AGM.”

The BMC has 82,000 members, made up of 56,000 individuals and a further 26,000 people from the 300 affiliated mountaineering clubs. Many of these are primarily hillwalkers, a large number of whom will have joined the BMC as part of the compulsory registration process for outdoor qualifications such as the Mountain Leader Awards and Hill and Moorland Leader Award. At the time of the change of name last year, many members said the new name failed to acknowledge the large proportion of its membership that was not primarily involved in climbing.

The council’s annual meeting will take place at Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Sports Centre, near Capel Curig, on 22 April.

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