A third of staff at the Didsbury offices were furloughed. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A third of staff at the Didsbury offices were furloughed. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The organisation that represents climbers, mountaineers and hillwalkers in England and Wales faces further turmoil after the resignation of its board chairman.

Three other members of the British Mountaineering Council have stepped down from the board.

Its National Council, which represents the 80,000 members of the BMC, said it had considered called a general meeting over dissatisfaction with the stability of the board and how effectively the BMC was operating.

The board of directors and a reformed National Council were set up following an organisation review of the BMC after a failed vote of no confidence in the then executive in 2017. Despite that, the president Rehan Siddiqui resigned his post.

The vote was taken at the instigation of traditionalist BMC members dissatisfied with the direction the organisation was heading and after a fiasco over an abandoned attempt to rename the council Climb Britain. Mr Siddiqui revealed he had opposed the renaming.

In August this year, the BMC revealed four of its board members were resigning. It said operating during the Covid-19 crisis had been difficult.

“This is a challenging time and it is perhaps unsurprising that strains and stresses have developed, and there are several developments which we need to report to members and partners,” it said.

“The current BMC chair Gareth Pierce has recently indicated to the board that he will not be seeking a second term from 2021 onwards and the board has considered it best to commence the recruitment process for the next chair.

“One council nominated director, Jon Punshon, has decided to step down because of issues that arose from specific matters he had been involved with.

“Two independent directors, Matthew Bradbury and Amanda Parshall, made the decision to step down in the context of concerns about some behaviours within the board.

“The board is taking steps to review the issues that have led to these resignations, including addressing its internal ways of working to ensure it is operating and communicating as efficiently and effectively as it could be and strengthening the way it interfaces with staff, committees, volunteers and members.”

Members voted for the new BMC structure in 2018. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Members voted for the new BMC structure in 2018. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

According to Companies House records, Huw Jones, the nominated director with responsibility for finance, stepped down from the board on Thursday and Rosi Yule was appointed a director. The BMC said she has been co-opted to the board from the finance and audit committee and will remain in post until the next AGM.

The BMC had a turnover of £3.29m in 2019 and recorded a loss of £164,000. Chief executive Dave Turnbull said the organisation had weathered the coronavirus lockdown but its income from insurance was likely to be hit by the crisis. One-third of the staff at its West Didsbury, Manchester, headquarters had been furloughed, with the rest working remotely.

The National Council said more urgency was needed by the board, including its recommendations aimed at reaching consensus among the board.

It said: “The [National] Council has considered other options including calling a general meeting and concluded they would provide little benefit to members, and would in all probability delay the implementation of an effective senior management team which is critical to the long term stability of the board and the efficacy of the BMC more generally.”

In response, the board said: “The BMC board is aware of the need to clarify its position to members in light of recent resignations and to assure its members how this is being addressed and managed. The board is also reviewing its own structure to ensure it is delivering its core remit.

“Further to the recent announcement that Gareth Pierce is stepping down as chair, Gareth has now resigned and following a board meeting on 30 September we would like to announce the appointment of Paul Drew as acting chair with immediate effect. Paul is currently senior independent director and will continue to fulfil this position concurrently.

“The appointment of an acting chair and support from the remainder of the board will ensure that the board can operate effectively at this time, and it will enable the process of recruiting a new chair and two independent directors.

“We are keen to identify the best possible candidates and we have appointed a recruitment agency Odgers Berndtson to support the nomination committee to complete this task during this quarter.”

It said, in the meantime, three non-voting board advisers have been appointed: Louise Stewart, a trustee of BMC Access and Conservation Trust, and chief executive of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust: Rab Carrington, patron and former BMC president; and Colin Knowles, fa ormer BMC director.

“The board wishes also to advise that Chris Stone, council nominated director has resigned from the board for reasons of workload and health and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his diligence and hard work during his tenure on the board.”

It also said Sport England, which froze funding pending the organisational review, was providing help from management consultancy Campbell Tickell, to undertake an assessment of the BMC board and the background to recent difficulties.

“They will analyse those recent issues, assess our board’s performance and help create a framework to achieve our new defined objectives. This is aimed for completion in two to three months.

“We will build in new processes and behaviours to increase our focus, a balanced board membership, output and communications to deliver an effective and sustainable operation that will give members full engagement, transparency and confidence.”

It added that it would hold an online member’s open forum at the end of October. It would also be reviewing the date and content of its next annual meeting.

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. British Mountaineering Council members urged to vote ahead of crucial meeting
  2. Veteran climbers Gwen Moffat and Angela Soper gain mountain council honours