The British Mountaineering Council's headquarters in Didsbury, south Manchester. Photo: Bob Smith Photography

The British Mountaineering Council's headquarters in Didsbury, south Manchester. Photo: Bob Smith Photography

The British Mountaineering Council has announced a number of redundancies and a recruitment freeze after a hole in its finances of more than £600,000 was disclosed.

Chief executive of the organisation, Paul Ratcliffe, announced the parlous state of the BMC’s finances in an open letter to its members.

Ratcliffe, who took up the post in February this year, said his first major communication was a painful message.

“I need to announce that the BMC made a larger than expected loss of £625,000 in 2023 and we have finished the financial year with our reserves down to £217,000,” he said.

The Manchester-based council, which represents climbers, mountaineers and hillwalkers in England and Wales, claims a membership of 85,000, both individuals and those who are in affiliated clubs.

The chief executive said: “These losses are significant and place a considerable amount of strain on the organisation, far beyond what was understood in February 2024 and the starting point I envisaged coming into this role.

“Since February, we have undertaken an enhanced audit of our accounts and procedures to be able to gain clarity on what has occurred in 2023 and why. This identified several misstatements that required adjustments for the end of year balance.

“A significant area of our losses relates to the funding of our performance operations. For this we apologise and recognise swift and impactful change was and is needed.”

Factors in the emergence of the financial hole include, according to Ratcliffe, reconciliation of grants relating to GB Climbing and poor controls of budgets resulting in additional cost to the BMC. He said there had been inaccurate accounting of VAT resulting in additional cost to the BMC.

Other problems were profit reconciliation across several areas including bad debtors and fees for services owed; loss of insurance income in July 2023; and the costs of restructuring, redundancies, and staff departures due to not tracking ambitious growth targets.

He said the BMC was restructuring the GB Climbing department to bring costs in line with grants it received, resulting in a reduction of 4.6 full-time-equivalent roles since the end of 2023. The contract for the Unit E performance centre would be terminated.

The budgets for competition, training and education, and marketing would be reduced and one full-time-equivalent post would be lost in the BMC online shop. He said office overheads would be reduced and there would be a recruitment freeze on non-essential positions.

Ratcliffe said the BMC was working with an interim financial leader and would separate how grant income and membership and commercial revenue were reported.

He added: “I am optimistic that, while the starting point is further back than I had hoped, we can commence building reserves back, remaining absolutely focused on representing the interests of our community.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, which currently is more important than ever. My commitment to you is to take care of this wonderful organisation to the best of my ability.”

Roger Murray, chair of the board, said: “We collectively acknowledge and apologise for these failings, and the impact on our members and staff alike.

“As we have moved through a significant period of change for the organisation, it is clear we need to do more to ensure our processes and systems are fit-for-purpose for the environment we are now operating in.

“We are sorry that has not been the case and are absolutely committed to getting that right and being open through that process. The points surrounding the finances have been identified, and we have implemented immediate actions to mitigate these in the future. “

Andy Syme, president, and members’ council chair apologised for it not preventing the situation developing by neglecting to constructively challenge, leading to the disappointing outcome for the BMC’s finances.

Members can register for an online forum on 21 May. The BMC’s annual meeting will take place on 12 June.

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