Cavers propose changes to BCA

Recently cavers across the UK, as members of the British Caving Association, will have been aware of changes to the way the association is governed, which were approved following a ballot of all members. Inevitably, radical changes to any organisation such as the BCA, require sensible management and implementation, and an awareness of any unforeseen consequences that might arise.

Two individual members of BCA who wish to see the Association perform optimally for all cavers. have given the approved changes to the BCA careful thought, and have put forward a number of proposals which they believe, if accepted, will provide a means to make the association in its new form, perform better for the benefit of all cavers.

Recently, on cavers’ social media, there has been comment made on these proposals, where it is very clear that not having sight of them makes any sensible comment difficult, if not impossible. It is a sad fact of life these days, that lack of information often leads to misinformation rather than an urge for clarification. The proposals have since been published by the BCA for scrutiny.

Darkness Below has also been in communication with the authors of the proposals, and we have agreed to publish them in full, and without comment, in order to provide clarity over what is being proposed, the rationale behind the proposals, and, we trust, a better understanding of the issues in question.

Items Proposed by Alan Butcher for the 2020 BCA AGM.

1) That clause 6.2 of the BCA Constitution be amended to read:

6.2. The Association shall have a National Council comprised of the Officers of the Association, up to eight representatives from the class of Group Members (two from each region), up to four representatives from the class of Individual Members and one representative from each Regional Caving Council and National Body.

 Reason: the removal of the Group Vote reduces that representation for club clubs and other groups which needs to be addressed by additional representation on the BCA Council.

2) That the P&I Standing Committee be reinstated.

 Reason: the business formally conducted by the P&I Committee is now brought to the BCA National Council for discussion and agreement meaning that the National Council is, in effect, the P&I Committee. This extends National Council meetings by up to 60 minutes. The National Council meeting in January 2020 included a lengthy report from the P&I Officer requiring discussion and decision. This could be more effectively done by a Standing Committee.

3) That the arbitrary limit of £750 for Regional Council Access projects administered by the C&A Committee is in direct contravention of clause 2.1 of the BCA Constitution: that the definition of the Association includes the words “all of whom have autonomy in their own field”.

Reason: when the BCA and the “One Stop Shop” were set up, there was a fundamental agreement that Regional Councils and other bodies would be fully funded in return for agreeing to centralisation of income and expenditure with the new national body. The imposition of the limit of £750 administered by the C&A Committee gives the opportunity for access projects to be “administered” other than by financial constraints and therefore is a direct contradiction of the BCA Constitution clause 2.1. Additionally, the Funding Proposal adopted by the National Council on 11th January 2020 appears to override the imposition of this arbitrary limit.

4) That the principle of the “One Stop Shop” and the provision of services to cavers, clubs and organisations form a fundamental part of the BCA and should be safeguarded.

 Reason: this was a fundamental principle in the setting up of the BCA as a representative federation of all those involved with caving. Attempts to change the association away from a representative association to a regulatory body for caving are entirely against the ethos and spirit of the association.

Proposed on 3rd April 2020 by Alan Butcher for the 2020 BCA AGM.

Items Proposed by Alan Butcher for the 2020 BCA AGM in addition to those proposed on 3rd April 2020 – numbering continues in sequence.

5) That the IT Working Group be abolished in accordance with clause 6.10 of the BCA Constitution. That a new Standing Committee be formed in accordance with clause 7 of the BCA Constitution to be known as the “IT Committee”. Its terms of reference shall be

– to manage and coordinate BCA’s IT infrastructure.

– to commission and implement IT projects as deemed desirable for BCA.

– to provide a resource of expertise available to BCA.

– to provide Web Services to BCA members as seems desirable.

Reason: The existing IT Working Group’s membership has expanded with time and those members now include four out of the five Regional Council webmasters. As such it better resembles the structure of a Standing Committee. A Standing Committee is more democratic in that it guarantees the Regional Councils and National bodies a voice, unlike a Working Group. BCA provides web services for many of the Regional Councils and National Bodies, so a guaranteed voice for them is appropriate. This change also reflects the increasing importance of IT in helping BCA deliver for its members.

6) That the National Council posts of Webmaster and Web Services Manager be abolished with their responsibilities being passed to the IT Committee or IT Working Group.

Reason: A motion put to the 2019 AGM defined the role of Webmaster such that it overlapped the existing terms of reference of the IT Working Group. This confliction about who takes what part of the role has led to difficulties and confusion. This proposal seeks to remove that problem by setting a clear chain of responsibility.

7) That the BCA National Council be instructed to ensure that all software whether bespoke or purchased commercially is properly licensed and registered to the British Caving Association.

Reason: There is a concern is that in the absence of a license that BCA could lose the right to use particular software possibly at short notice. This is particularly important with the mission critical software. It is likely to be costly and difficult, if not impossible, to replace at short notice.

8) That the BCA National Council produces an appropriate Social Media Policy. To be completed by the 2021 AGM.

Reason: That in this age of increasing use of social media, BCA has an active Facebook page, it is increasingly important that the association has a social media policy. The policy should help to protect BCA’s reputation and give clear guidance to its volunteers and staff.

Proposed on 4th April 2020 by Alan Butcher for the 2020 BCA AGM.


Motions for the BCA 2020 AGM.

All motions proposed by David Cooke

Sent to BCA Hon. Sec. 4/4/2020


1) Any ballots run by the BCA need to be beyond criticism. As such, no Council member should be involved in the running the ballot. I.e. neither the distribution nor collection of ballot papers nor the counting of votes. The ballot would be run by trusted individuals appointed by Council but who are not members of Council.

Proposal: Add to the BCA Constitution: 8.15 The BCA National Council shall specify named individuals responsible for running any ballot required by the Constitution. Those individuals shall not be BCA Council members.

2) The decision to equalise the CIM and DIM subscription rates may have several unintended consequences to the detriment of caving clubs. Currently caving clubs carry out a significant part of BCA’s membership administration for free. With the equalising of the CIM and DIM subscription rates there is no longer an incentive for clubs to do this. If clubs stop offering CIM membership then those members will have to join as DIMs who are more expensive and time consuming to process. Thus the hassle and costs will increase for all. The price difference was a small but a significant nudge to encourage club membership which is acknowledged as the best way to go caving. The unintended consequences of this change seem anti-club. Council should quantify the impact and consider measures to mitigate any detrimental effects.

Proposal: That the BCA National Council should consider the effect of equalising subscriptions between DIM’s and CIM’s on member caving clubs.

3) Insurance is a non-optional member benefit. If a choice is given then that would be regarded as selling insurance which BCA is not allowed to do. Last year BCA removed the category of  uninsured club member because it that meant insurance was a choice. This applied to some 25 uninsured member clubs. They were advised to becoming associate members, the significant difference being that this class doesn’t have a vote and therefore is sufficiently non-member(ish) that insurance isn’t required. Running that logic in the other direction, now that club membership no longer has a vote and is virtually indistinguishable from associate membership, how is it they receive insurance as a member benefit whereas associate members don’t? The concern is that BCA is selling insurance. This proposal seeks to remove that concern.

Proposal: That the BCA National Council seek assurances from BCA’s insurers in respect of the FCA regulations governing the provision of insurance that the now non-voting caving cubs and other bodies remain sufficiently full members that they receive insurance as a member benefit whereas the non-voting associate group members are in a sufficiently different category of membership that they do not receive insurance as a member benefit.

4) A Judicial Review is potentially a very expensive undertaking and risks depleting BCA’s reserves. As such it is desirable that the members’ continuing approval is sought and that there is some control over expenditure.

Proposal: That this meeting agree with and endorses the decision by National Council to fund legal proceedings on behalf of the Cambrian Caving Council. That a cap of £50,000 of BCA’s funds be placed upon expenditure. That expenditure above this figure would require a further ballot of members for approval.

5) This proposal is aimed at improved engagement with the membership. The technology to do this is readily available, cheap and easy to use.

Proposal: That the National Council implement the recording and live streaming (where possible) of future Annual General Meetings of the Association.

6) The last ballot contained far reaching constitutional changes that were never debated by BCA Council, our elected representatives. Previous BCA ballots have not been accompanied by any information giving the pros and cons. This is because Council is afraid it would be accused of bias. This is a mistake. It fails to encourage the necessary level of debate. BCA Council representatives are elected because we trust they’ll do a good job. We give them the responsibility to do the research, gain the necessary knowledge and provide answers based on a full understanding of the issues. That essential part of the decision-making process is currently missing in many cases. In any ballot Council should set out the case for and against and then go on to give clear advice to the members.

Proposal: That the National Council should consider the process by which proposals are put forward to the Annual General Meeting and hence to ballot and should be required to state its considered view on the merits and implications of any proposal being put to ballot.

The draft agenda for the BCA 2020 Annual General Meeting has now been published with all of the above proposals.

This post was edited on 16th July 2020 to correct the attribution of the first set of numbered proposals which were submitted by Alan Butcher in a personal capacity and not in his role as CSCC Chair. Our error followed that in the BCA’s draft agenda from which our original information was taken.

Graham Mullan Co-editor.