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The severe financial crisis engulfing the BDA is proving more than an embarrassment for the Association and a personal tragedy for the hard-working and loyal staff who will find themselves made redundant this autumn.

It is also becoming a public relations disaster, as the powers that be are not being open with their members about what went wrong.

The debate has moved on from the extent of the financial black hole (£3.2 million in deficit) and its consequences (up to 40 staff made redundant).

The reason why the BDA is in trouble is their estimate that only 40% of members would opt for the cheapest layer of membership.

In view of the fact that almost double that number (70%) opted for the basic tariff, the estimate on which the subscription was structured seems wildly optimistic to put it mildly.

Members increasingly want to know how that decision was made, who made it and, in particular the role of the consultancy firm that, over six years advised on the project.

I have seen an email exchange between a BDA member and one of the management team. The member asked for details of how much the consultancy firm was paid and how they were awarded the contract in the first place.

These were very reasonable questions in view of the advice the company allegedly gave on take up of the grades of membership.

The email exchange is revealing in that it shows a stubborn refusal by the BDA to reveal anything at all.

As the member says in his last email this attitude will do nothing to change the view of members that 'something is being covered up and there are things to hide'.

The member has also requested sight of the Audit Committee papers from another one of the BDA staff only to be met with similar delaying tactics.

Now the Audit Committee used to report to the Rep Body and was headed by a respected senior member of the Association who was independent of both management and the Board and could ask awkward questions.

Since the Principal Executive Committee (PEC) came into existence, it has taken over the Audit Committee.

It is chaired by a senior PEC member, Judith Husband, and its members are drawn exclusively from the PEC.

It may all be above board, but it smells. I can think of no other governing body that audits it's own activity.

One consequence of all this – and Martin Fallowfield's performance at the GDPC meeting on 3 October – was to trigger the resignation from the PEC of Eddie Crouch, a voice of sanity they can ill afford to lose. 

This issue will not go away and by all accounts will run for a long time.

By news correspondent Michael Watson

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