The rough ride for Letarche may resume this Saturday when he meets with the York Rally organising committee, some members of which are claimed to be upset as they feel they will have to underwrite any losses the Rally makes as CTC HQ removes its Rally support services
In October the CTC made 11 of its 29 staff redundant, with staff asked to apply for five new posts. Research on the annual handbook has been outsourced to an external contractor, as has membership services, insurance and the CTC shop (now run by Geoffery Butler Cycles). Planning permission has been sought on the redevelopment of the CTC’s Godalming HQ.
The CTC is being overhauled via its five year plan (Vision2000), and according to the CTC, “made more professional”. However, many rank and file DA members are not so enamoured of the changes. Not even all the council members are singing from the same hymn sheet: on November 10th Yorkshire councillor Colin Clarke tabled a no confidence motion in CTC director Kevin Mayne at a CTC council meeting. Clarke didn’t expect his motion to succeed but tabled it to put on record his feelings on the way the CTC has spent £493 000 of its £800 000 reserves in three years but without what he claimed was any “obvious return.”
At the Hull DA AGM held on Tuesday night, CTC national committee chair Peter Letarche was put on the spot by a similarly aggrieved DA member. This member was so incensed at the “evasive” responses from Letarche that he spent the rest of Tuesday night penning a damning critique of the evening which he posted to the Audax UK internet mailing list.
Bikebiz.co.uk approached Letarche with this critique yesterday and he gave a powerful defence of the Q&A answer session at the AGM. Letarche subsequently joined the mailing list and this morning posted further comments directly to the list (which has 250 members), slamming the “bad apple” who raised the awkward questions.
The DA member claimed Letarche said the CTC would be selling the HQ building in Godalming, Surrey and “moving north”.
The member claimed Letarche said the Godalming HQ building “was a gift to the CTC and has been a liability for years" and that the CTC had “applied for planning permission for development as a residential site. They had no choice as the site next door has been converted to residential and they thought that if they didn't do it now, they wouldn't get permission in the future. Some liability - I reckon the property must be worth millions and a conversion flat would retail for around £200 000 minimum,” said the DA member on the Audax mailing list.
“Yes, [the HQ] was given to the CTC. I’ve never been impressed with the building because it’s not a place to run a business-like organisation from. Have we sought planning permission [for change of use]? Yes. But no decision has yet been made on what we are going to do. Personally, I think we’d be better off in value for money terms in the north. But to say we’re moving north imminently is just not true.”
The disaffected DA member also asked Letarche to clarify the CTC’s position on the York Rally, the CTC’s annual shindig.
“The future of the York Rally is very much in the balance with a crucial meeting this Saturday. They are going ahead with bookings, marquees, advertising etc, but the Rally will only take place if councillors do what they're told by HQ and understand that this is the best thing for them,” claimed the DA member who also claimed that CTC HQ will not “underwrite any future loss made by the Rally.”
Letarche was having none of it:
“Rubbish. Complete rubbish. Some of the York show committee members don’t fully understand what we’re asking of them. They are being asked to take on the direct responsibility of the secretarial for the show. They ought to contract it out. The rally remains a flagship event in our touring calendar. We would never abandon it. Virtually nothing has changed.”
In his post to the Audax UK mailing list Letarche wrote that the DA member’s York Rally points were “a malicious farrago of lies and innuendo that, through either failing to hear (or if heard, understand) what I said or wilfully distorting it. It seeks to do maximum damage to the relationship between CTC National Council and the York Rally Committee. I will be at the YRC as NC liaison Councillor this Saturday. I am sure Bill Priestley (YRC Chair) will not mind if I invite [the DA member] to present himself there and repeat his assertions. It is at 10.30 a.m. at the Railway Institute, York. For the record the Rally remains a flagship event in the CTC Calendar and will be advertised, promoted and supported in the usual way.
“Not that it has anything to do with anyone outside the CTC but all that it is intended to change is the relationship of the support services to the Committee and their location. CTC brings more paid employment to Yorkshire - shock, horror!!”
The DA member was also seeking clarification on some of the extensive sourcing-out the CTC has done recently. In particular, the DA member felt there was something awry in the awarding of the CTC shop contract to Geoffrey Butler Cycles of Croydon.
“When answering this question Mr Latarche went a peculiar red colour and spluttered a bit, muttering something about the fact that it was a fair tender and Peter Jackson, the accountant, will be monitoring their performance and will let HQ know if they are not doing the job well.”
“True. We contracted this out. [There was an advert for the contract in BicycleBusiness. Ed]. It’s not a trade secret who got it. He’s suggesting we did an underhand deal. That’s far from true. We sought tenders. They were scrutinised and one person got the contract. There’s no conspiracy to be found there.”
The DA member – 18 years a CTC member – was unhappy that Letarche attempted to gag the attendees of the AGM:
“Before finishing, he asked for reassurance there were no members of the press present and that he was among friends and that the information he had given would go no further.”
Of course, it did go further. It went straight on the web.
Letarche finds this distasteful. He told bikebiz.co.uk:
“Email mailing lists are not democracy. I’m very angry at what he wrote. I’m speaking as the horse’s mouth, he was speaking from the other end.”
Letarche later joined the Audax UK mailing list:
“I have had to subscribe to the list in order to read and respond to the farrago of lies, innuendos, distortions and partial truths breathlessly purporting to reveal secrets gleaned at the meeting. In my experience, and intending no disrespect, over time [mailing lists] become the undemocratic haunts of unelected, unaccountable individuals who really do need to get out more and get a life.”
However, Sheila Simpson, Audax UK's publications manager, said:
"We find free speech healthy and enlightening."
Another member of the Audax mailing list, Norman Simmonds, called into question Lartache's 'how to win friends and influence people' credentials:
"Not the smartest apple in the barrel, starting off by insulting everybody on
a list you are mailing to. Methinks it probably helps you do that sort of CTC-thingy job better if you have some political skills."
And, as many Audax members are CTC members too, the Lartache posting to the Audax mailing list resulted in resignation promises from some CTC members.
Keith Matthews of CTC's Wessex DA claimed the dissaffection with CTC managers was not an isolated example:
"There is more dissent than a bit of a ripple oop North you know. The CTC is
total disaster at the moment. £92 000 bank loan for a new computer 'cos they
have frittered the reserves away at the rate of £200 000 per year for the last
five years. £25 000 down the tubes in a failed planning application prepatory
to selling the Godalming site and a further £25 000 planned to go after it.
"There is dissent in Devon, Wessex and Portsmouth DAs to my knowledge because of the total arrogance of the ruling elite of CTC who refuse to admit to failed policies.
"We long serving volunteers have always been despised by our paid professional staff who lose sight of the fact that they are there to work for us and not the other way around. We are now reaching a state of despair."
Bikebiz.co.uk has asked for a CTC HQ response to these last points.