In an exclusive statement to HousewaresLive.net this morning, Charles Harrison said he was “delighted” that John Newcomb was standing against him for election as BHETA president “because we represent ‘old blood’ and ‘new blood’”.
Explaining his decision to stand to HousewaresLive.net yesterday, Newcomb said: “It’s very important that it’s all of the board positions we look at, not just one particular position.”
However, said Harrison: “Whatever he says this is an election for president – I’m not standing for any other office – and it offers members a straight choice between individuals, their records on key issues and plans for the future. The last thing the association needs is another debate that doesn’t address these issues head on.
“I hope John doesn’t take it personally, but the fact is he has been a key, long-standing member of the finance committee and board that has totally lost control of the finances – his record on these matters is absolutely relevant. The association will not move forward by having a tea party – a metaphorical cage fight will be more useful!”
He said he was “unimpressed” with the unanimous support of the board for John Newcomb. “I’m actually sorry for John that the board has revealed he was third choice after Peter Battersby and Patrick Gardner – hardly a ringing endorsement.
“Presumably the establishment at BHETA would have backed anybody other than me – so what? They only have one vote each and couldn’t get the support of the membership last year.”
Harrison also criticised BHETA’s intention that sector directors Will Jones and Peter Stone should advise members on the way to vote.
“What is outrageous is seeking to use paid executive directors, that they appointed, to make recommendations to members on how to vote,” he said. “I assume it was an innocent error that they failed to mention that one [Jones] had worked with John Newcomb at Addis for many years and the other [Stone] with John Baker (treasurer) at Eliza Tinsley for many years.
“Luckily I believe that Will and Peter have enough sense and backbone to say ‘Leave us out of this’. Don’t the board believe the silent majority is capable of making up its own mind?”
According to Harrison, the financial state of BHETA and what he describes as “the lack of transparency” will be central to the debate.
“The financial performance is appalling, and the belief that financial information in a members’ association can be controlled and hidden is outdated and undemocratic,” he said. “Over a number of years a massively expensive bureaucracy has been created which could only be funded by selling services to members.
“This year the budget for providing free services is only £10,000 – every other service is a profit centre to fund the bureaucracy. Members have not been receiving best value, the assets are dwindling away and the situation is not sustainable.
“After three months the latest estimate is that BHETA will lose £42,000 this year following a loss of £105,000 last year (before exceptional items). The reality is completely different to what the members were told before [last July’s] EGM, when the board unanimously agreed that the association would break even in 2009 and make a surplus of £95,000 in 2010.”
Harrison concluded by saying: “I believe that members already know they can trust me to tell them the truth, and over the coming weeks I’ll be putting forward plans to show them that under my leadership BHETA really can be ‘stronger by association’.”