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Letter From The ACA Chairman

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Letter from Anglers Conservation Association Chairman


Dear Members


Accompanying this letter to you is a formal statement regarding the departure of Mr and Mrs James from the Association. You will have deduced that I am constrained from making comments in relation to their departure, as are the rest of the Committee of the Association.


The Past


However, no such constraints are placed on me in making comments on the way the Association has been managed over the last five or six years. Of necessity, this will be a lengthy and comprehensive report. In my term of office, I intend to instil a culture of transparency and accountability and while I am in the Chair, I assure you that the Association will be run for the benefit of its members. There is a very great deal to be proud of, but this has not always been publicised in the way it should.



Nevertheless, I realise that if the Association is to keep your support for the future I need to explain fully what has happened in the past.



I have been involved with fishing ever since I could walk. For over ten years I have been involved in fisheries management, firstly through the Wye and Usk Foundation - a charity that I co-founded and now serve as Executive Director. More recently I joined the Association’s Committee and earlier this year I was privileged to become your Chair. I give my time to the Association freely and without receiving payment.


From the moment of my involvement with the Association, I was struck by the lack of information given by management to both the Committee and members. It is in my view essential to establish a proper two way communication between the Association’s staff and its Committee and most importantly, with you the members.


The Association is a not-for-profit organisation and is able to operate thanks to the generous funding by its members. This enables the Association to bring civil claims against those who pollute or otherwise damage members’ lakes, streams, rivers and waterways. The Association also advises on a range of other legal issues. This acts as both a deterrent to polluters and a way of recovering damages for members to get their fisheries going again.


The Association’s key staff are therefore its legal team – solicitors and their assistants. What the Association does, no other angling organisation can do. This fact appears to have been ignored by the outgoing senior officers. During their period in charge, four solicitors were lost in one way or another. One was recently reinstated by the Committee and another has been persuaded to stay, but, some years ago, a third had to be expensively paid off to head off a potential constructive dismissal claim. It seems she had refused to sign the Trustee Company’s accounts. A fourth solicitor was lost altogether.


There are a large number of other board and staff members who have found their position made untenable by the out-going Director, following their criticism of the way the Association had been managed.


In addition, throughout this period (1998–2004) it was often heard that progress was made in recruitment of members and securing income. However, a true analysis of the accounts shows otherwise. Against this, the wages, perks and other emoluments paid to senior non-legal staff continued steeply upwards to what can only be described as over-generous levels, so that by 2003 more than 1/3 of all the Association’s total expenditure related solely to the cost of employing Mr and Mrs James. It should be remembered that these rises were against a background of financial losses, in some years severe. Interestingly during the same period the expenditure and costs of running the legal department never rose above 19% of the whole annual budget.


Furthermore, much of the Director’s work was carried out by outside suppliers at the Association’s expense. For example, in tracing why the auditors charged the Association three times the expected amount when compared with similar-sized organisations, it transpired that they undertook the most basic financial tasks when it would be realistic to expect these to be done ‘in house’.


I am sure you will understand that a Committee which only meets four times a year simply cannot supervise every aspect of the day to day management of the Association and, as such, reliance is placed on the Director to furnish the Committee with all the relevant information needed to steer and guide the Association. However, key accounts over the entire period, that should have been sent to Committee were found in the outgoing Director’s filing cabinet. Whilst many of these issues were discussed at meetings, more often than not acrimoniously, some Committee members found their positions made untenable having dared to ask critical questions. They felt the only proper course of action was to resign.


I accepted the Chair to reconcile these internal problems and to progress the Association’s core business, which is the legal work. I am happy to say that although the Association has endured a testing time, we have retained out first class legal team and, as I see it, there is a never ending flow of cases to be won on your behalf. Already morale among staff and Committee has improved dramatically. To this end the Committee and I wish to suggest a route to take the Association forward.


The Future


1) The Committee believes that a single competent person could be employed as PR Officer and Director.


2) At present the Association can tackle only a very small fraction of the pollution cases, both those that do and don’t result in criminal prosecution by the Environment Agency. The problem is that the Association can only act legally for owners or tenants of fisheries that are affected, and not directly for individual anglers themselves. The Association will therefore make a huge effort to recruit angling clubs, fishery owners and other organisations for whom the Association can act in legal proceedings. Ideally, there must be no stream, lake, waterway or pond in relation to which the Association cannot act.


3) The Association’s constitution needs updating. At present the Association is an unincorporated body linked to a Trustee Company so that it is able to own, for example, our building. There are also special requirements for employing in-house lawyers which the Association must meet.


4) The Association needs to approach those true supporters who left the Committee and the Association in recent years. There is a vast groundswell of support for a well-run Association and this must be tapped into. Very influential individuals who have not been able to work with the past senior officers must be welcomed back on board.


5) The Association’s budget and staffing levels should be tailored to reflect income and the requirements of the Association’s work. More people to tackle the legal work, and less waste.


6) As a longer term goal, the Association may be able to become a registered charity. This would confer a number of advantages. It would automatically ensure better financial control. It would allow certain beneficial tax breaks, making your subscriptions go further. The Association would also be in a position to tackle many more cases.


I believe that what you, the members want is a first class legal service that takes expensive and difficult legal action on your behalf. I would like polluters and those who harm fisheries, and their insurers, to tremble when they hear the name “ACA”. They must know that the Association will make pollution or damaging fisheries so expensive for them that the only sensible alternative is the fund all the proper controls and measures to avoid causing damage in the first place.


The Association needs your continued support to bring about these changes and I ask that you give the new Committee your continued support. The proof will be in next year’s annual report and also in the accounts. Please let us have your views and please can you can use email (to [email protected]) if possible, as communication by e-mail is a very cost effective way for the Association to keep in touch with you. Our website is www.a-c-a.org


With my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.


Yours sincerely


Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith



"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical

minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which

holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd

by the clean end"



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I am greatly heartened by the Chairman's letter, I really am.


It heartens me to see an admission of what many of us felt, that some people offered poor value to the ACA, and, effectively, were costing rather more than their worth.


In my honest opinion Bob James greatly overvalued his worth and contribution to the ACA.


What many of us felt, but didn't realise the extent of, has now been admitted to.


Long live the ACA.


Would think Bob's employment prospects within angling must be severly limited after that! I certainly wouldn't buy a product endorsed by the man.


[ 11. December 2004, 07:51 PM: Message edited by: Peter Waller ]

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Yes, for once I absolutely agree with you Peter.


The issues of transparency and accountability that I raised in my last post on the subject appear to have been addressed, at least in intent.


The details of the "management" over the last few years was certainly an eye opener!


Lets hope we ( that's us ACA members ) can now move forward.



RNLI Governor


World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

Certhia's world species - 215

Eclectic "husband and wife combined" world species 501


"Nothing matters very much, few things matter at all" - Plato

...only things like fresh bait and cold beer...

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A very impressive response from the Chairman.


What an untenable position for any organisation, it seems to be just what some of us suspected.


My cheque will be in the post first class tomorrow.

"I gotta go where its warm, I gotta fly to saint somewhere "

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Well, from what I can see things can only get better, if it really is true about the Jameses then the Association is better off without them and can hopefully now move forward.

I think it may be a good idea in future to have the books audited monthly!!! there cannot be a huge amount of transactions and an uditor would charge about £80 for 2 hours work, good value I reckon if a third of all previous expenditure went in 2 peoples salaries! - just a thought.

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What "right-to-reply" do the James' have?

As long as the reply is not slander (if spoken publicly) or libel (if written publicly) then they could publish whatever the pleased as long as they could find some place to have it published.


I'm guessing that a reply that was not illegal would be easy enough to post here, for instance, assuming that either one of them were a member or sent a document to a member to post in their behalf.


Likewise some sort of rebuttal letter to the same list as the document shown here was sent to would be fine assuming they were in a position to know the postal addresses and had money for stamps.


I wouldn't imagine the ACA would be under any obligation to either furnish such a mailing list or in any wise cooperate in distributing a rebuttal document unless something had been specified in some sort of departure contract.

" My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!" - Harry Truman, 33rd US President

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