The Battle Of The Bedford Park Residents' Association
Divisions arise in the newly-formed organisation
For the last few months residents of Bedford Park have become increasingly confused as two separate factions claiming to represent the Bedford Park Residents’ Association (BPRA) have been vying for their attention.
Members have had emails and communications from two camps both claiming to be the legitimate Association and as annual membership subscriptions become due, locals are confused as to which organisation is the 'real' BPRA.
A typical Bedford Park home
This situation developed following a disagreement between local businessman Nigel Walley of Decipher Media Consultants and Chimni Ltd, (which specialises in digital media systems and analysis) and his supporters, who set up and ran the website and social media for the Association, and a small group of Bedford Park resident volunteers who formed the Association’s committeewhich held its inaugural meeting in 2014 under Chairman, Hugh Johnson.
(Neither of these groups is connected to the long-standing Bedford Park Society, which works to conserve the character of the suburb.)
The dispute appears to centre around the issue of what sort of Association the BPRA should be, including the use of social media, with one side saying it wants a "modern, young and digitally literate group" and not the more "formal" structure preferred by the other.
Hugh Johnson pictured at a meeting during the last election
Hugh Johnson said: “Nigel did a lot of work to build the website and social media but it was always the intention that over time we would become self-sufficient. However, we reached the conclusion last autumn that we needed to develop our own identity and a website based on a much simpler template that we could develop and run ourselves.
“Unfortunately, since hearing our decision in September last year, Nigel has continued to publish information on his website, send emails to members and post online as if representing the Association and its views in spite of our requests that he stops. He is also representing himself to outside organisations as the voice of the Association and has even applied to register the name as a trademark asset of his company - but we intend to challenge that. A residents’ association belongs to its members, not to any corporate entity or individual.”
In December 2015, Nigel Walley announced to Association members that Hugh Johnson and the entire committee had stepped down and been replaced by a different Chairman, Terry Scott, and a committee of two others, including Nigel Walley himself.
Hugh Johnson says: “We were flabbergasted by this. Neither I nor any of my committee has resigned. Having received some pro bono professional advice, we are absolutely confident from a legal perspective that we are the legitimate representatives of our members rather than Nigel whose agenda is driven by his business objectives. We have a Constitution, a Management Committee and we continue to control the bank account and financial assets of the Association. This is so frustrating - we exist only to act on behalf of our members and to respond to issues on their behalf. All the work in recruiting our 400 members, organising the pre-election Hustings and Third Runway meetings and efforts like lobbying Ealing Council against the imposition of wheelie bins have been done by the existing committee and our team of Road Representatives who continue to be the backbone of the Association.”
Timing to resolve things is now critical as the renewal of membership for 2016 is due. Hugh Johnson says that he concerned that members may be misled into paying their annual fee to the ‘wrong’ Association.
Mr. Walley says his involvement with Bedford Park goes back over forty years, and he is not some kind of outside businessman, as has been suggested. The BPRA website now lists Mr. Terry Scott as its chairman.
Mr. Scott said that Nigel and his group had done the original work to set up the BPRA in 2012, about 18 months before Hugh Johnson (and others) became involved.
"We launched the website and the social media pages and went about recruiting interested households in BP. Our aim was to balance the BPS and create a modern, young and very digitally literate residents group that helps everyone enjoy Bedford Park to the full. We reached out to the local history groups, the church, the ArtsEd and the BPS to make sure that everyone was represented."
He said that Mr. Johnson became involved in 2014 when they wanted to formalise membership and brought on board more members of the committee from his local streets.
"Some people wanted to take it in a different direction objecting, amongst various things, to the involvement of social media. They wanted it to be much more formal and it became quite ‘factional’ "
He said Mr. Johnson's group on the Committee took to holding their own meetings, "and then announced they were sacking the rest of us.
"We pointed out that they were in effect breaking away from us, but had no rights to take any of the assets that we have built up. Our understanding was that they were going off to form a new group and we appointed new people in their place. So we were surprised as you to see they were trying to re-launch as the 'BPRA'."
Mr. Scott said that his group own the name, the trademarks, the web site, the social media "and have the core membership with us who are enjoying the services." He added that the issue of using the BPRA name would have to addressed legally at some point.
He added that he realised this made it difficult for local people "and we are hoping that sense will prevail in 2016."
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February 1, 2016