If you don't know me my name is Dennis Balsdon and I was Mrs Bell's predecessor as Chair of the CPS.
In the past few years:
We have hosted the European CP Exhibition and Exchange.
We have hosted the International Plant Society Conference at Kew Gardens which was attended by Sir David Attenbdorough and over 160 of the leading botanists and growers from around the world at which we made a profit in excess of £5000.
We have introduced new CP events and shows at RHS Wisley, RHS Harlow Carr, RHS Rosemoor, RHS Tatton Park, The National Botanical Garden of Wales and at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Members of the committee have given over 200 talks at garden clubs and at other institutions including the RHS.
For the last two years we have been invited to the RHS Chelsea Garden Show at which we won silver gilt medals.
We have made grants from our conservation fund to 6 organisations both in the UK and overseas which are involved in plant/habitat conservation.
We took over the CPUK forum when it was in danger of folding.
We have tried to promote our relationship with the UK's commercial growers.
We have maintained our membership numbers at over 300 for the last ten years at a time when many specialist plant societies are shedding members.
All this has been done by a dedicated group of volunteers who give of their time, expertise and in many cases their own money in order to enable the Society to achieve its objectives. Some of these volunteers have served on the committee for decades.
For part of this time Mrs Bell filled a number of minor roles on the committee. We have always had difficulty in recruiting new members onto the committee (particularly for the position Chair) but in the last year we have managed to recruit a new membership secretary, a new seed bank organiser and a new conservation officer (Loakesy).
Late last year I decided that due to my advancing age and health issues it was time that a younger person took over from me. Mrs Bell volunteered to be Chair and was elected by unanimous vote of the remaining committee. I was elected by the committee to be a non-executive trustee of the Society. Mrs Bell was appointed as a trustee by virtue of being the Chair.
Following her appointment as Chair I pointed out to Mrs Bell administrative issues which I thought needed to be improved and she had the support of me and the committee in making those improvements.
Mrs Bell then undertook a review of the Society's procedures but rather than make those changes in cooperation with the committee she decided to write to the Charity Commission in which she claimed that the Society was so badly administered that she wished to dissolve it and form a new organisation to replace it. She has stated on many occasions that the Commission had approved this action but has not been able to produce evidence of this approval. She then proposed that a Special General Meeting be held with the aim of dissolving the Society.
It was at this stage that opposition to her arose from the committee members.
She then persuaded me to resign as a trustee implying that this was supported by the committee. This was not true. She also persuaded Tim Bailey (my predecessor) and Flick Foreman (a past treasurer) to also resign as trustees. The only other remaining trustee was Phil Wilson (the current treasurer) who refused to resign.
In this letter she made a number of accusations to the effect that the Society was so badly administered that it should be dissolved and replaced by a new organisation, that there were financial irregularities, that decisions were improperly made and that we had no records of those decisions.
Taking these points in turn: I and the committee accepted that some changes to our administrative practices needed to be made; there have been NO financial irregularities, all expenditure has been made in furtherance of the Society's objectives, receipts are held for all expenditure and the accounts are published at the AGM and End of Season meetings; the committee is spread out across the country and 99% of all decisions are made via email. We have these emails going back at least 10 years. During her time on the committee Mrs Bell took part in these decisions. We have the minutes of all AGMs except for 2017 and 2018. This was a recognised oversight.
As a trustee Mrs Bell had access to the the Society's file on the Charity Commission website. She changed the password to this file so that the other trustee could not access it.
Despite not having any agreement from the Charity Commission for her actions she wrote to the Commission stating that she was appointing four new trustees (one of whom is not a member of the Society) and that she and they would form a "board" to takeover the Society. She has repeatedly stated that she has approval for this action from the Commission but has but is unable to produce it despite many requests.
The committee passed a vote of no confidence in Mrs Bell and removed her as Chair. She was replaced as Chair by Phil Wilson who will serve until we can find permanent replacement.
She has ignored this vote and now describes herself as de facto chair and de facto trustee.
Her actions have brought the Society into disrepute to the detriment of its reputation, its members and the achievement of its charitable objectives.
I know that the committee is determined to defend the Society.