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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I understand Tom and you make a valid point. In practice most of the time the wishes of members are likely to chime with the charitable purposes but the possibility of conflict does exist. I know VAT exemption for transport operators is hard to reconcile with gift aid on charges to view the work of the charity but it's not the only example of illogicality in taxation. If it 's allowable, as seems to the case, why look a gift horse in the mouth? I don't believe building a future structure on the basis of turning a blind eye because of Covid is sensible unless, heaven forbid, various forms of lockdown are going to be the norm for the next few years
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I wonder if you are making a mountain out of a molehill though with regard the ability of the charity to support the objectives of the company? Certainly in our case, the Trust has, in recent years, funded loco restoration, carriage restoration, track renewal, building maintenance, new storage buildings, apprentices, as well as the more obvious things like being the parent body of the museum. Even our Northern Extension had considerable trust input. What exactly do you feel an operating company would wish to do that wouldn't be fundable by an arms-length charity?

    Perhaps I could turn it around: our model gives a high degree of member involvement in setting the strategic direction of the railway. Can I ask what your view is on such member involvement: I'm getting a distinct impression that the version of the "evolution" approach championed by some seems to be designed to minimise the influence of the members. Perhaps I could characterise it by saying in our model the members are central and the charity is arms-length; whereas you seem to be proposing a model in which the charity is central but the members are kept at arms length, at least in terms of real decision-making power. I'm getting a distinct impression that at its heart, the battle lines are drawn around to what degree the members are central to the governance of the railway, with a distinct reluctance in parts of the current hierarchy to allow the membership to be involved. Perhaps you could clarify what you see as the limits of the members' power to set strategy in your preferred model?

    Tom
     
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  3. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    Suppose the WSSRT were to indicate a desire to merge with another charity, but the plc's response were to indicate its opposition to such merger and to express an intention of treating it as terminating the Agreement it had formed with the WSSRT in 2017, what then? Proceeding with the desired merger in a way that terminates the 2017 Agreement seems to involve the WSSRT trustees consciously doing away with a charity asset they have a duty to preserve and protect. Does that not put what amounts to a power of veto over any proposed merger into the hands of the plc?

    It makes a pleasant change for me to say that for once I am at one with @Lineisclear about the complexities to which merger may give rise!
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    In our model, you have to be a member of the membership body as a pre-requisite to volunteering. HR policies are managed by the company though, since in practical terms, as a volunteer your chain of command (and policy requirements, such as the rule book and other parts of the SMS) goes up through the operating body, which is the company.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
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  5. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    John, There seems to be a growing consensus that we 'd all do better to meet up and talk things over a pint or two in a pub. I sense there are quite a few posters on here who would find that, if only that were possible, we'd get along famously.
     
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  6. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    But what is that asset? As far as I am aware the WSSRT own some/all of the contents of BARM and the Gauge Museum, but not the buildings in which they are housed. They own rolling-stock, but not the track/land on which it is stored. In short, what assets does the WSSRT own which are immovable? So, are they not really in the same boat as the S&DRT? - if the Plc 'plays dirty', then at least in theory they could up sticks and move elsewhere (hopefully), so they would still be protecting and preserving the objects of their charitable duty. Or have I missed something?
     
  7. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Provided that there are no more than six of you :)
     
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  8. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    That's more or less the risk Ian espoused earlier, but I reject that as a reason to vote down the current WSSRT proposal for 2 reasons.

    Firstly, the vote on the 14th won't actually effect the merger. It will merely express a broad intention. That would initiate detailed plans to be drawn up, and if the worst fears of Ian and yourself are realised (and I accept that, although I find them small, they are real, and I am a lot further away from things) then the merger need not happen.

    Secondly, if that turned out to be the case, at least the WSSRT would have a collection of trustees who I feel would be willing to explore other options to achieve a similar object, namely simplification of the WSR. The current trustees have specifically said they wish to remain more or less as they are, which I really don't think is an ideal outcome whatever the new situation turns out to be.
     
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  9. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    Well, in the first point, it seems nearly everyone agrees that having only one charity would be a good thing In the evolution model, with the WSRA and WSSRT, one or both will lose their reason for existing, never mind being a charity. In the revolution plan, there might be an amalgamation, and the emerging AWSRT would emerge as the sole charity.
    I struggle to see why it is inevitable that any proposal must be politically impossible. If we can all think "our railway, our success, our failure" and less 'My railway'

    Nail. Head. Bang
     
  10. Another Lancastrian

    Another Lancastrian New Member

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    Before getting involved in the illogicality of taxation (and there are few things more illogical than VAT), be clear about the significant difference between zero rating of passenger transport and VAT exemption - they are not the same! Zero rating allows deduction of all the VAT charged on making the supply, having a supply exempt from VAT means none of the VAT charged can be recovered - an example being the "charitable activities" of a charity.

    One thought comes to mind about any proposed "new" charity - is this more likely to meet with Charity Commission approval if its objects are educational and if so the existence of a second educational charity (WSSRT) may be a barrier - the CC could ask why is another charity required when one already exists with virtually identical objects (they do encourage prospective applicants to check if there is an existing body with similar objects). As Andy Norman has pointed out, from a Grant Funders perspective structures being absolutely clear is an important factor. Suggest this may be an indicator for less rather than more charities based on or about the line when their objects overlap
     
  11. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    I sense that for many who support the Evolution model, this is very much their idea of how things ought to be. A few people at the top to make the strategic decisions and the rest just getting on with their work. While this model works well in small and large businesses everywhere, it is not necessarily applicable to a business that depends on voluntary donations of money and time.
    It is perhaps not surprising that this view has become more entrenched as the PLC has fallen more and more under the control of someone whose background is very much in running a small business, nor is it surprising that there was talk of moving to a similar operating model, with all paid staff.
    It is my impression that all organisations started by enthusiasts become more and more corporate until the enthusiasm element is lost altogether, at least amongst the management. Luckily, although the WSR has started down this route, it has still a long way to go before its employees are just interested in the paycheck at the end of the month.
     
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  12. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Given that to date the PLC has not in practical terms been answerable to its shareholders, resulting in a run down of the infrastructure before one gets to COVID, the Washford debacle and several other issues it seems to me that more of the same is unlikely to restore th eline to health
     
  13. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    I have a few thoughts for late this evening.

    The WSSRT was/is always a bit of a niche player in the overall WSR. It hasn't really contributed that much to the WSR. I have always been of the view that the SDRT at Washford accomplished far more than the WSSRT has ever done. The SDRT also has significantly always had a much larger membership and following.

    For Frank C to suggest the WSSRT is now significantly more 'significant' since Chris Austin got involved as Chairman (which in the run of things isn't that long ago) is rather stretching the facts and the rotting GWR carriages at Williton not under cover and with no restoration facilities established in some 12 years. The 'significance' is it's accumulated shareholding in the WSR PLC, thanks to the WSR plc board over many years to counteract the shareholding of the WSRA.

    We then now have a situation where the acting WSSRT chairman is also on the WSR plc board, and one co-opted member of the WSSRT board is a WSR plc board member, and another is a WSR plc employee.

    Ian Coleby provided a most significant post on here today that he deserves credit for posting the best (and also not inflammatory) post against the new 10 candidates for the WSSRT trustees/board.

    The problem with Ian's post is that it is too simplistic and ignores much legal nitty gritty.

    If the 10 new WSSRT board candidates get elected on 14th November, then I see a significant change in the up to now cosy status quo (as it must be, given the agreement John Palmer outlined and I have also commented upon, as has Ian Coleby, for occupation of BL and BA).

    There will be no immediate merger, and in the interim a great deal can happen with the combined shareholding - though not easy to achieve. Considerable changes to the WSR plc board can then potentially take place - that to my way of thinking sort of resets everything.

    This provides the solution to Ian Coleby's concerns (and those of John Palmer) over the lease for BL and BA.

    These potential changes also would reset the basis upon which John Bailey has so far considered this matter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
  14. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Whilst the above post by @jma1009 seems to 'ride many horses' I think it is a useful one because it does attempt to dispassionately try and cover the complexity of the territory that is the West Somerset Railway. It also explains, perhaps, why this particular knot is proving to be difficult to unpick and, importantly, why there are so many possible solutions out there.

    This whole business of each group seeming to fight its own corner (with the notable exception of the S&DRT that has just been evicted) does little to suggest that an amicable solution will emerge even though everyone must understand that this is exactly what is needed.

    What interests me now is the apparent silence of the PLC that I thought was responsible for all the problems in the first place.
     
  15. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    The PLC are now just spectators watching the bun fight.
     
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  16. Lplus

    Lplus Member

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    The Plc may well be quite happy that another organisation has taken the heat off them. Nothing like a bit of divide and conquer...
     
  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Given the close links between the WSSRT and the PLC, it is more a case of the WSSRT has become the political wing of the PLC.

    More a question for @WSSRTcandidates - considering that the WSSRT have appeared to use the mailing list to give their side of the story. Will the 10 be responding so that members of the WSSRT can hear the other side of the story and perhaps also correct many of the incorrect claims made by the WSSRT/PLC/Bailey/Price about the 10.
     
  18. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    They've already done a mailshot. Unfortunately it included their "pulling together" statement, which is now out of date as their motion recommends something slightly different, or at least a broader recommendation. I think it's too late for either side to be putting anything else in the post now.
     
  19. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    The WSSRT email with the rant from the WSSRT Board and the GDPR apology finally arrived in my in box late Monday night. It is a shame the candidates seem to have chosen not to issue a reply. A reasoned response would probably be far more effective than any arguing on here or other (anti?)social media platforms.
     
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  20. WSSRTcandidates

    WSSRTcandidates Member

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    Given all the heat generated on here last week, and the mod's appeal for calm on Sunday morning, we have considered it best not to contribute too widely on social media platforms any more. However, we have noted the latest letter from the WSSRT, as well as the GDPR apology, and we will consider a response in due course, to the WSSRT membership, who should be allowed to make a judgement based on a balanced portrayal of the facts.
     

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