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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    I avoided identifying the nature of the decision giving rise to the dispute in my hypothetical case, as my interest was in a discussion of how a different organisational structure might affect the outcome, rather than in the particular circumstances of the WSR plc - S&DRT dispute which does relate to an eviction.
     
  2. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    I can.

    It was because the present leader of the Group of Ten, who was (and is) also a WSRA trustee, encouraged the then Chairman (Paul Whitehouse) to write to us and dismiss us because we had not asked them for permission to be on the PLC board at the same time as we continued as recently elected WSRA trustees. Our motivation was that we considered there needed to be more collaboration between all the elements of the WSR.

    I wonder if the WSRA trustees who are now putting themselves forward to the WSSRT board have asked permission from their fellow WSRA trustees? Just a question.
     
  3. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Did you as an WSRA trustee need to have permission from the other trustees, to take up that seat on the PLC board? I find it hard to understand how , that alone would lead to you being dismissed, unless of course there are other matters that you are not sharing, i can, however see a problem with being both a WSRA trustee, and an PLC director , at the same time, as surely that must lead to a clash of interests , Given the background of the person, you once again target, I would expect there were very good reasons why that action was taken, Why did you not do the other Trustees the courteously of informing them of your actions, before you accepted the directorship?
     
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  4. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    On Wednesday
    I should mention here that I now have the papers and will shortly be filling in my voting form.
     
  5. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    There's nothing wrong with wearing both hats, indeed it's extremely common across heritage railways, and in my view a good thing. The impression I got was it wasn't so much that Frank and Rodney didn't ask permission, but more that they didn't think to mention it at all that led to the falling out.
     
  6. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Viewed dispassionately I would think that no Board member of WSR plc should be on the Board of anything else. I would also question the wisdom of a Trustee of the WSRA also being a Trustee of the WSSRT. Of course, were there to be just one Trust linked to the WSR then my second point would not apply.
     
  7. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Thanks Frank, yes that does ring true to me although I don’t recall the exact part each person played.

    I’ve said before that in my opinion the old rivalries run deep and have played a part in bringing the WSR to where it is today. People have criticised the ‘10’ for using the rules to swamp the WSSRT Board for broader ends, yet some of those same names always seem to be at the centre of similar controversies for years. So can any of the long term players here claim the moral high ground?

    A quick check of companies’ house looking at the three Boards Trustees/Directors comings and goings shows a lot of change and a lot of familiar names, often more than once and across more than one Board usually very quickly. It’s a very unstable management history for all three in the last 8 years or so.

    Is that just a strange coincidence or is there a trend ? It seems to me the same names keep appearing in the centre of upsets and fallings out where the only outcome people will accept is total victory over the people they disagree with instead of working together, so we get stuck in continual round after round of self-generated internal win/lose wars and the accompanying stalemates which only finish in both sides retiring hurt only to come back another day and do it all over again.

    The only difference I’ve seen in the past two years is an increase in these actions to another level and now it’s spilling out into the HRA, ORR & Other railways Volunteers plus additional internal people joining in thus increasing the tempo and that can’t be healthy for the WSR. The S&DRT situation has highlighted too many what perhaps has been there for a long time, both action and in-action with all the time spent fighting and none of the time spent building.

    My view of the need for a ‘clean sweep’ stands, and in part stems from this, it’s difficult to achieve of course but the alternative is to just continue until the club which is the WSR used by some to beat others is worn out and useless.

    It often takes people looking in from a distance to sum it up better than those of us who are too close to things. I’m really, really struggling to disagree with @John Palmer final paragraph in his post #34439 : “ so does it not, ultimately, come down to a matter of luck whether a heritage railway is blessed with a management that avoids such errors? Could it be that the West Somerset Railway has just been desperately unlucky?”
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
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  8. daveb

    daveb Member

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    Rodney didn't need to ask permission. The PLC invited the WSRA to appoint a director onto the PLC board, and it was Rodney who was the WSRA board's choice. See the 2018 WSRA board minutes for confirmation of this.

    Having dismissed both Rodney and Frank from the WSRA board, the WSRA no longer had a representative on the PLC board and, as far as I know, still don't.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
  9. WSSRTcandidates

    WSSRTcandidates Member

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    A note for WSSRT members

    This is a reminder that voting forms must be returned to WSSRT Acting Chairman Steve Williams no later than Saturday 7th November.

    Don’t forget that the voting form is double-sided.

    Make sure you vote on each motion to ensure your choice is counted, otherwise it will be left to the discretion of the Chairman.

    There is a section which asks whether you would like to appoint somebody other than the Chairman to act as your proxy.
    As far as we can tell, because of the virtual nature of the AGM, there is no point appointing anyone other than the Chairman as your proxy – this could mean your votes are not counted.

    There is also a section which says, “(Delete the following sentence if your proxy is to have the discretion on how to vote) I direct the proxy to vote for /against the resolutions to be proposed at such meeting, or to withhold his or her vote as indicated below.”
    This wording could be a bit confusing.
    If you do NOT want to give the Chairman freedom to ignore your voting choices, please DO NOT delete the sentence above, and then make sure you select your voting preferences against each resolution on the form.

    We recommend that you take a copy of your voting form, for future reference if necessary.

    We recommend that you send your completed form to both the e-mail address (by scanning it) and also to the postal address of Steve Williams as stated on the voting form, and if you feel so inclined, let us know how you voted by e-mailing it to wssrtcandidates@gmail.com.

    Although two more Trustee nominations have been made (Dan Lehmann and Allan Pyne), the WSSRT Trustees have refused to accept these nominations. Whilst this is a very clear breach of the WSSRT Articles of Association, it is very unlikely that this position is going to change, so please submit your voting forms as they are now, before the 7th November deadline.

    Don’t forget that in the AGM papers, members are invited to “submit pre-prepared questions in relation to the agenda and resolutions only”. Again, these questions should be submitted to Steve Williams, either by e-mail or to his postal address, and again, if you feel so inclined, let us know what questions you have posed by e-mailing us at wssrtcandidates@gmail.com.

    We remain receptive to questions via wssrtcandidates@gmail.com. You will be assured of a prompt response.
     
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  10. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Are you sure it happened like that? It seems unsurprising that the WSRA Trustees would be upset if the PLC, having requested they nominate one of their number as a Plc director, then, without reference to the others, then picked two trustees themselves.
     
  11. daveb

    daveb Member

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    I didn't word that too well. What I meant was "The PLC invited the WSRA to appoint a director onto the PLC board, and it was Rodney who was the WSRA board's choice.". Suggest that you read the WSRA 2018 board minutes, available on the WSRA website.
     
  12. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    As you allude, our structure is a form of delegated authority from the membership, not a direct one. So the members of the Society elect the Society Trustees, and those Trustees are responsible for oversight of the company board.

    For a Society member, I think the most important role is to feed into, and ultimately approve, the Long Term Plan; it is then down to the company to deliver that plan to the best of its abilities. That does have the possibility (and indeed actuality...) that the membership ask for things which are financially very difficult or impose an ongoing cost on the company. Probably the biggest source of tension I would say between membership and company is when the company are perceived to be doing things not in accordance with the LTP, or not progressing some projects with sufficient vigour. On the other hand, the two biggest capital projects of the last twenty or so years have been the northern extension and under cover storage for rolling stock, and it would be hard to argue that those weren't also two of the key aspirations of the membership. The OP4 carriage shed (for "to be restored" vehicles) is an interesting case, since building it generates negligible cost saving for the company in balance sheet terms (saving depreciation of a carriage that was probably acquired for nominal cost is irrelevant in cash terms), but considerable balance sheet expense through depreciation of the building itself. That point is sometimes forgotten when looking at the profitability of the company in isolation of the whole railway.

    Which then comes to your point of whether WSR has suffered from poor management more than poor structure. It seems obvious to me that the financial issues of the railway pre-date the current board. For many years until about 2018, the plc was declaring a profit, but that was surely illusory given what is now stated about the condition of the p/way and likely renewal costs: a profit against deteriorating assets is not a profit if the intention is for the railway to have an ongoing viability. The strategy has also been difficult to follow amidst all its twists and turns: as recently as about three years ago, the railway was plotting an expansionary route out of its difficulties, with grand plans for a southern gateway being championed by some. The heritage carriages came with considerable fanfare but seemingly no intention that they would be used, which must put a dampener on the desire to see them restored. (I remember a plc-produced plan a few years back that discussed operational requirements projected into the future, but didn't mention the heritage carriages once; they may as well not have existed as far as any holistic thinking went). Locomotive 4110 was acquired because the strategy said the railway needed to have a core of railway-family owned locomotives, and then was sold just as rapidly.

    @Andy Norman has also rightly pointed out the rapid turnover of personnel on the boards of all three entities.

    The question though is why has that gone on for what feels like an extended period - certainly more than the last two or three years? Presumably there are many people on the ground who can, and have, spotted the symptoms, so why can they not be addressed? The finances seem to be at the heart of the matter: can you run a 20 mile long heritage railway? The NYMR would seem to suggest that it can be done, but backed by formidable success in fundraising.

    Tom
     
  13. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    I tried doing that but was left none the wiser.

    The consolidated minutes of the WSRA's board meetings in 2018 published on that Association's website indicate that at the end of the board meeting on 17th July 2018 a further meeting was scheduled for 13th August 2018, but the next minutes that appear are those of the subsequent board meeting on 18th September 2018. I have found no explanation of what became of the minutes for the board meeting on 13th August, or even confirmation that it took place.

    I note, however, that the report to the WSRA AGM held in April 2019 states that Frank Courtney and Rodney Greenway both resigned as trustees of the WSRA on 13th August 2018, the projected date for the board meeting for which no minutes appear. I can see no mention in the minutes for that 2019 AGM of a challenge to the accuracy of that report. It's not possible to determine conclusively from the published record whether Messrs Rodway and Courtney ceased to be trustees of the WSRA on 13th August 2018, or in what circumstances.
     
  14. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    This is all a long time ago, and almost certainly not worth spending time on. The only point I would make is that Rodney and I acted in good faith (though you will have to take our word for that) and neither of us are directors of either the PLC or the WSRA, nor intending to become either, though we both try to help the railway if we can.
     
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  15. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    We don't have a leader as we all work collaboratively and equally. I know it's unfashionable, but it's working well.
     
  16. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Strange how none of the usual suspects can recall, events, yet they can always seem to remember events when they want to attack their number one bogyman, thing is this, unlike the PLC, the WSRA board, are more than just one person, who is bullying all other dissent into silence.
     
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  17. Will Foster

    Will Foster New Member

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    Frank - I don’t usually post on Nat Pres but I must correct you on this post. As you know I was an Association trustee at the time of your “removal” and I can categorically say that it was a board decision to remove you and Rodney after you failed to explain your situation to us and was only able to happen with a 75% majority. Paul Whitehouse was never the sort of chairman who would be led by any one trustee and always followed proper governance procedures. It was NEVER something that was led and decided by the “leader of the Group of Ten”
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
  18. ikcdab

    ikcdab Well-Known Member

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    Alan, it's all ok. I have a pretty thick skin (38 years on the WSR makes for a very thick skin) and i take nothing personal from it! No apology needed.
    Ian C
     
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  19. Wriggley

    Wriggley Member

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    @ikcdab

    According to this: http://www.wsr.org.uk/r-news201809.htm
    you were not the Chairman at the time JJP was co-opted on to the board, assuming the bit about "ending the hiatus and accompanying uncertainty since the departure of the previous WSR plc Chairman" was referring to your good self?

    Was this news article incorrect?

    It also says that "an open and rigorous process will be used for the appointment of a permanent WSR plc Chairman."

    Was this ever carried out? Or was the 'open and rigorous' bit just Jon's presentation to the board?
     
  20. ikcdab

    ikcdab Well-Known Member

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    You have confused things.
    I was chairman when JJP was appointed as a director.
    I later left the board and then he became chairman.
    It's ancient history. Let's move on.
    Ian C
     
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