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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. 5944

    5944 Well-Known Member

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    You're not the only one concerned by it all. Four Fifty Partnership are a group of chartered accountants. Why are they listed as secretary of the PLC? Their address is where all of JJP's other directorships (10, not including WSR) are based. It might just be me, and it might be all above board, but it doesn't seem right.
     
  2. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Its not uncommon for accountants or solicitors to provide company secretarial services. I think there are other aspects of the WSR to worry about, if you need things to worry about.
     
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  3. Roger Thompson

    Roger Thompson Well-Known Member

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    It is not uncommon for smaller PLCs to use a professional firm such as an accountant to act as Company Secretary. This is a specialist role requiring knowledge of the law regarding submissions of paperwork to Companies House and other authorities at the right times, for example. There is no point in a Director of a small company learning all these regulations and ensuring compliance, when a professional firm can be employed to do it. With the volume of business that JJP gives to Four Fifty Partnership through his private concerns, he should have been able to negotiate a very good rate, possibly even at no cost, for WSR plc.

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  4. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    Very true but I don't know of any that would do it for free. Why, in these cash-strapped times, would it make sense ? Who benefits ? Other key functions have been outsourced such as HR.

    Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune.
     
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  5. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Many firms do pro bono work; it is good for the firm and there can be tax advantages when done for charities. However, I doubt that applies to the plc, even if there may be economies of scale from combining it with work for other JJP companies.

    My experience, though, is that focusing on whether something is free or not may be a distraction. In technical areas, I would always want to be cautious about whether a prospective volunteer is genuinely expert and current in the area, as if not, that could be more expensive than paying for a hired in service.


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  6. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Quite, what appears to be "free" can turn out to be quite expensive when not done properly. Secretarial Services are a specialist service and are expensive to get wrong. They are relatively cheap to get done professionally and pale into insignificance against the monies required to put the WSR back to where its previous guardians failed to keep it.
     
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  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    While I don't disagree about the importance of secretarial services to a board (and the risk of getting them wrong if carried out by well-meaning, but unqualified, people), the same could be said of the other board accountabilities, notably operations, rolling stock engineering, infrastructure engineering and finance: the first three coming with the significant additional responsibility of being safety critical functions.

    Surely the point of having directors is that they are ultimately accountable to the shareholders for the particular function over which they have control (and as a board, they have a collective responsibility for all functions). It isn't simply about provision of a business service.

    Tom
     
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  8. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    But company secretaries are not necessarily Directors, in fact its rarely a Board level function, although it is sometimes combined with other responsibilities.

    As to other directors, I think its often a case of selecting from a pool narrowed by the constraints of who is involved in the organisation, who wants to do the job and do they have the skills (or purport to have the skills) What the WSR seem to be doing is saying, that didn't necessarily work in the past and we need to make sure we get people who both want to and can do the job to the required standard.
     
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  9. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Perhaps I wasn't clear enough on that comment Nick, I was merely hoping that everyone could agree that the WSR needs a shakeup of some description. Whether you think JJP is going about it the right way is another matter, and I accept, one that is a bit more contentious!
     
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  10. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    Despite subsequent discussion by people who evidently have seen that statement, I can't find it. I have tried https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/news and it's not there. Where is it, please, and why is it not on the News page?
     
  11. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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  12. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Which is where I found it. But the question of "why" remains entirely valid.
     
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  13. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you, BUT, the WSR relies on the good will of members and volunteers who expect to be able to extend some control/ have some say in the running of the business. This is an illusion that is only now becoming apparent, so nervousness is to be expected. Unlike the Bluebell or MHR (to some extent) and completely unlike the W&L (which has I think the best structure I have personally seen) the membership organisation does not have sufficient control over the operating company. In the case of the first two examples the control is muted by worries (unfounded often) about "rocking the boat", but the element of control by membership over the operating company does exist even if rarely used. THIS is one of the key dysfunctions of the WSR and one which several of us having been commenting on for a while. Benevolent dictatorship is probably the best form of government it has been said, but it is also said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The WSR members / volunteers really only have one "control" which is the theat to to withdraw their labour. I find it hard to imagine that things would get to the level where there would be a strike, so very limited control.

    I make no comment whatever about JJP's fitness for the role or intentions...I have no way to do so., however, indications are I think broadly positive from an outsiders perspective, that he has the railway's best interests at heart. The reality is though that the membership/volunteers have a very limited range of options now if they feel that this is not the case. The WSRA needs to make itself very relevant to the WSR plc if it is to exercise significant influence. Large wedges of grant £s would do the trick!
     
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  14. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Why ... because someone needs to focus on steering the ship whilst others plot the course. It is very difficult indeed to combine the role of helmsman and navigator especially in shallow rocky waters.
     
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  15. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Not "why" the change - I think your analogy good, and the decision entirely reasonable - but "why" the use of an unofficial site but not the official one.
     
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  16. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    AH, sorry. I get you now. Obviously I don't know, but two thoughts ... maybe it is easier to get stuff posted on the "unofficial" site and also by putting on that site which is where supporters tend to look, but perhaps the general public less so, it targets the news at the group that is most likely to be interested without making joe public wonder if there is something wrong at the attraction they are thinking to visit?
     
  17. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    ;)
    That did make me smile Nick. I assume you see yourself as Wolfie Smith? ;)
     
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  18. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    I would not agree that the voting control is a "key dysfunction" or even a dysfunction (and in reality control by supporters probably exists but admittedly not easy to organise - if one assumes the majority are indeed again the management). The same situation exists at the Severn Valley Railway for instance. There is no democracy in the Ffestiniog or A1 Trust/Tornado structures but these seem to be approved of by their supporters and successful at what they do. However, both the Ffestiniog and the A1 Trust (and SVR) have effective membership or supporting bodies, which the WSR conspicuously lacks. A number of contributors on here tend to "talk their own book" (as they say in financial markets) e.g. if you have affinity for the IoW, then that is the ideal structure, if for the NYMR, then that is etc. The fact is there are plenty of structures which work, but they all rely on people rowing in the same direction. This may be due to the calibre of the persons in office and/or it may be that there is no upside seen in rocking the boat.

    What is interesting to me in the announcement of the board restructure is the intention to appoint directors for the various functions. Presumably they cannot afford to pay a commercial rate, and if one assumes that the same objections to a director having line responsibility applies to these functions as it does to the GM, then they cannot apparently recruit from the persons already heading up those departments. And there still seems to be a deafening silence as to fund raising.
     
  19. 46229

    46229 New Member

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    Probably the most sensible and realistic post I have seen in this entire thread. Issues that many ‘supporters’ of heritage railways are in denial about.
     
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  20. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure every UK preserved railway has necessarily followed the model above - so maybe railways that have need to look at the railways that have not historically followed the above trends and see what they are doing at the moment. I'm thinking primarily here of the Ffestiniog, whose "Sustainable Future" long-term strategy is maybe something other railways, if they are not already, should look at and try to emulate.
     

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