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West Somerset Railway - Removal of the PLC Chairman and related matters

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by rodders154, Aug 14, 2018.

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  1. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture Friend

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    How many of the PLc directors are still in office from the time when relations between the WSRA and PLC were strained due to the former WSRA trustees actions in wanting to undermine the PLC? I do wonder, do some directors actually resent the closeness between the ex chairman and the trustees of the WSRA and to them it may feel like the supporters group, who for so long was not supporting the railway whilst under the X6 have now in effect taken over?
     
  2. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    One of the most unsavory aspects of preserved railways (and, I suspect, many other 'society' type organisations) is a tendency to start not from what and idea is but who suggested it - 'don't bore me with explaining it, just tell me who suggested it and I will tell you if I support it'! For a regular readers of the 'mother' thread of this one, it is not difficult to form opinions on which posters will support and which will be totally against anything and everything connected in any way with certain people involved with the West Somerset Railway.

    @Faol informs us that you were calling for exactly what has now happened at the June 2018 AGM. At the very least, your support for it will be unsurprising but nothing else I have heard on here suggests to me, as an 'outsider', that your support is widespread amongst the volunteers of the West Somerset Railway. You may be totally justified in your position, but I fear that you and your supporters will face the need to make your case more strongly, if reports of 'the view on platforms' are accurate.

    Looking from this distance at the whole chain of events, we appear to see (and I welcome correction of any errors in the following as I haven't gone back and re-read the whole thing):
    1. A co-option of a WSRA Trustee as 'representative' of the WSRA on the WSRplc Board at the WSRplc Board's request. This appointment was confirmed by the AGM (Companies House shows the appointment as being before that Meeting and hence the appointment would be placed before the AGM for confirmation).
    2. Subsequently (but prior to the AGM), resignation of another WSRA Trustee as a WSRplc Director, and, on the date of the AGM, resignation of 3 more WSRplc Directors.
    3. Subsequent to the AGM and immediately after a WSRA Board Meeting, the 'WSRA Rep.' on WSRplc Board sort co-option of another WSRA Trustee to WSRplc Board. The then WSRplc Chairman, to whom this request was made, seems to have formed the opinion that the request was for this co-option to be as 'Joint WSRA Rep.' to WSRplc. The person being requested to be co-opted was the same person who had resigned prior to the AGM.
    4. The then WSRplc Chairman checked with his WSRA counterpart and was informed that the WSRA Board knew nothing of this proposal. This was just before a WSRplc Board Meeting at which the co-option, and another co-option, were approved by the WSRplc Board. This took the WSRplc Board from 5 to 7 Directors.
    5. Subsequent to this, the WSRA Board received a resolution removing the 2 WSRA Trustees due to the perception of their actions in this matter. Due notice of the Resolution was given and a defence sent in writing but neither Trustee attended the WSRA Board Meeting at which the Resolution was, after debate, passed by the WSRA Board.
    6. The evening before the WSRA Board considered this resolution but some days after notice of the resolution had been given, its existence and purpose were revealed on here by one of the then Trustees concerned. I don't recall the reasons for the action contained within the resolution given at that time as being the same as those given in the subsequent WSRA statement.
    7. Approximately 10 days later, the WSRplc Chairman was removed from post by the WSR plc Board. To date, no reason has been given by WSRplc Board, but the former WSRplc Chairman has been accused in the quoted post of 'connivance' with the Chairman and another Trustee of WSRA.
    I fail to see how Ian checking the situation with the WSRA Chairman when he received a proposal to add a second WSRA Rep to WSRplc Board can be described as 'connivance', nor how a proposal to the WSRA Board that action be taken when 2 Trustees appear to have represented themselves as acting on of that Board when in fact the Board has no prior knowledge of their actions can be 'vexatious'. Whether the actions were as they appeared to be or whether the sanction was proportionate is a separate question which it is difficult for anyone not present at the WSRA Board Meeting that considered the resolution or who otherwise have seen the defence presented to judge.

    All that said, whether that resolution was 'vexatious' or not is totally irrelevant if, as is the case, the question in hand concerns any calling of a General Meeting of a completely legally separate company, with any resolutions to be placed before any Meeting so called as yet unknown (because no such call has been made). If such a General Meeting is called, and any resolution is presented for it to consider, then and only then would the 'vexatious' test be relevant. The legal definition of 'vexatious' is 'denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant.'

    As you are clearly very concerned about the WSRplc financial position, a concern which appears to have been shared by both now departed Chairmen, perhaps you could enlighten us of your answer to this problem, or at least confirm that you have placed such views before the WSRplc Board. In either case, have the WSRplc Board managed to reassure you that action is in hand in a way which apparently the now ex-Chairman did not? If not, has his removal advanced matters of actual substance at all?

    Steven
     
  3. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Simplistically the answers to your last paragraph are

    Yes I have placed my views wrt earnings, overheads, likely trends etc. in front of the Current Plc Board.

    I am sure the present Board will not merely recognise the problem but rapidly move to ameliorate
    the decline. One thing I am sure of is they will quickly produce an emergency business plan and
    act accordingly.

    I am afraid to say that whilst obviously the removal of a Chairman does not solve a problem I
    firmly believe it removes an obstacle to progress. (Please please note I have admired Mr Coleby's
    achievement as the writer of the splendid WSR history, his work associated with the BL museum,
    as a signaller etc. But he was not the right man to Chair the Railway at a very difficult time. As
    you say only nine months but AFAIK nine wasted months.)

    I have probably said too much.

    Let's give the Plc Board a chance.

    Michael Rowe
     
  4. ghost

    ghost Well-Known Member

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    Why? It's not as though you gave Mr Coleby a chance....

    Keith
     
  5. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    Mr Maunsell,

    You are on record as stating that the WSSRT should confine their activities to heritage matters despite holding sufficient shares to call an EGM (let's use that term for now so we all know what I am referring to). I have not done the arithmetic as I have just returned from a QB turn however their holding is probably sufficient to meet the required 5%. I am sure that many others are also wondering why you are so against them having any interest in plc activities. An answer would be most interesting.

    I am also rather curious as to why there has been no explanation from those who carried out the coup d'état. This has obviously been on the cards for some days (if not weeks) so I would have expected there to have been some communications strategy and planning. If the answer is that there is none then what faith can anyone have that there is a magic fiscal plan to save the WSR ? That too should already have been formulated and announced by now, even at a high level. Given that two of the protagonists failed to recognise their obligations as trustees of a charity and were removed, you can understand why some may be a tad sceptical of anything coming of this that is truly beneficial to the WSR.

    On a brighter note, the QB customers had a wonderful time this evening and the comments from the diners were universally positive. We had people celebrating birthdays, anniversaries etc. and that's why the volunteers and hard working paid staff roll their sleeves up and make magic happen.

    There's no room for egos on our railway.
     
  6. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    The WSRA have made a public statement and have written to members on the subject by e-mail where we have a members permission to do so. There will also be a letter in the next issue of the journal.
    I am simply reminding members that they can discuss this further by contacting the Association should they so choose. This should cover off your point for those members considering a legacy or a donation and seeking assurance but it would be wrong not to afford every member the same consideration which is what I have done.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
  7. Jeff Price

    Jeff Price Well-Known Member

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    The chain of events is
    A. last spring(2017) a new WSRplc board appeared with a mixture of then existing board members and some new blood which looked very promising and was generally welcomed by those on the coal face so to speak.
    These appointments were made as a result of a selection process that was advertised and run in a structured way.
    B. (June 2017) 3 older members of the WSRplc board departed
    C, Alan Nicholson made PLC chairman (June 2017)
    D. last summer (July 2017) FRANCIS MOOR COURTNEY (as per Co House) was appointed to the WSRplc board
    E, all of the above was whilst the WSR was gearing up for the Flying Scotsman event which involved major expenditure.
    F, After Flying Scotsman dust settled it became clear that there was a need to restructure the WSRplc to make it sustainable going forward. (See WSRplc accounts on Co House Website and the abstract produced on main WSR Nat pres thread a couple of months ago)
    G, In October/December 2017 4 WSRplc directors resign including Chairman Alan Nicholson.
    H, December 2017 Ian Colby becomes WSRplcChairman
    I, January 2018 2 associate directors are made full directors
    J, January 2018 1 new director appointed

    Then we move to Mr Beancounters offering see amendments in the text in RED or deletions in BLUE
    1. A co-option of a WSRA Trustee as 'representative' of the WSRA on the WSRplc Board at the WSRplc Board's request. This appointment was confirmed by the AGM (Companies House shows the appointment as being before that Meeting and hence the appointment would be placed before the AGM for confirmation).
    2. Subsequently (but prior to the AGM), resignation of a co-opted WSRplc director (another WSRA Trustee) as a WSRplc Director, and, on the date of the AGM, resignation of 3 more WSRplc Directors, 2 long standing and 1 co-opted in Jan 2018 who due to a procedural issue was not confirmed as a director thus had to resign and then has been re co-opted. Total board number now 6 - Chairman would have casting vote in the event of a tie
    3. Subsequent to the AGM and immediately after a WSRA Board Meeting, the 'WSRA Rep.' on WSRplc Board sort co-option of another WSRA Trustee to WSRplc Board. The then WSRplc Chairman, to whom this request was made, seems to have formed the opinion that the request was for this co-option to be as 'Joint WSRA Rep.' to WSRplc. The person being requested to be co-opted was the same person who had resigned prior to the WSRplc AGM. (see Co House data)
    4. The then WSRplc Chairman checked with his WSRA counterpart and was informed that the WSRA Board knew nothing of this proposal. This was just before a WSRplc Board Meeting at which the co-option, and another co-option ( see addition to section 2 above for details of the other co option) , were approved by the WSRplc Board. This took the WSRplc Board from 5 6 to 7 Directors.
    5. Subsequent to this, the WSRA Board received a resolution removing the 2 WSRA Trustees due to the perception of their actions in this matter. Due notice of the Resolution was given and a defence sent in writing but neither Trustee attended the WSRA Board Meeting at which the Resolution was, after debate, passed by the WSRA Board.
    6. The evening before the WSRA Board considered this resolution but some days after notice of the resolution had been given, its existence and purpose were revealed on here by one of the then Trustees concerned. I don't recall the reasons for the action contained within the resolution given at that time as being the same as those given in the subsequent WSRA statement.
    7. Approximately 10 days later, the WSRplc Chairman was removed from post by the WSR plc Board. To date, no reason has been given by WSRplc Board, but the former WSRplc Chairman has been accused in the quoted post of 'connivance' with the Chairman and another Trustee of WSRA. WSRplc Board now 7 Directors with no Chairman
    We must thank Beancounter for his layout above and I hope the addition of detail from Co House records (which seem confusing with the coming and goings then reapearance of some people within a short time) help readers understand the background to what has go on.

    I was asked only yesterday by a WSR driver "who are the good guys"

    Well in the Black and White TV "Westerns" it was easy, the good guys always wore the White hats.

    If only it were that easy now!!

    The current team players should know who is out going to out gun who when it comes to the showdown.
    The writing is on the wall, time to ride off into the sun set while you still have a horse.

    Looking forward to a WSR working as a joined up one railway

    Jeff Price

     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
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  8. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Thank you for clarity as to your position on the matter - it is unclear to this reader of this forum as to whether this is an explanation of the view of the WSRplc members who removed Ian or not - as you appear to have been a spokesman for them, can we assume it is?

    You appear to say that Ian, and Ian alone (one of a minimum of 5 directors) was acting as an 'obstacle to progress' - clearly, a very powerful and persuasive Chairman! Sounds like exactly the resolve needed in the Chair if he could have been convinced of the need to move in the way you allege he blocked!

    As you are clearly very well informed, can you confirm that you appear to be alleging that nothing that could be described as an 'emergency business plan' (a wide ranging term but I would agree probably the appropriate one) was brought to WSRplc Board in Ian's time as Chairman? By whom would you expect such a plan to be drawn up in the first instance, if only as a discussion document? Are you alleging Ian acted as a block to the preparation of such a document?

    Can you also confirm that at no point in Ian's time as Chairman, or any time before that when Alan was Chairman, nothing that could be described in such terms has been presented to WSRplc Board, given the warnings Alan gave when he stood down?

    Can you also confirm that at no time has anything that could be described as such been rejected by WSRplc Board, or, if it has, explain why it was rejected?

    Finally, you appear to imply that Ian was making no attempt to see such a document produced - do I understand your comments correctly?

    Given the warnings Alan and Ian issued about the financial position, I must say your allegations that Ian was a block to dealing with a situation his predecessor had highlighted appear to be both very serious and frankly incredible!

    I am sorry to say that your post could be read as 'Ian wouldn't listen to my ideas so had to go, but now those who got rid of him will!' What happens if they decide they won't?!?

    Steven
     
  9. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    If the information that we have been given is accurate (albeit seriously incomplete), the former Chairman has not been removed from the board but only deprived of the title of Chairman. Given that (as pointed out here recently) the members of a board have joint responsibility, how can a board comprising certain individuals, none of whom is designated as the Chairman, do any better than the previous board that comprised exactly the same individuals, the only difference being that one of them was designated as the Chairman?
     
  10. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    A most excellent point Mr Bean-Counter. I was thinking along similar lines after I went to bed. Any plans that were blocked by Ian must also have been blocked by others as the plc board was operating as a democracy (I would hope).

    Mr Maunsell,

    As you are currently the only link between the current board and the outside world, could you please provide the details of the plans that were rejected and who voted against them. If the facts are that no plans were ever tabled then now is the time to say so which will allow the discussion to move forward. By "a plan", I mean a set of cost / benefit proposals that would reduce direct and indirect costs by "X" and not a half baked idea.

    Your answer could do much to get the stakeholders "on side".

    Over to you.
     
  11. nick813

    nick813 Well-Known Member Loco Owner

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    Looking forward to 'other business men' being co opted and plans drawn up for golf courses and holiday chalets.......:)
     
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  12. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    One proviso to my "like" of #230: again given the joint responsibility I would not expect it to be revealed that X, Y and Z voted for while A, B, C and D voted against; but I would expect it to be revealed how the status of one person as Chairman or not makes a difference.
     
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  13. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    A point I have been pondering are the words in bold.

    According to the Agenda on the WSRA website - https://www.wsra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Agenda-AGM-2018.pdf - there is no indication that this was a contested election - i.e. 6 names are put forward and there is no indication that all 6 can't be appointed. So, when you say 'elected by the 'Member Body' unanimously, do you mean that the person concerned was one of 6 whose election to the Board was agreed by the whole meeting as a single resolution, or that individual votes were held on each candidate?

    The Draft Minutes state:

    7. Election of Directors Following the retirements of Geoff Garfield, Mike Lea, Nigel Power and Paul Whitehouse and the resignation of Simon Stretton there were seven vacancies on the Board. In addition to the three retiring Trustees three valid nominations had been received, for Frank Courtney, Will Foster and Robin White. All six were elected - https://www.wsra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/AGM-Minutes-180707-draft.pdf

    which doesn't state which process was followed but my experience suggests that there would, in such circumstances, probably be a single resolution appointing all 6 - was this the case?

    Assuming it was, I note that the proposer and seconder of the motion to remove the Trustees would also be able to state that they 'had been elected by the 'Member body' unanimously'.

    Steven
     
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  14. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Perhaps root and branch reform is what is needed on the WSR it appears to me that there is still a lot of bad blood between some of the support groups and the PLC, Old scores etc. is the answer for there to be a merging of the support groups into one body who's remit is the support of the WSR, nothing else, no side activities, no separate enterprises, just to provide the support on the ground to ensure the railway is viable, then there should be a serious fund raising push to refinance the railway, through the acquisition of shares to ensure the support organisations hold 51 per cent of the company share holding, there should be a joint supporters /plc board , actually if the membership of the support organisation were made compulsory there would in effect be a joint board any way but there can't be a WSRA wags the company s tail situation, you can not have a situation where some members of the WSRA in effect are running the show because the chairman is their puppet , or vice versa, its clear the WSR has problems, a lack of funding being one , and in my view people need to look at the larger picture, forget about personal agenda's, even if the membership have empowered you to do it (4160) your railway could be at stake here it needs money spending on it, not on lawyers fees , if anything, invest that money into 4110, 4160 will not be coming back and if it did, wouldn't that create more trouble? the past is that past, its the future you need to look to my solution is that as I have said, the supporting groups merge, one body, one supporters organisation, one company who run everything, no side business such as restorations, that passes to the company , the WSRA drop its very expensive case over 4160 and come to a deal with the PLC who in exchange for funding and the buying of shares, sell 4110 to the new supporters group who can then start to work out a fund raising campaign, based on what the railway needs over the next ten years
     
  15. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    No I do not speak for the Plc Board. As others have indicated, (in childish ways), one particular Trustee has been a
    good friend and colleague for some years. Suggestions that I am some sort of lackey clearly are from those
    who do not know me.

    Tom's post clearly fails to understafnd a key issue. I will spell it our (sorry Mr Coleby). The main reason
    AFAIK for the falling out between the members of the Plc Board and their Chairman was his attempts
    with the WSRA Chair amongst other matters to remove two of his directors by very underhand means.
    As I said 'a grubby little plotSorry chaps but youforced it from me ! I thought my posting was clear
    enough but obviously not. When a Board ceases to trust what their Chairman is saying IMHO there
    is little hope, the Chair has to go.

    Regarding business plans, the former Chair from what I understand does not come out of this well,
    but here I am dependent on hearsay.

    I have family visiting this weekend. I will not be able to comment further for a few days.

    Michael Rowe
     
  16. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    A sequence of unsubstantiated smear and innuendo that would do Fleet Street proud. Nothing definitive, no mention of other factors, yet all pouring scorn on the subject of the coup. Poor show.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  17. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Thank you.

    So, based on what the WSRplc Board or their friends have said publicly, the WSRplc Directors removed Ian as Chairman because they viewed his checking with the WSRA Chairman that a proposal to which, rightly or wrongly, Ian had understood as being to co-opt a second WSRA rep. to the WSRplc Board was WSRA policy as a 'grubby little plot'? Do I have this correct? In other words, they expected him to proceed with this co-option in secret without verifying that it was approved by the Board of the organisation the Director concerned was being presented as representing. (I accept that this report of events came from the WSRA statement, but I have not seen any denial of this reading of the proposal or other comment upon it from those who made it, who are NP members).

    I don't believe that there is any indication that the WSRplc Board, of which Ian was at the time Chairman, has made any attempt to remove any Directors (actually including Ian), though the lack of information means this possibly did happen and was defeated. The outside world simply doesn't know.

    Finally, am I correct that no business plans put forward by Ian, or indeed anyone else, have been rejected by the WSRplc Board in the last year?

    Steven
     
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  18. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    As Ian was named as having (allegedly) blocked progress, that horse to some extent has already bolted.

    As Mr Maunsell is choosing to spend more time with his family (as they say in politics), we will keep the simple and rather obvious questions warm so they can be answered when he returns.
     
  19. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    Since this is a matter of fact I am happy to answer. You are correct. The articles permit up to 10 trustees on the trustee board. Therefore the election was uncontested. Those retiring by rotation and seeking re-election were elected along with the 3 trustees who re-joined the trustee board as the public record shows. There was a vote on the day taken by show of hands in order to allow members to express themselves. The show of hands confirmed the appointments in all cases. (The use of the word unanimous is incorrect in all cases. The correct words in all cases would have been overwhelming majority.) For clarity Mike Lea was re-co-opted by the trustees at the July 2018 trustee meeting. Mike has considerable expertise in charity finance and sits as a trustee for other un-related charities. He did not offer himself for election at the 2018 AGM as he did not have the required qualifying membership period. He will offer himself for election at the next AGM.
    As a sidebar it would have actually been a matter of candidate conscience if the members had indicated disapproval of any candidate. Most readers here will be aware of the passion I have for contested elections as it allows members to actually elect the trustees that they want. Sadly in the modern world too few come forward.
     
  20. Jeff Price

    Jeff Price Well-Known Member

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    Please note the following is speculation and rumour

    One of the Mess Room rumour is that a local (and the key word is local) business man was going to be co-opted to the board bringing with him a couple of advisers.
    As we see this has not happen at the last board meeting

    Details of who. what and why are not known.

    Golf course and Chalets were not mentioned

    Again only mess room talk, speculation and rumour

    Jeff Price
     
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