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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. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    It could appear that some of the railway 'kingpins' (PLC and Association) have, at one time or another, possibly attended seminars on 'how to become a successful politician'. :D
    35B mentioned Fleet Street, some posts back, but Westminster seems equally, if not more, appropriate.
    I have the greatest sympathy for folk like Faol who want a 'one railway', but I believe there are too many involved in the WSR who have their own agenda for this to happen. It may have existed sometime in the past but the last few years certainly give a different view to those looking on.
     
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  2. Jamie Glover

    Jamie Glover Member

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    Having read Michael Rowe's various Emails containing his statements relating to Ian Coleby, I can only hope that at the next WSRplc AGM Maunsell is sent packing in the same manner that the WRSA's ex 6+1 were given the Heave Ho some time ago.

    Maunsell should realise quickly that most WSR stake holders were very content with Mr. Coleby's leadership.

    If Maunsell's fingers are in future to remain inserted into the WSRplc's board room pie? I for one, being an elderly batchelor with railway interests, intend to seriously conside re writing my will. No doubt other stake holders are thinking along the same lines?

    Up to a few days ago there existed a 'One Railway' that had begun to operate in a way that delighted most stakeholders. Now we once again have a board room shambles created by a small group of malcontents who I'm sure the WSRplc could well do without.

    Judging by the comments made on this and other forums by WSR stake holders; the WSRplc board is now left with a stark choice. Either reinstate their former chairman or alternatively face the outrage of the entire railway family and it's inevitable consequences.

    Jamie.
     
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  3. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Would this have any connection with the almost legendary Schrödinger’s cat? :Googleit: I am beginning to thing that understanding the last 18 pages is easier than comprehending quantum theory. Would we really need 2 station cats or could they coexist in different universes? Alternatively has some kind of reality distortion field suddenly appeared in West Somerset as a result of a failed experiment in Cupertino? Simpler perhaps is that it is all to do wth Alice in Wonderland. No doubt I shall get all the blame.:(:(
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
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  4. patriarch

    patriarch New Member

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    It's all very well for the two most powerful protagonists to talk about 'One Railway' but they are like two tectonic plates that will always be subject to spontaneous earthquakes. In my humble opinion, no real progress can be made until we all say 'One organisation, one railway'. Will/can a merger between WSRplc and WSRA happen? I have no idea ? But something needs to happen, and fast; no more re-organising the deck-chairs, please.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
  5. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    Let’s see the people involved working together properly first. All those in this fiasco have recent WSRA and plc involvement.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  6. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    Well I am absolutely sure I work for One Railway. On Tuesday I will travel to Williton into the Swindon shed which is currently owned by the plc and leased to Restorations at no cost. The Wagon Team have the MoD Brake Van there. Also in the shed is 6695 for overhaul, 5542,s second autocoach, WSRA's 4561 mainly and an ex NCB tank being restored for an outside owner. In the yard is D1010 of DEPG, Ryan's fireless loco. 2 Mk1's having their underframes overhauled for an outside company and an inspection saloon and two Plasser track laying cranes waiting dispatch to their owners. In the yard are 2 GWR coaches undergoing restoration by the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust and several other GWR coaches awaiting restoration and finally several wagons of the 813 fund under restoration. I note I have never seen any hostility between anyone on site who all get along as One Railway.
    Whilst I am there on Tuesday the steps and running boards purchased by the WSR plc will be cut, painted and fixed to the MoD brake using a superb new mitre saw supplied by the WSRA fixed on to a special Saw support bench donated by a keen supporter. On Wednesday the timber for the walls will arrive, it has been purchased with money raised by crowd funding managed and underwritten by the WSRA. It will be painted with industrial paint purchased by the PLC and will re-enter service as a multi-group project. Just because the plc Board seems to have got itself in a huge muddle please do not assume that the whole railway is going to the dogs. The WSR is One Railway it has almost always been one and always will be one. Like other concerns it has its hiccups and perhaps this last few years have been a bit rough. However the WSRA put itself to rights and the plc can do the same, it needs a bit of tidying up and maybe a wave goodbye to one or two. As an ex plc Director I did 2 years towards the end of my very long heritage railway career, in my working career I was a Senior Executive of BT and a Director of East Bristol Enterprise. I enjoyed returning to the rough and tumble of board room politics but 2 years was enough. So if you have Board room experience put your name forward. The PLC needs good men and women to step forward and then we will not get into a position where unsuitable candidates can be foisted on to management boards. Come on we need YOU.
     
  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Looking at that breakdown of events, what strikes me is that there are lots of names coming and going, but it's not clear what each director is responsible for. In other words, someone goes, someone else comes. As opposed to - the loco director goes, so we need someone with the skills to replace that portfolio.

    Does the WSR plc board have a set of portfolios that it aims to cover? I looked at the website, and see six names (no names, no pack drill - this is about roles, not personalities):

    The members of the Board are:
    (Director)
    (Infrastructure)
    (HR Director)
    (Voluntary Recruitment)
    The General Manager,
    Finance Director​

    Which feels a bit thin - which director has responsibility for rolling stock, say, or commercial, or operations?

    On the Bluebell, the PLC board (which is the operational and executive body in our set up) is made up as follows:

    Chairman
    Company Secretary
    C&W Director
    Commercial Director
    Communications Director
    Finance Director
    Infrastructure Director
    Locomotive Director
    Operations Director
    Retail Director
    Safety Director
    Non-Executive Director (BRPS Chairman)

    The BRPS chairman represents the membership, via the Society which is the majority shareholder (akin, but with greater clout borne from a majority shareholding, to the WSRA representative on the PLC board). You then have Chairman, Company Secretary, Finance Director and a series of directors covering the main technical and commercial roles. That has a couple of implications: one is that everyone knows what they are responsible for. More importantly with respect to the issue at large, it also means that if a director stands down, you know what skills you need to find in the replacement. Whereas I can't help wonder whether whenever there is vacancy on the WSR PLC board, the recruitment process has been more about "which person will get appointed" rather than "what skills do we need to ensure are covered".

    Clearly, personality is important up to a point, as the board have to work together. But surely the starting point should be "how do we ensure there is direction for all the key roles?" As things stand, it looks like there are great gaps where no-one on the board has overt directorial accountability: not least in commercial and rolling stock. You can't leave all the gaps to the General Manager.

    Tom
     
  8. Barrie the Beer

    Barrie the Beer Well-Known Member

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    Don't worry Jamie, Mr Rowe is not presently a WSR plc board member, at least not so far as we know.

    Despite Frank Courtney's apparent co-option to the plc board over five weeks ago, the Company has yet to communicate news of that co-option to shareholders, stakeholders or anyone else except Companies House. The fact is not mentioned within any of their recent statements or press releases. Curious.

    Their corporate information page on WSR plc's official website also fails to recognise his appointment, yet it has recently been updated to remove the chairman designation from Ian Coleby's entry:

    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/corporate-information

    Perhaps Frank isn't hanging around long enough to be worthy of recording.

    All this is in stark contrast to WSRA's timely and accurate notification and recording of such changes. I look forward to the day WSR plc follow suit and think it will surely come when the right folks are at the helm. What happened to the mooted plc board meeting synopsis reports? Faol sounds rather impressed with the company secretary. Let's see if RM can impress the rest of us by communicating effectively and efficiently with shareholders and stakeholders.
     
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  9. Barrie the Beer

    Barrie the Beer Well-Known Member

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    Some observations on WSR cross directorship arrangements:

    In days long past a reciprocal arrangement existed. A single WSRA Trustee sat on the plc Board, giving representation to the Association, and a single WSR plc Director sat on the WSRA Board to give corresponding representation to the plc. The arrangement appeared to work well, to mutual benefit. For many years it was the plc managing director that sat on WSRA's Board. That post no longer exists, although nowadays the plc general manager is also a full director of the plc. Doesn't that actually make him a managing director?

    I note the Steam Trust have recently politely declined an invitation to nominate a WSSRT Trustee to represent them on WSR plc's Board.
     
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  10. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Some 25 years ago the WSRA bailed the WSR plc out of a crisis (this was before the WSRA took charitable status). It was then agreed that the WSRA would have three Directorships on the WSR plc Board, usually the WSRA Chairman, vice Chairman and Secretary.

    Over time this faded and was abandoned when the WSRA X6 set themselves against the WSR plc. Some common Directors between the organisations are, in principle, IMHO, a good idea.

    Robin
     
  11. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    Your hammer hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head, there, Tom. The ORR have serious concerns that heritage railways are run by people elected by popularity and not ability. As an outsider, it strikes me that both WSR boards are essentially populated by the former method. Individuals may have ability in various spheres but this appears to be more by accident than design. It may be an unfortunate consequence of the constitution of the WSRA but this is surely not the case with the PLC.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
  12. mvpeters

    mvpeters Member

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    Seems like a very sensible arrangement to me.
     
  13. Robin

    Robin Member

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    As an outside observer I would go further and say it was absolutely essential if 'One Railway' is to have any sort of meaning. (also IMHO)

    For comparison, the SVR's three companies each have 2 (or more) directors on the others' boards.
     
  14. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    Just to clarify a bit when I was on the Board last year we had the following, Chairman, Governance & CoSec, Infrastructure, Safety Audit, Finance, Heritage, Mechanical Engineering, HR, Volunteer, Commercial, Strategic Planning, Comms and PR and 2 associate directors.
     
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  15. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Well if none of the present Directors will accept the Chair what alternative do they have but to seek to co-op someone who will undertake this odious responsibility that could ultimately decide the fate of our beloved railway before the Somerset County Council revoke the lease and make their own arrangements
     
  16. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    On what basis do you think SCC have the legal power let alone the inclination to do that? SCC is in a complete financial mess already without adding to their troubles.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
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  17. gwilialan

    gwilialan Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps it's time for an amendment to the Articles to require a director to have served on the Board for at least a year (?) before they are eligible to stand for the Chair. That might stops 'mates' being co-opted into a senior role.

    Going back a page or two (so many comments on here I can't keep up :() I wonder at the accusation (if that's the right word?) that the then chair "stopped" a business plan that was presented to him. Firstly I'd say that any such presentation would be to the Board as a whole and not a single individual and secondly even if the chair didn't like it there are plenty of other directors who could have voted to accept it and over-ridden the Chair's opinion, after all, that's why you have a Board and not a dictator.

    Is it being said then that none of the rest of the Board ever knew about the business plan or was it a case of no support for it from the other Directors? I can't see that a report would be prepared in total secrecy (after all this is the WSR... ;)) . If it was the case of no support for it then why is only the Chair being vilified? What has happened to those who wanted it but never spoke up then? Are they the ones making the noise now?

    So where is the new business plan? Where is the statement saying they are even preparing a new business plan? This silence does not bode will IMHO. If no one on the existing Board is prepared to take the chair and they prefer to co-opt a stranger (to hide behind I wonder?) then I wonder if any of them are actually suitable to be directors at all.
     
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  18. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    I don't understand any of this.

    Go back to when the WSRA EGM excluded the old Ex-6 trustees. Who was the WSRA Chairman that achieved this?

    Frank Courtney!

    I expressed my opinion privately to Peter that Frank was acting ultra vires at this time, but it suited the 'Reform Group' of which Robin was a major player, to ignore this, and go ahead with the EGM to achieve their aims.

    Hardly strict adherance to Company Law or protocol.

    He was then Robin White's 'best friend' as I believe an old locked thread shows. The Coombes Report was then going to be implemented, and major reform of the WSRA and it's umbrella structures acted upon.

    I don't know what caused Frank to resign from the WSR PLC board, then to shortly afterwards agree to be co-opted onto the WSR PLC board as a co-opted member that appears to have caused Robin to second a resolution to remove him as a WSRA trustee. Had Frank not resigned as a WSR PLC board member, he would presumably still hold that role without being subsequently co-opted? And he would still be a WSRA trustee/board member.

    So what is all the fuss about?

    And why the strict adherence to protocol last week by the WSRA when this was ignored to remove the old Ex-6 trustees of the WSRA so the 'Reform Group' could achieve one of it's aims?

    The remaining aims of the 'Reform Group' as set out in the Coombes Report have received skant attention subsequently, and no action apart from a very modest alteration to the Articles of Association that went far short of what Coombes proposed.

    Cheers,

    Julian
     
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  19. gwilialan

    gwilialan Well-Known Member

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    Just to lighten the mood for a brief while -

    Continuing with the speculation and rumour:-


    Did someone suggest that, to present a united front to the public, the Plc Board and the management of a local MH transport action group are to be combined?
    And a certain MH establishment is to be re-named the Railway link Hotel...?
     
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  20. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    The membership of the WSRA, by collective action using the appropriate processes, achieved removal of the X6, not any of us individually.

    Robin
     
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