If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

Lynton and Barnstaple - Operations and Development

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by 50044 Exeter, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. Tobbes

    Tobbes Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2010
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    2,581
    I don't disagree that that may be the attack line from 'the six', @Jamessquared, but it is clearly disengenuous - after all, they felt free to lie about even being under CC investigation, which is a level of brass neck that I didn't think that even they possessed. I suppose we'll know in a fortnight's time, and hopefully that's when the healing from this sorry episode can begin provided that the M&As fail.
     
    Biermeister and Isambard! like this.
  2. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    11,983
    Likes Received:
    10,199
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Have the CC actually told you this or is it simply your opinion? I would suggest it would be of more concern to grant funders than the CC. In real terms, the L&B is a piffling little charity of no real consequence.
     
    sycamore, echap, H Cloutt and 2 others like this.
  3. lynbarn

    lynbarn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2006
    Messages:
    1,531
    Likes Received:
    529
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Working in the NHS as a Maintenance Electrician
    Location:
    Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    You don't mean Bill Pryor do you :)
     
  4. lynbarn

    lynbarn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2006
    Messages:
    1,531
    Likes Received:
    529
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Working in the NHS as a Maintenance Electrician
    Location:
    Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I don't think the L&BR Trust is any longer a small piffling charity (a small charity was classed as a group raising less that £10,000 per year) but it has the potential to be a major influencer in North Devon if this is allowed to happen in the right way, also for a railway hauling 70,000 people per year is also not a small operation either.

    Your are correct with the CC investigating this would put off new members and possible sponsors as well, it could also be seen as being unstable, but if that is how you see it, then you have to ask yourself, just who got us into this situation in the first place?
     
    Biermeister and 35B like this.
  5. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    11,983
    Likes Received:
    10,199
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Small charities may be defined as being £10,000 or less but in terms of what the CC would probably take an active interest you are talking about millions. I’d like to see the L&B fall into that category but I’m not holding my breath.
    My gut feeling is that the complain will sit in someone’s in tray for a while and when it gets to the top will result in a response along the lines of it needs to be sorted by the trustees. I don’t think there’s any evidence of fraud to justify further intervention. Is there?
     
    Miff likes this.
  6. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    25,843
    Likes Received:
    24,530
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Financial fraud - no. But the way in which the Trust has been administered, including an outright lie as to whether the Commission are investigating, raises significant questions about the governance of the Trust, which potentially affect the wider credibility of the sector.

    Given that the investigation started nearly a year ago, and is acknowledged to be ongoing, I would be surprised if it is just in someone's in tray. As for a recommendation of the "it needs to be sorted by the trustees"; the whole issue here is about whether the trustees can be trusted to sort it.
     
  7. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2020
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    1,164
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Worcestershire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I'm delighted to be able to agree with my colleague at another heritage railway. Is there really an investigation or is the Charity Commission Commission simply asking the Trustees to respond to a complaint? There's a world of difference particularly of the complaint was made by anyone with an axe to grind.

    If, as could well be the case, the response from the CC is "Nothing to see here....move on" can we expect an apology from those that have found the Trustees guilty without trial?

    Similarly it seems the Information Commissioner is apparently being asked by the majority trustees to investigate potential misuse of the charity's membership database. Perhaps the same standard should have applied on here with an investigation into the minority's use of the database automatically implying guilt? If the Information Commissioner finds that such misuse occurred can we expect an apology from those who have asserted without reservation that it did not?

    It seems that the principle reason for proposed removal of "the three" Trustees is breach of confidentiality. The content of the Minority Report and postings on other web sites appear to provide proof of that. The claimed justification for them is an assumed primary duty to the members. For a charity that duty is actually to the public manifest as the Charity Commission. That's why, where wrongdoing is suspected, a concerned trustee should use the privilege that is only available to trustees of making a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission. Instead they chose a populist appeal to the membership which any amount of independent corporate governance guidance confirms is the very thing they should not have done because it was bound to cause the dissent and damage to the organisation that is all too apparent.

    No doubt their intentions were admirable but the misguided way in which the minority trustees have chosen to advance their cause appears to have undermined both it and them.
     
    Snail368 and H Cloutt like this.
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    25,843
    Likes Received:
    24,530
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    @Tobbes has attached a screenshot of correspondence with the Commission, at post #12043. There is a case ongoing, and it was raised the best part of a year ago. I believe that it has been accompanied by at least one Serious Incident Report.

    As an ordinary member, I find the idea that trustees cannot put information into the public domain because "confidentiality" trumps all a bizarre argument. As you will be well aware, the Charity Commission are very keen not to get involved within charity disputes, and prefer them to be resolved by the charity. If the claims in the Minority Report are correct - and the responses from the majority of trustees suggest that they are correct in their fundamentals - then these are absolutely matters that ordinary members are entitled to be aware of, and to be allowed to know to inform their choices over the direction of the Trust.

    As you raise the question of GDPR, I will note in passing that the membership secretary is using a personal gmail account despite the Trust having properly set up email domains; I note from my copy of the magazine that he is far from unique, although the individual most responsible for handling personal data. I personally have no issue with either the three or the six contacting me by email - it is why they have my email address, and I for one regard the communications from "three" and "six" as legitimate supply of information to members. But I do wonder what technical and organisational measures the Trust have in place with Google to protect mine and others' personal data, and how they would be able to meet their legal obligations were someone to exercise their rights under data protection law.

    In the face of an EGM called to approve a set of Articles that would have the effect of making the Trust board self-perpetuating and self-selecting, I think it's important for members to be able to make an informed choice about who they elect to lead their organisation.
     
  9. Old Kent Biker

    Old Kent Biker Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    Messages:
    902
    Likes Received:
    1,418
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    ex IT Consultant
    Location:
    Kent UK
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Admittedly it was back in August 2023, but a FOI request revealed no such complaint was in train at the ICO. The ICO response was:
    "I can confirm ... we have not received a personal data breach report matching your description (L&BR Trust or CIC)"
     
    Biermeister, Isambard! and Tobbes like this.
  10. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    3,878
    Likes Received:
    7,631
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Country
    From a practical point of view - and as a (retired) IT specialist with some modest experience in streamlining business systems - I have never understood why heritage railway groups (and others) which have an official e-mail domain do not have formal, mandatory usage of appropriate e-mail addresses based on function/position: eg chairman@......, secretary@...... etc.

    Two key reasons to do so:-
    1. Anyone wishing to contact (say) the Editor or the Membership Secretary or whoever can 'construct' the relevant address without needing to discover exactly who that individual is (a process that often is not as easy as it should be)
    2. Personnel change (Trustee elections permitting etc), so the (say) Editor may be Mr A one year but Mr B the next year. You don't want to have to keep editing your media every time that happens, which would be the case if personal e-mail was in use.
     
  11. Hampshire Unit

    Hampshire Unit Well-Known Member Friend

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    1,525
    Likes Received:
    2,954
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Carer, Gardener
    Location:
    Alresford
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    The Watercress Line actualy do this-came in around 2 years ago I think?
     
  12. Old Kent Biker

    Old Kent Biker Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    Messages:
    902
    Likes Received:
    1,418
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    ex IT Consultant
    Location:
    Kent UK
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    It is quite simple to manage (it must be - I do it for both EA and YVT!) and does look more professional. Several official email addresses can be forwarded to one ultimate recipient but then can be redirected as roles change.
    There is always a risk, as I understand occurred recently with the lynton-rail email server, when changes were made which locked several trustees out!
     
    Isambard! likes this.
  13. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    25,843
    Likes Received:
    24,530
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    From a church experience, I can suggest three possible factors:
    1. Cost (I have a forename.surname@ email account for church, which points to a generic account that goes with my role)
    2. Managing spread to cater for those who do work but aren't office holders.
    3. Technophobia
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    11,983
    Likes Received:
    10,199
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Tobbes did indeed post a screenshot of a response from the CC and I'd say that the response says it all when it says: "It should be noted that the Commission cannot, unless in specific exceptional circumstances, make decisions on behalf of the charity or become involved in the administration of the charity, that authority lies solely with the trustees." Put it bluntly it means the trustees should sort it out themself. I know that many on here don't want that as an answer but hanging any hopes on the Charities Commission meeting their aspirations is a forlorn one.
    I was talking to an L&B volunteer last week (I don't have a name) and whilst he was scathing about the 'six' he was equally scathing about the 'three'.
     
    Snail368 likes this.
  15. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    3,878
    Likes Received:
    7,631
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Country
    I should have added in my original message that I knew of some railways that did do this, but my point was that not all of them do. And the Trust and CIC seem to have a haphazard approach....
     
    lynbarn likes this.
  16. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    3,878
    Likes Received:
    7,631
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Country
    ...and I wonder if, like the WSRA saga, this will prove to be a case where "specific exceptional circumstances" are not defined? :-(
    It may prove to be the case sadly that the 'six' know this and feel that they can go on with complete disregard for all complaints 'cos they know that in the long run the CC will prove to be a disinterested 'paper' tiger' ?
     
  17. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2020
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    1,164
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Worcestershire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    A balanced and accurate assessment of the situation.
     
    Snail368 and Greenway like this.
  18. Tobbes

    Tobbes Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2010
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    2,581
    @Steve - as @35B said, at least one Serious Incident Report has gone in - which the CC will need to get to the bottom of. There's plenty to get into - there has been a disturbing pattern of behaviour by 'the six' which over the last 18 months alone includes:
    • systematically misrepresenting the Trust's financial postion, especially as it concerns the extension funds and the Old Station House Inn acquisition (@Michael B has been critical in surfacing these issues, for which we should all be grateful)

    • weaponising the disciplinary process against "enemies" (in reality, whistleblowers) whilst refusing to investigate any of their own Trustees or the Company Secretary for prima facie cases of gross misconduct and bringing the railway into disrepute (common assault; lying to national railway magazines; slandering Trustees)
    • creating Trust mailshots that speak only to their view without Board authorisation at more than £3,000 a time, to push their factional agenda whilst obviously denying the same opportunity to the minority 3;
    • failing their fairness obligations under s172(1)(f) of Companies Act 2006 to run the EGM agenda fairly (they added their own agenda items as six ordinary members and then refused - illegally - to allow other members to do the same)
    • attempting to control the selection of Trustee candidates through the current power grab (which I suppose is a small improvement on their attempt to throw out a valid nomination for last year's election in complete contravention of the M&As)
    I could go on (there's several hundred pages here to work through if you're really interested), but there's plenty in this list alone that would meet the CC requirements for removal and banning of Trustees - especially about the treatment of whistleblowers.

    Sadly, @Lineisclear seems perfectly content with these illegal and illegitimate actions by 'the six' whilst droning on endlessly about the importance of majoritarianism and the need to disenfranchise the members in order to protect existing management. I'd politely suggest that this tells you far more about him than about what's good for the future governance of the L&B. (And given what is said about morale at @Lineisclear 's own NYMR where he developed these ideas, perhaps he should be more concerned about that rather than pontificating about a situation where he seems to specialise in repeatedly demonstrating his ignorance.)
     
  19. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2020
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    1,164
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Worcestershire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
     
  20. 21B

    21B Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2009
    Messages:
    3,000
    Likes Received:
    6,493
    Unlike some posts on this forum.

    I agree that the charity commission is a very light touch regulator. However, it remains a fact that the charity remains under investigation at present. This is but one of many issues with the current majority of trustees. If we cannot trust them to be honest about such matters why should we trust them with an unfettered ability to prolong their tenure indefinitely and to select only similarly minded individuals as themselves?

    The majority of trustees have been in place for a long time and have achieved much. However, they also failed to deliver much of what they set out to do. Their failure was something that might have been averted had they been more open to receiving help, more encouraging of the sort of organisation necessary to deliver what they had determined was the right strategy. They failed their own exam question.

    Failure though is not a problem in itself. It can be the mark of a healthy organisation to try, but fail. What is a problem is to lie about the reasons for the failure. To attempt to obscure and divert from the failure by blaming other organisations, when this was not the case. And finally to expend enormous amounts of money on acquiring an asset at an inflated cost and allowing loan arrangements that are at the very least commercially questionable in what can only have been a diversionary tactic. In the process of all of that denuding a cash pile that was repeatedly overstated anyway and supposed to be reserved for a different purpose without a credible plan to ensure that the money would be available for that purpose when needed (and in the case of the bridge it is needed now).

    I am afraid that taken with the litany of poor and bad governance and administration it is impossible to conclude that the board should continue as it is. Significant changes in people and behaviour are required.

    This isn’t about good people and bad people. This is about whether the current board are sufficiently competent to be able to take the trust forwards. And just to be clear, I would be quite happy with a reasoned argument and a credible plan that did not include any extension of the line if after a sober review that were not in the current best interests of the trust and had been discussed and shared with the members. What is intolerable is the continuation of things as they are.
     

Share This Page