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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. daveb

    daveb Member

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    I think your maths is slightly off, but that can be forgiven under the circumstances!! According to Companies House there are 10 current trustees, including the 3 recently co-opted. In addition, there are definitely 10 candidates, possibly 11 including Dan Lehmann. I have no idea about the 12th one. So, if all are elected, there might be 20, 21 or 22. E&OE.

    Confused? Yep!
     
  2. ikcdab

    ikcdab Well-Known Member

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    As you will see below, its Charity Commission guidance. Not something invented by the WSSRT.

    yes, there are just so many ignorant comments on this thread...

    Lets try and clear this all too, once and for all.
    As everybody on this forum knows, anyone can become a trustee, assuming they meet the basic laid down criteria. This is usually found in charity articles, statute law etc. They are nominated, they are on the ballot slip and the members vote. That is the basic legal process and is the one which the 14 (now 10) chose to follow.

    This process can create an ad-hoc board of people who do not necessarily gel together or who may have an unbalanced mix of skills, knowledge and experience. This is not best for the charity.
    Recognising this shortcoming, the Charity Commission recommends that this process is supplemented by a selection process, which includes deciding on the skills required, advertising, interviewing and selecting preferred candidates. The full Charity Commission guidance can be seen here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publi...rustees#vetting-trustees-prior-to-appointment Para 2.2 talks about interviews.

    This is the process which the WSSRT has adopted. We advertised in June against particular criteria and recruited new trustees who we know will fit with what the charity needs. In particular we wanted to become more diverse and we are pleased that we have done so through that process. The PLC uses a similar procedure and so does the WSRA (or at least it used to when I was recruited, I dont know what they do now). As far as i can tell, virtually every other charity I can find adopts a similar process. It is the normal thing to do.

    It is not a "recent invention" as @WSSRTcandidates suggest, nor is it 'managed democracy' (@Big Al ) nor is it "Only yes man , or women need apply then" as per @martin1656. It is the process recomended by the Charity Commission.

    This why the "ten" were offered the opportunity of an interview, but as they have said, all of them refused to follow this aspect of Charity Commission guidance. To be fair to them, there is no obligation to do so, they can proceed as they wish and the members will decide. Its just obvious (to me anyway) that 14 (now 10) appearing out of the blue at the last minute without following the guidance is bound to raise questions.

    So, thats why we are where we are. The WSSRT is following the laid down guidance.

    I could add far more, but i have probably given you enough to chew on for now.

    Ian Coleby
     
  3. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Oh, sorry, yes, max 22 if everyone elected, including the mystery 12th candidate.
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    @ikcdab - it’s very clear from what you write that you don’t believe the approach of @WSSRTcandidates is the correct one. But that is essentially a negative: it states what you don’t want, but not what you do.

    So what is your positive prescription for a peaceful - and I might add sustainable - Somerset? What does a successful West Somerset heritage railway look like to you?

    Tom
     
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  5. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    But... but...

    The problem with this line of defence, factual though it is, is that the process of interview and selection places power in the hands of those interviewing and selecting. In this instance we come back, again, to the questions of the objectives of the existing trustees and those who seek to be elected. Given the fundamental difference in views of the position of WSSRT, it is hard to imagine how this process could work.

    While I support the @WSSRTcandidates as a slate, I do so in the knowledge that their candidacy would be if described in business terms, a hostile takeover. Not hostile to the WSSRT, but to the views of those currently leading WSSRT.

    As such, it is entirely reasonable that the trustees of WSSRT lay out why they support certain candidates, and disagree with others. I don't even have a particular problem with this being expressed emotionally - if we weren't emotionally invested in the organisations we get involved in, we wouldn't get involved in them. What I do struggle with are the ethics of the tactics that have been deployed, attacking the opposition in overwhelmingly negative terms. Even if some of "the 10" are new members, others are of long standing and have well attested records within the WSR as a whole. The picturing them as a barbarian horde, descending on the peaceful vale of Taunton Deane to rape and pillage the Trust just doesn't ring true. I'm especially disappointed that someone I've long respected as a calm, sensible voice within the WSR should be voicing that rather than, as @Jamessquared suggested as I was typing, a positive sense of how the WSR can be brought to peace and harmony.
     
  6. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    All the above reads as being eminently sensible and according to accepted practice in relation to the election of Trustees. Were we having this conversation about a set of circumstances in a 'steady state' situation elsewhere then I could see that it would work as you say, especially as it would be unheard of to suddenly find a dozen people popping up to become Trustees.
    in the first place.

    Now let's turn to reality in West Somerset where there is a problem of a scale that is almost unprecedented. It's obvious to an outsider that the upcoming elections are intended to force a change in the make up of the WSSRT so as to change 'the narrative' for the better. So the first question to ask is "Why is all this necessary and what has the WSSRT been doing to create the circumstances where people connected with the Railway feel it is necessary?"

    I wouldn't begin to answer that question except to observe that if things have got to this stage then there just has to be a massive disconnect between those who run the Railway through its many and various groups and those who support it.

    So, without knowing what the outcome might be, common sense tells me that this boil needs to be lanced.
     
  7. Lplus

    Lplus Member

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    Indeed; the assumption that the incumbents know what is best for the charity and/or what is wanted by the members is not an assumtion that can be confidently made at this point - if at all.
     
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  8. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    May I ask a question, both @WSSRTcandidates & @ikcdab might like to reply.

    @Andy Norman has stated that external funders are not happy with the 'two charity' arrangement around the WSR.

    Firstly does anyone disagree with this, if they do please say so & explain why it isnt the case

    If @Andy Norman is correct, please can those that support the status quo explain why they wish the WSSRT to remain as a separate body and why, in the alternative can they outline how they can change the WSSRT so that it doesnt cause an issue with external funders.

    Secondly there are the carriages, at least one unique owned by the WSSRT. While one is nearly completely restored, there are another nine stored in the open. Time is of th essence at least getting them undercover, what are the plans to ensure that they dont rot before they are restored?
     
  9. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    If only ten candidates were offered an interview, rather than the fifteen who originally applied, that means that five had already been harassed into withdrawing their applications by the time the interviews were offered. Given that that time was described as "utterly vile" by one of the candidates to me, I find it entirely reasonable of the surviving ten to refuse an interview with the Trustees, who, even if they weren't behind any of the persuasion tactics, hadn't spoken out against them either.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  10. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    I would say that the underlying issue at the WSR is actually illustrated by this post, which is the attempt to run a business largely staffed by volunteers and relying on donations as if it was an ordinary business.
     
  11. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Let me deal with the fundraising point. For the 6 or 7-figure awards that others have achieved and the WSR will need for a long term future a much simplified structure and a single charitable voice would vastly improve our prospects.

    I say that From my experience as a grant-maker from the Hinkley Fund as well as an applicant in a number of charitable funding bids.

    The present structure will limit grants to smaller amounts - 4 and 5-figures - and the 3-charity model being promoted by the Plc would be worse.

    Rapid progress with the heritage carriage project is a function of fundraising efficiency.

    Robin
     
  12. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Thanks for the clarification.
     
  13. I'm a tad surprised post #33719 hasn't generated a single comment, although it has gained 10 likes. I consider the proposal rather important and expected some debate.
     
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  14. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    It speaks for itself. There is no good reason why anyone should oppose it.

    As for the final sentence in that post, I am relieved to read of that apology, and hope that it is a token of a less toxic interaction over the next few weeks.
     
  15. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    I suspect we are all waiting to hear what response you get :)
     
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  16. snappertim

    snappertim Member

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    We are fast approaching the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month when the guns fell silent.

    Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
     
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  17. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    That would be wonderful, but my money is on the Trusteeship of the WSSRT to break the ceasefire. such is the toxicity now that, its going to take revolution, not Evolution to sort out the WSR and its various bodies.
     
  18. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    Neither of the charities specifically align themselves to the West Somerset Railway in their governing documents. Indeed there is no mention of the railway at all and I do wonder whether they would ever be successful in targeting high value grants to assist the railway. In my opinion the railway does need a more focused charity, similar to the North York Moors Historical Railway Trust and I do wonder whether that is behind John Bailey's proposal for a third charity. It would then leave the WSRA and the WSSRT free to to focus on their wider charitable objectives.

    Edited because I didn't delete an earlier response that I stated to type.
     
  19. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    That may be, but - as you'll have read - it is John's alignment to a plc centric view of what that organisation might be that has provoked reaction. The possibility that either or both may change their objectives seems to have been discounted in favour of what seems to be both a more complicated model and something that ignores the practical affiliation of both organisations to the Minehead branch.

    I wish I didn't need to say this, but I will add that although I disagree strongly with @Lineisclear, I firmly believe him to have done his work in good faith and with a view towards what he believes to be the right outcome.
     
  20. WSSRTcandidates

    WSSRTcandidates Member

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    Ian, the timing of the interview invitations was interesting. Just to recap:

    Thursday 3rd September - nomination forms of "the 14" (as we were then) lodged at WSSRT HQ.

    Friday 4th September - WSSRT postpones the AGM: http://www.wssrt.co.uk/2020/09/04/a-statement-by-the-trust/

    Saturday 5th September - press release issued by the PLC condemning our actions as a 'hostile takeover', and stating that, "The WSR plc will....do everything within its power to support the existing WSSRT trustees to repel this attempted and hostile takeover" etc etc etc: https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/news/detail/letter-to-shareholders-volunteers-staff

    Saturday 5th / Sunday 6th September - lots of phone calls, e-mails, Whatsapp, Facebook messages etc from WSSRT and PLC board members and advisors trying to persuade the 14 candidates to withdraw their nominations. 5 succumb to the pressure. 1 extra is recruited, taking number to 10.

    Thursday 10th September - letter from Chris Austin to members of the WSSRT stating reasons for AGM postponement. "....hostile takeover.....", "....clandestine and disruptive.....", "....effectively prevents us seeking further external funding until this threat is removed...." etc etc etc

    Friday 11th September - article in the West Somerset Free Press - repeating much of the above, quotes from Chris Austin.

    Saturday 17th September - the "three Chairman" statement: http://www.wssrt.co.uk/2020/09/17/wsr-shared-vision/. I think this is where the "Trojan Horse" rhetoric first appeared, but it may have been earlier.

    Monday 28th September - invitations to interview start to arrive with candidates.

    Sunday 11th October - co-option of three new WSSRT board members announced - Helen Anson, Matt Jackson, Mike Thompson. Noting that these three candidates, taking the number on the board from 7 to 10, did not appear as candidates on the original AGM papers sent out 25th August: http://www.wssrt.co.uk/2020/10/11/new-trustees-welcomed/

    I have probably missed some intermediate events. More has happened since of course.

    So, we would be interested to know, what happened between 4th September and 28th September? What part of 'good governance', or the Charity Commission's guidance, covers the public denigration of Trust members and interference of third parties in the running of the democratic process? If there was a process to follow, why were we only invited to be part of it a good 24 days and a whole lot of negative press later? None of this negative press, I should just add, was initiated by us.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020

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