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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Anne C-B

    Anne C-B Member

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    I think that's nonsense.

    Most of the stations, if not all, have their own groups which seem to be fairly autonomous and are very effective so there is no reason to get rid of them. In their case KISS.

    If you want to wipe the history slate clean then your new support organisation would need trustees who've never held posts at the WSR and with the churn over recent years we've run out of them.

    Finally. I don't see how you can make such a proposal until after the PLC AGM next month when they emerge from their silence and we've heard what they have to say for themselves.
     
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  2. jnc

    jnc Member

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    The suggestion was more rhetorical than serious.

    But clearly it's going to take something major to break the habit/cycle of invidious commentary between groups. Maybe we should tattoo 'One Railway!' on everyone's foreheads.

    Noel
     
  3. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Truly excellent effort by FOMS. It really puts the WSRA to shame considering the size of the cash mountain they are sitting on.
     
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  4. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    What cash mountain would that be, Peter?

    Robin
     
  5. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    You're right. When I get around to culling my enormous book collection (I'll be cursed by my family if I don't do it before my demise), this looks a good place to take the surplus items, to raise some funds for the cause. Readers Halt is pretty good for buying books in the first place!
     
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  6. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Agreed that it is indeed very hard to pass by without being tempted. A great example of what dedicated voluntary effort can achieve - much like the rest of the Railway in fact.

    Robin
     
  7. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    P reasonable reserves
    The last WSRA accounts show free reserves of £426,031. Cash amounted to, £346,109. I think that justifies the use of the word mountain. I accept that it is prudent to keep reasonable reserves. Nevertheless in comparison to FOMS it seems that FOMS has been more generous. QED
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
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  8. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Sigh.

    No. An over-simplification of the position.

    Off to court today so no time to explain in detail.

    Robin
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
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  9. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    As somebody from outside the 200 mile limit for comment, I still remain confused by many aspects of the West Somerset Railway. It can also seem that the West Somerset Railway remains confused by the operation of Charities!

    A few random questions from recent posts:
    1. We hear much about the excellent work of the Station Groups, and the recent reported FoMS fundraising is clearly most impressive, but I remain no clearer as to what legal form the Station Groups take or which organisation they are part of? The question may seem boring but, if something went wrong in the course of their activities, their leaders would need to know the answer!
    2. A supporting charity can make grants that are both a) within its aims (take care drafting them - we have done this to death) and b) allowed by any Restrictions on the funds it holds. Any 'charity' is under these duties. Hence, as has been discussed ad nauseum on here, much as the WSRplc clearly believes any cash held by the WSRA should just be handed over to WSRplc (an underlying cause of the issues, I suspect), the Trustees would be in breach of their duties and probably committing an offence to simply do that, especially where the funds are Restricted Funds and the 'handing over' was not the stated purpose for which they were raised.
    3. A supporting Charity may be raising, say, £150,000 for an agreed scheme supporting an operating company. At a year-end, it has raised £75,000, which it has in the bank. Does it hand the money over or wait until it has the whole sum? The answer has to be 'it depends'. If progress can be made on the project and it is expected it can be fully funded, then payments can be made to allow progress (though not, I would suggest, simply 'handing the cash over'). If it is a one-off purchase that pays the full £150,000 at one go, or the operating company has possible financial issues that means the money may not be available for its intended purpose when required, then the Charity would do well to hang on to the cash until it is all available!
    4. What is now in place to further raising funds from external bodies for the 'West Somerset Railway family'? Who is now heading this up? Does the West Somerset Railway still want such funds, and, if not, how does it intend t6o fund its continued existence?
    5. Volunteers must still be subject to the disciplinary processes of WSRplc. All in safety critical rules must be part of the SMS management of competency. Generally, 'employees' for Health & Safety law purposes don't have to be paid, so H&S rules apply to volunteers and paid staff alike. If 'HR policies' don't now apply to volunteers, how are disputes under any of these areas which must apply to volunteers for WSRplc to meet its statutory commitments to be dealt with? Is it a case that a member of paid staff being disciplined has a right of appeal but a volunteer doesn't? How does WSRplc, having disapplied 'HR policies' to volunteers, manage any complaints under national (and international) law on discrimination? Does the situation create a particular group of WSRplc workers without protection when others in the same group have it for whatever reason?
    6. What is the long term recovery plan? How does the WSRplc intend to fund the £500,000 per annum it has identified as being needed to keep going? (The figure does not sound unreasonable, given the lack of spending on infrastructure for some time that was obvious to any reader of the accounts with a knowledge of other lines of similar length).
    7. WSRplc has, apparently, passed volunteer recruitment to the WSRA. However, volunteers will still (generally) work for WSRplc, and will need training and certifying as competent by WSRplc, certainly in safety critical roles. As holder of the Safety Certificate, WSRplc will still be responsible for competency management. At what point are the volunteers 'handed over' from WSRA recruitment to WSRplc management? What processes are in place to ensure that potential volunteers are pointed in the right direction for their skills?
    8. It may be past history now, but how was the 'crisis' avoided last winter? How did a Company with a net worth per its 31st December 2017 Balance Sheet of just under £3.5 million narrowly avoid liquidation just over a year later? Was an adequate overdraft and cash flow plan in place and, if not, why?
    To an 'outsider', it can seem that to some, retaining their own element of 'control' of the West Somerset Railway may be a more important priority than ensuring that there is West Somerset Railway to control!

    Steven
     
  10. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Would you hand over £300k + of cash to a Company that admits/claims it has narrowly avoided calling in the receivers? The Trustees would struggle to explain such a move to the Charity Commissioners if the cash was lost in a Company failure!

    Steven
     
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  12. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Of course not!
     
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  13. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Some background: Friends of Minehead Station is a 'not for profit organisation', As per its Facebook
    account the £100K was spent ( will be ) on specific projects , ie rail replacement , the repairs
    to theAvill Bridge and the canopy on Minehead station ie not 'handing over £100K in cash'.

    Regarding the WSRA: my understanding ( according to the WSRA 2018 audited accounts) is the auditor wished to see cash reserves to cover three months operations. Operation costs are
    always capable of being treated elasically e.g. currently work is being carried out on 9351,
    presumably funded by restricted reserves. I assume all restricted reserves should be
    covered by secured cash reserves ?

    Additionally according to the recent WSSRT minutes the PLC is considering a five month
    shut next winter. ( presumably a decision will be made ahead of the September PLC AGM )

    If we assume that 'costs' to be covered are : staff salaries, property costs and support and
    general ( minus depreciation ) then we are considering 5/12 of £282K ie c £120K plus
    £88K of restricted funds. ( If only 3 months costs then £72K plus £88K )

    This suggests, assuming cash reserves are still c. £340K that the WSRA can afford to
    match the £100K spent by FOMS on infrastructure works that fall within 'Charitable
    Guide lines' ?

    Reference question 8: The PLC just scraped through the 2017/8 break. According to
    the then FD he managed the cash flow such that the worst scenario was
    minus £10K ( I do not know if this involved payments held back etc. ). There was
    at that time an overdraft facility available which was subsequently cancelled in
    April ( I think the date is correct. )

    Concerns that some of us had during the 2017/8 winter shut were previously
    aired on this site? The then failure to act ( ie immediately reduce the overhead)
    turned the possibility of the 'sh one t' hitting the fan come 2018 year end
    from a possibility to a certainty. This led to the, apparently to some, 'Draconian'
    actions by the PLC Board at year end. However the past is the past, hopefully
    lessons have been learnt. You ignore cash flow at your peril.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  14. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    All. very valid questions that have already been asked and no response. As for the station groups as far as I am aware are all unincorporated bodies none are registered charities. They were always loosely affiliated to the WSR PLC. Members were all subject to the WSR disciplinary code. I have no idea if this has changed under the new arrangements. I have similar doubts to you about how thelegalrquirements will be met in future.
     
  15. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    My feelings exactly. However Robin claims this is an “oversimplification”. My response to that is round objects:mad:.:D
     
  16. 45076

    45076 Member

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    Presumably a problem with 7752 as 7828 is on 1005 MD-BL this morning.
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    So Friends of Minehead Station is a not for profit organisation and separate from the WSRplc/WSRA/whatever, with its own accounts and management. Simple question, is it a limited liability organisation? A search of Companies House found friends of lots of stations but not Minehead. Where do the liabilities lay?
     
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  18. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Thank you Michael.

    The phrase I have highlighted would seriously concern me had I been involved with WSRplc - I presume this means the overdraft facility was withdrawn (as opposed to repaid), and I further presume that must have been by the bank? Whether in or around April, how come it took several months for actual action (I know that warnings had been made for some months at this point)? Knowing a bit about the general shape of any seasonal, tourist business (especially preserved railway) cash flows, loss of the Overdraft (if that is what you meant) even in or around April must have caused severe difficulties and highlighted that, unless it could be reinstated, the coming winter would lead to running out of cash, no matter what the asset position (again, typically for such a Company, Fixed Assets exceed actual Net Worth so some element of 'borrowing' of some sort is inevitable). The accounts don't give details of the charge backing the Overdraft Facility, but if the bank did indeed withdraw the facility from a Company with £3.7 million Net Book Value of assets, some of which would be moderately 'easy to sell' (even if nobody would want to sell rolling stock, for example) would raise some very serious questions as to what prompted the bank to do that!

    On the other hand, you also suggest that the Overdraft was little used - which again seems a little surprising and if that was the case, would both considerably reduce the seriousness of its withdrawal but also raise further questions about why the bank bothered to withdraw it, if, indeed, that is what you were referring to.

    The 2017 Accounts were also signed in April 2018, and gave the required reassurances about 'Going Concern', which the auditors accepted. This would seem 'brave' if the Overdraft facility had been cancelled or was considered to be at risk.

    Steven

    Steven
     
  19. thequantocks

    thequantocks New Member

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    Will you need to become a member of the WSRA to volunteer in future?
     
  20. I can't see that as likely. A Steam Trust volunteer should not need to join another organisation just to continue as a Steam Trust volunteer.

    As I understand it, the WSRA has been asked by the Plc to resume its (former) role of volunteer recruitment. This role also seems to include placement. The WSRA clearly will have a plan and a duty to ensure placement (or re-placement) is appropriate. That might include placement with (for example) the Steam Trust or perhaps one of the Station Groups. Whether the WSRA will also have a pastoral role (including representing the placed volunteer at times of conflict/complaint) remains to be made clear. The operating company's rules, regs and policies will rightly apply to all volunteers. At least that is my understanding. I'm sure Mike S will be along soon to clarify.

    Steve
     

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