We at WSRA+ have tried to pull together from the Review Report a list of the Panel’s recommendations. Our list is publish below. It is not exhaustive. And given the extremely busy debate on other social media outlets, we have taken the liberty of adding a few comments, reversing what we said in the last article.

Given the complex nature of the Review Report, we have probably missed a recommendation or two. If so, we welcome advice and will do our best to add to the list. Sorry for length of this article.

Key recommendation

“All Trustees announce that they will cease office immediately to be replaced by new Trustees or an administrator with due process. The new Trustees would be given the responsibility of rebuilding the Association into a fit and proper organisation with a role and purpose for the benefit of the West Somerset Railway family and the wider public, in full consultation with the membership.” [see paragraph 53]

Comment: We agree with this recommendation although we fully appreciate the transfer to “new Trustees” must follow due process and thus the call for immediacy may not be possible although we do expect utmost expediency.

Other recommendations

“The Review Panel would wish see that in future Trustees should be able to demonstrate a level of competence and understanding of governance…In the meantime it is suggested that the induction process currently used is considerably strengthened.” (see paragraph 47)

Comment: We are not sure if it is a recommendation but we agree this is a good suggestion that should be followed through.

“Governance procedures should be redrawn to reflect the need for greater transparency and scrutiny of Trustee decisions and actions, by the membership, all board minutes with the exception of matters such as; personal data or commercially sensitive information to be published to the membership.” [see paragraph 58]

Comment: We absolutely agree with this recommendation.

“The Review recommends that the nature of that support [“the continued running of a heritage railway between Minehead and Taunton” – see Paragraph 124] be clarified, documented, consulted upon and agreed by the membership. The Review recommends that the principle purpose of the Association should be to fund educational, historical and capital projects (including the purchase of rolling stock) of a heritage benefit on and for the WSR family as a whole as set out in the strategic plans of the PDG. The Association’s funding should be raised from its members and from activities generally considered outside the operational boundaries of the WSR.” [see paragraph 125]

Comment: We need to check the detail of the “strategic plans of the PDG” as we are not sure what PDG has agreed. We do not anticipate a problem.

“While the Review recognises the efforts made by the Association in developing these activities and their importance to the organisational funding of the Association it considers that the overall Railway would be financially better off if these activities were wholly or partly under the control and ownership of the WSR Plc. The Steam Rally to remain the responsibility of the Association and more such activities encouraged and developed.” [see paragraph 128]

Comment: The report does not make clear if this is a recommendation. However, the following paragraph [129] states “The Review in making this finding is aware and understands the important ramifications of this recommendation.” so we take paragraph 128 to be a recommendation.

“The Review finds that the current relationship between the Trustees and the membership generally is poor with a lack of trust and respect on both sides. Further the Review finds that the current governance – policies and procedures and the day-to-day management is very weak. The Review recommends that wholesale change is required throughout the WSRA organisation. The Review recommends that the new Trustees implement best practice management policies and procedures throughout the organisation. Generally this is not seen as difficult and can be achieved by one or two key individuals; harder to change will be the ingrained culture this is why a complete and fundamental root and branch change is so necessary.” [see paragraph 131]

Comment: The first sentence is a fair conclusion given the evidence presented to the Review Panel – no fault on their part – but perhaps does not reflect the view of the whole membership. We accept the whole membership had the chance to make submissions and clearly chose not to. But that does not mean the “current relationship between the Trustees and the membership generally is poor with a lack of trust and respect on both sides.”, and rather the Report might have better narrowed the comment to “a substantial part of the membership” which is absolutely true and should not be ignored. We quite agree with the rest of the recommendation.

“It is recommended that the new Trustees appoint a Treasurer and Company Secretary and if not available from the then current Trustees, they should further co-opt persons with the necessary proven skills and experience.” [see paragraph 132]

Comment: We absolutely agree.

“The Review envisages that there will be the appointments of two paid full time positions, a membership officer that includes updating of the website and a fund raising manager. It is understood that there is already a salaried Administrative role tasked with taking care of the general internal administration. This recommendation being subject to available funding.” [see paragraph 134]

Comment: We are pleased the Panel recognise the need for more effort in these activities. We are not convinced the posts need to be paid positions.

“In respect of the Association’s quarterly publication of the Journal the Review recognises the quality of what has been an award winning magazine however the Review finds from the written submissions that some members have lost confidence in its editorial and ability to cover news and represent membership interests. The Review recommends that the Journal is no longer published in hard copy and instead changes to an on-line publication which is news and membership focused to be managed by the new Membership Officer.” [see paragraph 135]

Comment: The first part of the recommendation is best dealt with by a change of editorship. The recommendation itself is focussed on a change from hard copy to online publication. We strongly approve of an online version but if that is the only option then we feel this would prevent many members from receiving the official quarterly magazine.

“The existing Trustees have recognised communication as an area of weakness; the Review would endorse this and recommends a far more transparent and open policy of communication. Communications to be a specific responsibility of a nominated Trustee. The Association should conduct the majority of its communications on-line by a much improved and interactive website including the quarterly Journal as indicated above. However good online communication is, there is never a substitute for face-to-face meetings and a visible presence on the Railway and at events. There will be a nominated Trustee for communication with other WSR organisations, a nominated Trustee for membership in addition to the full time Membership Officer.” [see paragraph 136]

Comment: We strongly agree with this recommendation.

“With regard to apprentices and engineering, the Review endorses the efforts made to train and find employment for apprentices and this should continue. As it is recommended that the current restoration activities be transferred to the WSR Plc as part of a more unified management approach of engineering activities on the Railway, the Association should continue to support apprentices by means of bursary or sponsorship.” [see paragraph 137]

Comment: We strongly agree.

“Any future activity with respect to purchasing the freehold must be dealt with via the PDG.” [clipped from paragraph 138]

Comment: We are not sure if this is a recommendation (paragraph 138 does not use the word “recommend”) However, we would strongly agree with the above statement.

“The Review’s recommendations for the assets of the Association, including locomotives No 4561, No 7821, Mark 1 coaches and QB, are that these remain for the foreseeable future in the ownership of the Association.” (clipped from paragraph 139)

Comment: We strongly agree.

“It is recommended that the new Trustee responsible as Curator of Assets and Archives draws up a collection and conservation policy.” (see paragraph 140)

Comment: We agree.

“In respect of Membership terminations and Trustee suspensions. While the Trustees claim they have had valid reasons for termination of membership the Review finds that the procedure may have been flawed though inept may be a better description, it is recommended that the memberships are restored and if the new Trustees feel it appropriate then the process could recommence if there was any compelling evidence.” (see paragraph 142)

Comment: We strongly agree.

Finally…

Key Recommendation for a Fresh Start – this section includes no “recommendations” but a good many “suggestions” (paragraphs 154 to 166).

Comment: We look upon these suggestions as a very worthy mixture of essential or possible strands of the next WSRA strategy.

Thanks

We thank the Review Panel – Chris, Nell, Robin. Andy, Brian, Ryan and Martyn – for their work in producing the Review Report, along with all who submitted their own thoughts.

 

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