WSRA Trustee nominations are now closed.

Nominations closed on 29 July 2016 with ten candidates, as follows:

Magda Davies
Will Foster
John Glover
Frank Houlding
Bill Knell
Alex de Mendoza
Nigel Power
Michael Sherwood
Simon Stretton
Paul Whitehouse

Each of the candidates will be asked to compose 250 words about themselves and complete a simple skills audit, which will be published on the WSRA website in due course and mailed to members with the Journal.

The WSRA’s Annual General Meeting will be held at Bishops Lydeard Village Hall on Saturday 22 October 2016 starting at 2pm.

WSRA+ Comments:

1 Our understanding is that with ten vacancies looming, all ten candidates (assuming no withdrawals) will be elected without a vote. We welcome discussion here on our understanding.

2 We advise against discussion about any candidate until we have seen their 250 word statement and the results of the skills audit, and we will reject any posting that appears to ignore that advice. Thanks folks.

 

 

 

 

 

At last. The chance for the Membership to have a say in the future direction of the Association.

In the last few days, Members will have received a Consultation Paper in the post.

The WSRA+ bloggers want to encourage all WSRA Members to find some time to look through the Paper and to provide comments and ideas before the deadline of 1 August.

The current Trustees have worked really hard on the Paper which discusses the main areas that need firming up into a clear and agreed Development Plan. The latter will be presented to the Membership at the AGM in October. Hence the need to move fairly quickly.

We have long felt the need for a truly wide ranging review of the WSRA and – well – here it is!

Like us, you may not like some of the proposals, you may be full of enthusiasm for others. Now, you have the chance to let it all out so get reading and then get writing. And don’t forget to send back your thoughts before the deadline.

Let’s make the most of the opportunity to be listened to and then help steer our Association along the right path.

It is our Association after all…

 

 

Some interesting views have emerged in a lengthy discussion elsewhere concerning members wishing to be Trustee candidates at this year’s Annual General Meeting. Members will recall a full refresh of the Trustee Board will take place with all ten places up for grabs.

Folks on social media have been debating on the one hand the position statements on the subject by some of those people involved in the Reform Group who have indicated prefererence to not stand,  and on the other hand, others have been debating the likelihood of those people recently dismissed as Trustees standing as candidates in a bid to regain trusteeship.

The WSRA+ bloggers reckon the matter is down to one simple proviso. Providing the member is eligible under the Articles of Association to stand as a Trustee then we feel there are no barriers to nomination and standing for election for election by the membership.

Much is made of membership involvement and a properly run democracy. Let’s hope we see these aspirations bloom, prosper and dominate the Association’s business over the next few months and well beyond.

The West Somerset Railway Association’s Trustee Board have issued a synopsis of the main points discussed at the recent Board meeting held on 3 May 2016.

The full synopsis can be read on the WSRA website.

Where does the WSRA go from here?

We note some of the new WSRA management beginning to put out requests for ideas. Excellent. We gather the membership itself will be asked soon just how they see the future for the  Association. Even better.

One matter we WSRA+ bloggers would like to be uppermost in the thoughts of every single WSRA member – when faced with the overarching question “how do you want the WSRA to support the Railway”, please remember that the requirements of the WSR Plc must always be satisfied.

For an example of what we mean, consider the two steam locomotives owned by the WSRA, nos 4561 and 7821. Both are currently non-working. No 7821 is mothballed. No 4561 is in bits undergoing a very thorough, competent and expensive restoration to working order. We presume the WSRA’s objective is to see one, then the other, working trains on the West Somerset Railway.

But there’s no point restoring either to working order if the WSR Plc cannot guarantee hiring these locomotives.

Since the WSRA cannot possibly influence the WSR Plc’s decisions, as the Plc seeks to maximise its commercial opportunities and maintain its responsibilities to its shareholders, the Association can only best guess the WSR Plc’s future requirements for steam locomotives, even with regular dialogue between the two sides. At best that would be a hire agreement covering ten years with a guaranteed annual mileage. At worst, the WSRA could have two working locomotives which would have to move off the Railway to earn their keep – and how would that be “supporting the Railway”?

Meantime, we strongly urge members who are thinking about the future of their Association to consider the role and the position of the WSR Plc in all of this.

Please remember that whatever the Association might think about doing “for the Railway”, unless it is cosmetic such as the Goods Office project at Crowcombe, then if it doesn’t meet with the business requirements of the WSR Plc then it is not worth starting.

This posting should not been seen as a rant against the WSR Plc. It is not. We quite understand the WSR Plc’s position and its reluctance to share its governance and sovereignty (which is not necessarily a bad thing). It is the WSRA that needs to change – in many many ways – to work well within that framework.

None of these awkward situations would arise if the WSR Plc and the WSRA were to become one. But that is not likely. Sadly.

There’s no doubt that the new management of the Association are cracking on with the unenviable task of “sorting things”.

So much information is now being issued by the new WSRA folks, that it is possible that the job of the WSRA+ blog is all but completed. The purpose of WSRA+ was to bring important matters to the membership; matters that might otherwise gone unnoticed. We at WSRA+ feel that a healthy organisation thrives on good information issued on a very regular basis and with provision for responsible, constructive online and offline discussion. When the new WSRA  reaches that point – and we feel it is not too far away now – then maybe we can close this blog, hopefully forever.

Meantime, we encourage members to look at the official WSRA website http://www.wsra.org.uk and check out the News section along with the Documents section. There’s far more information and updates there that WSRA+ can keep up with!

Your WSRA+ bloggers: Huey, Dewey and Louie

As Members may know, for some time now many fellow Members of the Association have written to the Charity Commission outlining their particular concerns over recent matters concerning our Association. A general response to those Members from the Charity Commission was issued very recently and with permission of one of those recipients here is that response:

Thank you for your email(s) regarding the West Somerset Railway Association. Please accept my apologies for the delay in providing you with a response.

I have reviewed all of the information we have received and I understand that the situation has moved on since the review of the charity’s governance was undertaken. Whilst the review identified a number of possible governance and regulatory issues, the primary concern now is who the validly appointed trustees are and this is not something that the Commission can definitively rule on.

I understand that the members called an EGM which was held on 27 February 2016 at which the trustees were removed and new trustees appointed. The trustees in post at the time have expressed concerns about the validity of that meeting and therefore the decisions made at it. The Charity Commission does not have the power to determine whether or not the meeting itself was valid. The parties involved would need to take their own legal advice on this point and if necessary mediate an agreement in order to move forward.

Our guidance (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/disagreements-and-disputes-in-charities) makes it clear that we will only get involved in disputes within charities where there are no validly appointed trustees. In this case, there are trustees, the only issue is who are the validly appointed group. If those involved cannot reach an agreement on this key issue, then only the courts can determine who the trustees are and pursuing the matter through the courts would require the consent of the Commission under s.115 of the Charities Act 2011. We would not consider giving this consent unless all other options, including mediation, had been exhausted.

I appreciate that the governance review identified issues regarding some of the decisions made by the trustees; however until all those involved can resolve the issue of who the trustees are we are not in a position to determine what regulatory action may be appropriate

Once the parties involved have agreed who the properly appointed trustees are, steps should be taken to ensure that they have access to all the charity’s records so that they can determine what the next steps are in terms of getting the charity back on track. If at this stage, the trustees identify serious regulatory issues which they believe require the intervention of the Charity Commission they should contact us again.

A copy of this email has been sent to all those individuals who have contacted us to ensure that all parties involved have the same information.

Yours Sincerely

Joanne Maguire
Senior Case Officer
Permissions and Compliance Team
Charity Commission

We leave the Membership to draw its own conclusions.