The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust WSRHT

Summary of the 2020 AGM

Posted on November 14, 2020

Summary of WSSRT AGM – 14th November 2020

The board of Trustees of the WSSRT is pleased to update members and the wider WSR community on the results of the AGM of 14th November which was held virtually via Zoom due to Covid-19 restrictions.

You will be aware that an attempt was made by a small group of members to try and overwhelm the existing board of trustees. This was done by quietly signing up additional new members from June this year, many from outside the WSR community, with the specific intent of appointing 14 new trustees to force a vote on merging with the WSRA, and thereby using the shares owned in each charity to try and take over control of the PLC

At the AGM, the WSSRT membership voted to reject these new trustees by a significant margin. The total votes cast for them were 1,291 (70.54%) against and 508 (27.5%) votes in favour, with 31 (1.69%) abstentions.

As a result, none of the proposed new trustees (originally 14, later 10) were elected and there was resounding support for the existing board of trustees, including election of the three new recently co-opted trustees and the membership voted by a significant margin for the WSSRT to remain as an independent charity.

The board thanks members for achieving an 80% turnout on voting, and wishes to thank all of the wider WSR community who supported the charity to resist this takeover bid. The level of support was quite overwhelming and it is re-assuring that this event has served to demonstrate that most of the railway is, indeed, a united community.

Steve Williams, acting chair of the WSSRT, commented: ‘This result is an overwhelming rejection of the tactics of those who sought to take over the Trust . The members concerned could have brought their plan to the WSSRT trustees in an open, collaborative and consultative way, rather than covertly proposing these additional trustees at the very last moment on deadline day for the AGM. We are also very sad that their confrontational approach, threats of legal action and reporting the Trust to the police led to the resignation of Chris Austin and David Baker from the resulting stress. This was a clear abuse of the Trust’s democratic processes and of the way in which volunteers are expected to behave. Those involved should now look at themselves in the mirror and hang their heads in shame’.

Most encouragingly, the membership voted by a margin in excess of 75% to approve the following proposals:

1 – Adoption of the revised Objects and Powers to align them with the requirements of key funding bodies and to allow us to offer a wider range of support to the PLC and the railway.

2 – Adopt the alterations to Clause 60 dissolution clauses for the purpose of Museum Accreditation to make the Trust more acceptable to potential funders in future.

3 – Adoption of the new Charity Name ‘West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust’ to properly reflect its future role, with responsibilities for heritage, history and museum management.

The board of Trustees wishes to record a special note of thanks to Don Fraser, our membership secretary, for his remarkable handling of such a massive increase in membership, caused by the recent takeover attempt. The one positive that has come out of all this activity was a big increase in revenues, with a tripling of the membership numbers from just over 80 to nearly 250 members in the space of just four months.

Looking ahead, the board of Trustees will now look forward to a new chapter in the evolution of the Trust. With a new name and additional flexibility around the Objects and Powers, the Trust can move ahead with more new initiatives and support future ideas to expand on the role of the Trust and to attract more donations in support of our work.

We will explore how the Trust can expand its role on the railway generally and specifically examine how it can develop its leading role in museums management and heritage issues across the WSR. We hope that the new members who have joined us will choose to stay with us on this journey and will come to appreciate the positive work of the Trust in helping the railway.

Finally, the Trust will continue to work closely with the PLC and specifically support the development of the Bailey proposals towards achieving ‘one railway’. Whilst the feeling amongst members today is that the Trust wishes to remain an independent charity, the Trust looks forward to contributing to the proposed ‘evolutionary’ path of the WSR re-structuring project.

The Bailey project has the stated objective of creating a new parent charity structure that will be attractive to the wider community and it plans to invite existing charities to consider if they wish to become a part of it next year. The goal is to have any proposals ready in time for the 2021 AGM’s and of course the WSSRT board of trustees will bring any of these future proposals to the membership for their consideration at next year’s AGM.

The WSSRT Board