13 November 2017
Present were John Hunt (in the Chair), Richard Wheeler, Michael Chyriwsky, Nigel Hall, Paul Hutchinson, Chris Lawson, and Martin Lloyd.
Also in attendance as observers were Rowland Bingham, Bill Dobson, Colin Foxton and Roy Marshall.
Apologies for Absence were received from Richard Pearson.
John Hunt declared an interest as an employee of WCRC. He confirmed that whether or not the K1 was working on the Jacobite, it had no impact on his employment by WCRC.
The Minutes of the Previous Meeting were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman. There were no matters arising not covered by items on the agenda.
The monthly Finance Report noted that some outstanding payments had been received from the Wensleydale Railway, but the September/October invoice was still outstanding. Interest of £500 had been earned on the United Trust account, and interest rates would be increased following the recent Bank of England decision to raise base rates. The Hampshire Trust account had now closed and the money was in the main account. Invoices from the NYMR in respect of work carried out to the Q6 were still outstanding but the first were expected to start arriving early in December, following discussion between Bill Dobson, Paul Middleton and Sue Smeaton. The Q6 Appeal had reached £7K. It was agreed that the separate J27 Appeal fund should be wound up at the end of the year and the remaining contributors invited to transfer to other funding requirements. The amount due to HMRC for VAT had been calculated, with an estimate for October. A proforma invoice from SIG for the recently supplied J27 boiler lagging would be required to enable the VAT to be reclaimed. Darlington Borough Council had reinstated the discretionary rate reduction for Hopetown, removed earlier this year, following receipt of additional monies from Government.
Financial advice received from Bryan Orange’s son in law on the proposed investment of the Hampshire Trust bank funds to the CCLA was received and it was agreed that this advice should be circulated to the Fundraising Sub Committee for consideration at its meeting on 5 December.
The letter received from the Chairman of the Fundraising Sub Committee, dated 10 September but deferred from previous meetings, expressing its concerns over the urgent need for a Locomotive Overhaul and Funding Strategy to enable the funding needs of the Group to be identified and delivered, and over apparent weaknesses in achieving good value for money, was discussed. It was pointed out that recent actions were now felt to be addressing these matters, and agreed that the Chairman, with the Treasurer, should prepare and send a reply to the Chairman of the Fundraising Sub Committee, addressing its concerns, in time for the Sub Committee’s next meeting on 5 December.
The Charity Commission required charities to have a reserves policy, and the Treasurer sought the views of the Committee on what might constitute a suitable level of reserves, before preparing a policy paper for consideration at a future meeting. The Commission had no set formula for such a policy, but had criticised some organisations for having too high a level of reserves. The balances in the Group’s accounts had run at some £300K for a number of years, but there had been recent unexpected expenditure to meet major repair and overhaul needs. Costs had been incurred before expected dates, and income lost or delayed as a result. Bearing in mind the Group’s annual running costs, it was suggested that the Legacy fund of some £90K should be set aside as a reserve, but that the Treasurer should seek the views of Ribchesters and the Fundraising Sub Committee on an appropriate reserves policy.
The Secretary also drew attention to recent Charity Commission guidance on diversity on Trustee Boards, and the establishment of a new Fundraising Regulator, as examples of increasing regulatory burdens on charities. Notes on both would be circulated.
It had been suggested that the Jacobite subsistence rate (currently £15) should be reviewed in the light of increased costs. It was reiterated however, that this was never intended as more than a contribution to volunteers’ costs in supporting the K1 at Fort William, and, after concluding that the rate should remain unchanged, it was agreed that it should be emphasised to volunteers that this was meant to be simply a contribution to their costs rather than re-imbursement.
The annual review of membership subscriptions was carried out, with 2018 renewals due at the end of next month. It was noted that the current rates did not cover the Group’s administration costs, and NELPG News in particular. The Chairman undertook to follow up his long outstanding action to discuss possible ways of reducing the production cost of News with HPE Print, and the possibility of electronic distribution was reconsidered. This was constrained by the desire of many members in a previous communications survey to retain a paper copy even though they had email access, the need to maintain consistent timing of delivery of notices in the interests of fairness to those without email access, and the requirements in the Articles of Association for paper communications preventing the use of electronic information transfer. This latter needed to be addressed in the review of the Articles of Association.
The breakdown of membership categories was thought to be substantially weighted to Life Members, and thus any increase in other membership rates was unlikely to make any significant contribution to costs, might deter potential new members, and also deter Patron contributions and other donations. It was agreed therefore that there should be no change in subscription rates for 2018, but that information on membership numbers by category should be prepared for consideration at the January meeting, to provide a factual basis on which to consider any possible change to membership subscriptions for 2019 to be recommended at the 2018 AGM.
In considering the arrangements for the SGM and Open Meeting the Secretary reported that, to date, he had received 38 proxy forms and apologies for absence – 25 for the Chairman, 11 for the Secretary, 1 for Terry Newman and 1 for Bryan Orange. Richard Wheeler, Richard Pearson and Fred Ramshaw had all indicated they would be unable to attend. At the SGM questions were likely to be raised on the reasons for the significant increase in the cost of the J27 boiler repairs. This was felt to be largely a result of additional work being found to be necessary as the overhaul proceeded.
At the subsequent Open Meeting, it was normal for the locomotive caretakers to report on the previous operating season’s performance, their proposals for winter maintenance and plans for the next season. With two unable to attend, this would be more of a challenge than usual, but it was expected that most attention would be paid to the K1 and the associated income and expenditure from the Jacobite operation. As the Treasurer would also be absent, he agreed to provide the Secretary with a detailed note setting out the financial position for his use at the meeting. The details of the Jacobite debrief survey of 2017 Support Crew would also be available for the meeting.
It was noted that Bryan Orange had requested an opportunity for the JVs to make a short presentation to the meeting, and that refreshments would be available during the break. The Secretary was also asked to raise the need for help with procurement/purchasing at the meeting, in the absence of the Treasurer.
A copy of the note by Dave Whitfield of the VAMOS meeting on 4 October had been circulated. A number of concerns were raised at that meeting, to which the Committee was invited to respond, with the meeting note and response to be published in News. It was felt though that some of the material in the meeting note could not be published, for personal and commercial confidentiality reasons, and it was agreed that the Chairman should discuss with the Secretary possible redactions to the meeting note, and then discuss them with Dave Whitfield, so he was clear why they were being made. The Secretary would prepare a draft response to the meeting note for consideration by the Committee.
Under Health and Safety, dates for First Aid Training were now becoming available, and it was necessary to agree these so that we had a number of certificated First Aiders at our working sites.
Revised ICE cards were ready for distribution to all working members. It was thought this might be possible via the December issue of NELPG News but would need further exploration. The best means of making them available to ROs in case of accidents was also discussed, and, bearing in mind data protection concerns, it was felt they should be carried by the individuals concerned when volunteering, along with PTS and other ID information, possibly in a credit card type format, so they are immediately available to ROs if required.
A briefing note had been circulated setting out the background and main requirements of the new EU General Data Protection Regulations (EUGDPR), whose implementation could have significant administrative implications for the Group in the handling and processing of personal data. These would be coming into force on 25 May. The most significant addition to the existing legislation was that of accountability, by requiring organisations to show how they comply with the principles: if we say we are going to do something, then we must not only do it, but demonstrate how we do it. As a first step it would be necessary to establish what personal data was held by whom and for what purpose. It was agreed that a small working group consisting of Colin Foxton (Chair), Nigel Hall and Roy Marshall should be established to undertake the necessary work to identify what will be required for implementation.
For the Locomotive Update, Bill Dobson reported no progress with the establishment of the Locomotive Sub Committee. It was likely to meet at the Middlesbrough Municipal Golf Centre and Bill would be discussing with Terry Newman the requirements for getting an initial meeting arranged and held. Any further responses to the first draft Locomotive Overhaul and Maintenance Strategy were requested, and it was agreed the draft should also be circulated to the Fundraising Sub Committee for any comments, as the need for such a strategy was one of the concerns raised in its letter to the Chairman.
The proposal to remove the small tubes from the Q6 to allow a full internal inspection of the boiler and implement the plan previously agreed with the boiler inspector, resulting in no need for a full inspection until 2028, was discussed. The CME was reported as firmly of the view that we should get on with fitting the flue tubes, accept the previous agreement for a full inspection in 2024, and return the Q6 to revenue earning operation. Against that, there was considerable concern that this would mean that there had not been a full internal inspection of the boiler for over 10 years. This was not felt acceptable on safety grounds. Whilst it was impossible to know what might be found on inspection of the boiler, Trustees had a responsibility for the safety of a pressure vessel, and, if additional work was found to be necessary, then that should be seen as a positive.
Subject to that, Bill confirmed that he expected to be able to complete the planned work within the time and budget available. It was proposed therefore that the small tubes should be removed this winter, but the position should then be reviewed and the boiler not necessarily be lifted for an external examination in the winter of 2018/19 as planned, but possibly be delayed until later. This was adopted with 5 votes in favour and one abstention (Paul Hutchinson).
Taking account of recent comments about the Group’s performance in 2017 by the Wensleydale Railway, and the difficulties in getting payment for the J72, together with assurances received from the NYMR Traction Manager about the handling of the J27, it was agreed unanimously that on completion of its overhaul, the J27 should go to the NYMR for its running in and subsequent operation. Its running in should be carefully controlled, and its use limited to the shoulders of the season. Requests for hire during the NYMR peak season could be considered, including from the Wensleydale Railway if circumstances improved.
At the meeting with David Smith of WCRC, it was reported that he indicated that the K1 would be invited to operate on the Jacobite for the 2018 season. Although it was recognised that Friday’s Open Meeting might affect the outcome, there were four votes in favour and two abstentions (Secretary and Nigel Hall) to a proposal that, in principle, a Jacobite invitation would be accepted.
Because of the lack of time, Any Other Business was deferred, but it was noted that the discussion of locomotive issues had been under considerable time pressure. It was therefore suggested that this item should be moved further up the agenda for the next meeting.
The meeting closed at 10.19pm
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