“Times change” runs that familiar adage. Yes, we have all suffered our share of change since March 2020. But it was so good to be back in April 2021 sharing smiles and jokes with all our colleagues as we assessed competences before services resumed.
Edition number 524 of “Steam Railway” arrived in the post a few days ago. The article by Heritage Railway Association Chief Executive, Steve Oates, included the phrase “And for those railways already struggling to find enough personnel just to run their day-to-day operations”. A major talking point around the railway is this very point. For example, we miss some of our senior steam drivers who have not resumed their duties. But steam operations is not the only department affected. Also we know that some of our members are not renewing their membership. There are many and varied reasons for this reduction of numbers.
At a recent Society Zoom meeting there was a heartfelt plea for Society support for departments who are feeling the strain of operating in support of published services with reduced manning. How can we do this? Much debate has ensued. Some 25% of Society members are working volunteers. We are the beneficiaries of significant and much valued financial support from the majority of members in the form of continuing subscriptions. Perhaps if we all encouraged friends, acquaintances and people we meet to join the Society and even to volunteer to become a member of the workforce we may slowly solve the current shortfall. You are right. This is not ‘rocket science’. It may even seem like a blinding glimpse of the obvious and I feel certain that some amongst us are doing this as a matter of course and probably have been for some time. The Volunteer Liaison Officer, Mrs Margaret Wilson, has been working throughout ‘Lockdown’ contacting people who have expressed an interest in working for us. Please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of anyone who may be interested in joining us. The fruits of her considerable labours are filtering through to induction and Basic Safety Courses. It is a slow, dogged but vital process enacted in the Conference Room in ‘Tate Towers’ (the Society headquarters in Baron Street Yard).
Recruiting is the General Manager’s top priority. Some of the Volunteers Champions have been deliberating how to improve our ability to capture the imagination and enthusiasm of potential volunteers and introduce them to their chosen department for initial experience under the tutelage of a mentor before formal enrolment and a site tour. The ultimate aim is that we publish a Recruitment Policy endorsed by both the Company and Society Boards. This policy will then be promulgated to all relevant departments so that all working members who may meet potential recruits are aware of the agreed process. The detailed parameters of said policy must take account of the Safety Management System requirement that all recruits are required to attend a basic safety course.
So much for a revised and improved recruitment policy, albeit a work in progress. There is the other tried and tested way that the Society supports the railway. Readers are aware that some 40% of total Society member subscription revenue is ploughed back into capital projects. Given that the Society is now a registered charity it is incumbent upon every Trustee Director to ensure that decisions are made to further the charitable aims of ELRPS Ltd. We have records of over fifty years sound administration. The proceedings of all meetings are recorded. The minutes are published in retrospect. Proposals are considered. Only if we achieve a majority vote does a proposal get passed. This is particularly relevant when we consider financial support for capital projects. When I assumed the appointment of Chair in 2013 I stipulated that we would only consider Company Board approved sound business cases. Indeed, I believe that there is a worthy proposal in the pipeline. But there is no simple ‘tap’ that can be turned on at the first suggestion of a case for support. There is a decision lead time involving: receipt of request; dissemination to Board members; discussion at the next Board meeting and decision. The Board’s Trustee Directors have a duty to our members and the Charities Commission to manage our resources in support of our charitable aims in a responsible manner.
To continue this process of financial support may I ask all subscribing members to:
Renew their membership for 2022.
Encourage other current members to renew as well.
Consider signing ‘Gift Aid’ certificates to enable the Society to claim 25% from HMRC. This year’s contribution to Society funds was close on £10,000.
Consider receiving your copy of the ELR Review in electronic form.
Contribute to encouraging new members to join us, both as working members and tacit supporters.
Publication of the autumn edition of the ‘The ELR Review’ is suffering a delay for technical and capacity reasons. It will be published and mailed out in early February. The envelope will contain the magazine and membership renewal forms alongside the briefing material for the forthcoming 2022 Annual General Meeting. Last year’s AGM was expedited by post and the returns for voting proved that more members participated in the process than had attended at AGMs held in Bury Town Hall’s Elizabethan Suite (which is no longer available to us). Thus AGM 2022 will be conducted by post.
As Yule tide continues I hope that you all have had a Merry Christmas and, on behalf of all Trustee Directors, may I wish you all a Happy New Year.