Raymond W L Powell

Document Archive 2014-2015


Name of document - Business Portfolio Report to QRS Executive Committee June 2015

Format of original document - Text saved in MS Word 2000/ME

Date of document - 11 June 2015

Return to Quainton First Page

RWLP Election Address to AGM 2014

Copy of Address by Vice President Mr A Bratton to AGM 2014


Honorary Treasurer's objections to Business Report

Rebuttal e-mail to Honorary Treasurer's Objections

Catering e-mails to Officers of QRS
June 2nd
June 4th

Audit trail of e-mails regarding Commercial Manager's refusal to acknowledge seniority of Trustees
May 2015
March 2015
June 2014

David Aplin's interventions
May 2015



  1. Please accept my apologies for not attending this meeting that has a changed date from the original scheduled for 20th June. Unfortunately I have a prior engagement.

  2. The business of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (BRC) progresses as scheduled by our Commercial Manager with the exception of a “Toy Fair” taking place within the “Rewley Road” premises on June 14th largely at the request of our member Terry Walden who suggested this event. The “Toy Fair” will be managed by Mr B Chamberlain (Brian) who has long experience of these events and has been involved with similar event at Quainton in the past. He will be assisted by Terry Walden and Roy Brigginshaw who is Station Master for the day. Brian is providing a security man to prevent “Toy Fair” entrants, only paying a reduced entrance fee, from gaining access to the whole of the BRC site. The entrance fees gained at our reception gate will be retained by BRC as revenue together with monies from our regular visitors who will pay the normal entrance fee. Regular visitors will be issued with a lapel badge that will enable them to pass by the Security Man unhindered and I will be providing these on the day. It is hoped that this fair will enhance the Gate Revenue Refreshment Room and Shop takings on what would otherwise be a straight steaming day and raise the profile of the Centre with the local population.

  3. I have no other information regarding event bookings, wedding receptions or other activities other than those published on the BRC web site as this information, if any, is not offered to me by our Commercial Manager who may otherwise advise the whole committee directly.

  4. The planned Visitor's Guide is presently deferred until the Officers and/or the Executive Committee resolve the issue of responsibility for these publication as presently it has been effectively vetoed by the Commercial Manager. Member may recall that this important publication formed part of a planned trilogy of publicity tacitly agreed by the Officers of QRS whereby a Distributed Publicity Leaflet was produced for dissemination to Shopping Malls, Super Stores and other public places aimed at attracting the attention of family people and members of the public not normally prone to “Enthusiastic” support of railway centres. The second leaflet was to be designed to enhance the visitors experience in the same manner as nearly all tourist attractions like National Trust establishments and reduce the need for the Gate staff to engage in lengthy explanations to visitors as to what to see and where various exhibits are to be found. The third leaflet in question would be in much the same genre as the previously issued Christmas Santa leaflet but also showing details of our autumn events. Apparently, our General Manager does not share any enthusiasm for this strategy nor does he agree with the design of the first leaflet and has let this be known to everyone about him despite the authority of the Executive Committee sanctioning the publication. Reproduced below is the text from the General Manager to me on the subject.


    Printing is in my remit and ALL requests will go through me to avoid the debacle over the general leaflet happening again. You are Portfolio holder only. I am the Commercial Manager and this will be done properly!!

    Copied to David as evidence.


    Clearly this is an untenable working relationship for both concerned and must be resolved.

  5. I have selected two or three members with business experience to join a sub-committee designed to evaluate Future Business Prospects. The progress of the sub committee also remains on hold until the issues detailed in (4) above are resolved.

  6. I was unwell during the latter part of May and unable to evaluate the impact of Tina Jones' letter of resignation although I shared the sentiments express by fellow members of the Executive Committee. Resultant of the e-mails that were being banded about I met with Laura to ascertain her position in this matter and she advised me she did not wish to be “lumbered with the job..”

    On enquiry with our Chairman Peter I was advised thus:

    “....I'll leave it to you, just that we need to do something quite quickly, as Tina leaves today ( Sunday [31st May] .) I think Laura's away next weekend, so we will close the catering down for next weekend.”

    Although these dates were wrong we are faced with the same situation after Sunday 14th June

    As it has been regarded that the operation of the Refreshment Rooms falls within the remit of the Business Portfolio Holder I resolved to seek Catering advice from associates experienced in the business. My first port of call was upon a recently retired executive director, Barry Wilson, who build up a business based on acquired conference centres the first being Chartridge formerly operated by British Airway. Barry was not aware of anybody who might be available for recruitment in to the position of Catering Manager at Quainton but offered his services in a consultancy capacity free of charge to help us identify improved business opportunities for the longer term.

    A second option occurred to me in the shape of asking one of my local business customers if they knew of a possible candidate and much to my surprise a proprietor, Cheryl Eaton, said she would be interested in the position. I have to explain Cheryl runs a lunch time mobile sandwich delivery business in Aylesbury that does not appear to conflict with our requirements and she visited us on Wednesday 3rd June when we had discussions with Laura to evaluate the possibilities. Cheryl was immediately very enthusiastic about the prospect of working with us maybe improving our visitor offering and our profitability plus helping to upgrade our star rating back to 5-star level. In my view there is a significant possibility that Cheryl's experience and understanding of our goals coupled to a high level of synergy between her own business and our requirements can offer a prospect of resolving our catering management problems for a period of time. As David Aplin remarked in one of his e-mails we will have great difficulty in attracting someone to work our crazy hours.

    Having said this I am aware that there will be misgivings from some members about using contracted staff and the question of loyalty and reliability for Quainton. This is a judgement that has to be made but I would point out that no one questions these issues in terms of Sarah who is employed on very similar terms to those envisaged for Cheryl. This Wednesday both David Aplin and Brian Ammann had the opportunity to meet Cheryl when a pertinent conversation was achieved. David and Brian will have to speak about the varying proposals for themselves that came out of this conversation. I have to reassure you that this is not yet a done deal and other alternatives for which I am unaware may be available. However, in my view the facts are:

    We need a Catering Manager for the weekend of Sunday 21st and thereafter with a remit to have available sufficient consumable supplies to meet the needs of our visitors. Also, competent to prepare and cook meals and make these available to the servery. Cheryl Eaton has offered to do this on the 21st June free of charge on a trial basis in order to help us and herself to understand our operational requirements.

    In the face of there being no alternative options available I would recommend taking up this initial offer.

    In the absence of Tina Jones we need someone experienced in purchasing catering supplies at the best prices to facilitate significant profitability for the Society. We do not have this experience available from our own resources so far as I am aware.

    We probably need to retain this solution until the end of this year giving us time to review our future organisation. Cheryl is aware of this prospect and comfortable about it. (Bear in mind we are likely to receive consultancy advice from Barry Wilson during this period that will help in our deliberations.)

    It is possible that any arrangement reached at this time not working and have to be terminated.

    Member may be asking themselves what an arrangement will cost and I have to advise that David, at our meeting on Wednesday, resisted our discussing this aspect of any proposals until Cheryl was thoroughly aware of all the issues and responsibilities of the position. I do not expect her charges to be excessive and there will be savings in respect of Employer NI contributions and other costs.

    Meanwhile, until we are resolved to make a permanent employment position, anybody taking this job will probably initially retain the present operation in as much as we will supply volunteer staff as at present for table clearing, washing up with the addition of Laura retained in the servery. The Catering Manager will be paid for their time worked at an agreed rate broadly similar to Tina but not as a direct employee, This is made entirely simple with Cheryl as she can substantiate she has self employed status by virtue of her own business. Her own business is not a Company it is a proprietor own operation so QRS catering would not be taken over by a company organisation. All visitor payments for catering service will be processed through our existing point of sale.

    Finally there are opportunities to take advice from an experienced catering person to improve our presentation, product range and profitability. Furthermore, if in the fullness of time Laura expresses an interest in becoming our Catering Manager she will have the chance to learn from an experienced temporary manager and in this regard Cheryl is ready to contribute.

  7. I have to regretfully advise members that the new Catering Point of Sale (PoS) installation has not been commissioned. Members will recollect that purchase approval was agreed to make a purchase for an additional PoS for this location earlier in the year. This equipment was collected by me from the suppliers after I negotiated a significant discount from them and delivered the items to BRC on 9th March. Our Commercial Manager decided to install the new equipment at the Rewley Road reception gate with a view to re-installing the redundant unit at the PoS location in the Refreshment Rooms. Last Wednesday this installation remains incomplete three months after the delivery of the new system and rather more since the purchase was approved.

    Since the time of delivery I have been requested to assign PoS volunteers to the Refreshment Room while the Cashier, John Hatton, was on holiday, but was unable to do so due to the unfamiliar operation of the existing till. Members will be aware that when we have a DOWT weekend severe pressure is placed on the checkout sometimes causing up to a 45 minute wait for customers queuing for food. Without a checkout improvement and using the Laptop PoS equipment as at secondary location this situation will continue. Both machines need to have the same price program running.

    Tacit agreement was reached with the Commercial Manager prior to the purchase of the new PoS as to the deployment of this equipment with the Laptop PC being used at peak demand periods for probable pre-packed food items and drinks. It is hoped that a normal members of the Reception Gate could transfer to the secondary PoS during these periods when the requirements at the reception are lessened.

    At present the unused PoS equipment is stored in the “Downside” tickets office where even there it has not been utilised for the recent admissions of visitors when it might usefully have been employed.

  8. Finally, members should be aware that I have lodged a formal complaint against Adrian Aylward in respect of his obstruction to the progress of business activities initiated by me, his disregard to the status of Portfolio holding by Trustees, who act in effect as Directors with the authority of the shareholding members, his personal behaviours both in terms of verbal bullying in the presence of members and staff coupled with derogatory e-mails one of which refers to me as a “Pratt”.

    This matter has be placed in the hands of the Officers but members will appreciate my contribution to the Society will be severely hampered until a solution is found for this situation. Members will be aware that two previous Trustee left the Executive principally on the grounds of Mr Aylwards difficult attitude and I am advised by Sheila Lobley that she has withdrawn her voluntary service as Publicity Manager due to the lack of cooperation from Mr Aylward.

Raymond W L Powell