Members Agree to Become a CBS

Institute Members Agree to Reconstitute as a Community Benefit Society.

The membership of Shildon Railway Institute have given their support, by a strong margin, to a move to adopt a new constitution and rules to become a Community Benefit Society. The decision was made by members in a ballot that ran from Sunday 4th June through to Sunday 11th June 2023.

Our Railway Institute has, throughout its history, depended quite significantly on the support of the various railway companies that patronised it and stepped in when its needs were greatest - for example when the North Eastern Railway Company built our current building.

Since the railway industry left the town permanently in 1984 we've been left to get by on our own means and this is has been increasingly difficult, particularly through this last economically challenging half decade. Though we are well supported across the town and further afield, our building needs some significant investment to keep on serving you all for years to come.

At the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the Institute a motion was tabled, and passed, that the Institute should investigate organisational transformation to reconstitute as a modern form of non-profit organisation that can attract funding support. At a meeting of the Committee it was passed that, in line with the prescribed process for becoming a Community Benefit Society (CBS), an Organisational Transformation Steering Committee be formed to manage the reconstitution of the Institute.

The Steering Committee met every Saturday since the beginning of this year, researching what was necessary in becoming a CBS, scrutinising model rules, assessing the fit for the Institute and creating the draft policies that were prerequisite to being accepted as a CBS. The process of formulation of a proposal has been transparent throughout with minutes of the weekly meetings being posted online and on the Institute notice board. In mid-May the Steering Committee announced their intention to have a meeting of all members on Sunday 4th June at which the details of the propsal would be presented to members. Posters declaring that "It's Time To Decide" were pinned up and posted online. The design depicted a pocket watch, a reference to the incident that caused the Institute to be formed back in 1833 in which George Graham, traffic manager of the Stockton and Darlington Railway encountered locomotive drivers throwing their pocket watches into a frying pan and betting on which would stop first.

A large number of members attended the proposal meeting at which a 20 minute video explaning the rationale was screened and members were given the opportunity to ask questions. The documents making up the proposal had been made available in advance for members to scrutinise. The meeting also marked the beginning of the one week period in which members could collect their ballot paper to participate in the vote. The question posed was whether each member supported the proposal to convert the Institute to become a Community Benefit Society and in doing so to adopt the new proposed rules of the Institute.

The voting closed at 4pm on Sunday 11th June 2023 and the ballot box was unlocked with a count of votes being conducted at 5pm under the watchful eye of the appointed independent scrutineer Professor Alan Townsend of the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. A number of additional votes had been received electronically through an online process designed to enable members who were no longer locally resident. These had been validated and checked to be non-duplicate before being counted.

At the conclusion of the count, the result was announced by Institute Secretary, Shaun Thompson, who declared that there had been 2 votes against the proposal, and 200 votes for the proposal and that therefore the balloted motion was passed. This outcome was unquestionably decisive in that the 200 votes accounted for more than half of the registered membership.

The Chair of the Steering Committee, Dave Reynolds, thanked the members present for their active participation in this decision making process, and added that becoming a Community Benefit Society was not in itself "a magic wand - but it was at least a ticket to get to meet the Fairy Godmother." He was of course referring to the fact that once the registration of the Community Benefit Society as a CBS was complete we'd be able to apply for funding and be taken seriously.

A process of registering the first converted members and issuing £1 shares in the reconstiuted society will commence, and the Institute will take the first steps in registering as a CBS with the Financial Conduct Authority. The committee will be refreshed at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting with all members, including current serving committee members, being invited to nominate themselves to be part of the new committee.

Date: Monday 12th June 2023