Save the Melksham Train
FSB - North and West Wilts Commitee - Federation of Small Businesses

I have been a reasonably active member of the local section of the Federation of Small Businesses - a good opportunity for local networking - and have been on their Branch Commitee for the last year. However, the organisation has been severely dragged away from where I think it should be at the local level in the last few months - and that's not a local but a national move. Our branch chairman has been dragged through the mud, and words like "Kangeroo Court" have been bandied about but cannot be used officially as everything is happening behind closed doors. Rather odd - you would have thought that the FSB board (or whatever it is) would want vindication in th eeyes of its member if it was acting in their interest. As it is, their secrecy makes them look like an old boy's club - a clique - who really aren't keen on new ideas. Anyway - I won't be standing for the commitee again for next year - I don't have the time to waste.

Reproduced below is my letter informing our branch chairman of my decision and reasons. All pretty personal and boring from my side, really, but the letter is out there in the public domain if you would like to read it. And there is a more formal item here too.

Dear Marion,

I am writing to confirm my decision not to re-offer myself for election to the North and West Wiltshire Branch Committee of the Federation of Small Businesses at the upcoming Annual General Meeting, and to offer you some explanation of the background. In the spirit of openness, please feel free to copy this letter to other parties as you feel fit.

The FSB is marketed as a member-led organisation, looking to provide benefits such as centralised services and local and regional networking opportunities to those members, with these local and regional activities tailored by regional and branch committees to suit the needs of their own locales. That used to work well - looking back earlier in the year, I note a networking event held in West Wiltshire, a multicultural event in Swindon, and an Olympic Event also in Swindon which were all of benefit to many members, including my own small business. All three that I mention were organised by the local branch or region, and I was happy to provide a small element of help with each.

In the last three or four months, things have changed. The FSB's higher echelons have disregarded the member's wishes and those of the committees they have elected by suspending, mid year, officers from various roles - right up to suspending the whole of the regional committee. The operation of the region is now in the hands of an executive with a Blackpool (HQ) phone number, and a paid employee who appears to be working outside of local direction (and complaining that there is only one of her with limited time). And the events - the lifeblood of the local organisation - are being cancelled left, right and centre as the HQ person and the Regional Officer struggle to cope and leave the ship with the rudder tied up with a rope.

Members have not been informed, to my knowedge, of exactly what is going on and why. I find this amazing for a "Member Led Organisation". Only yesterday, I received a reply to a request I had made for some information regarding a membership survey that appeared out of the blue, instructing me that the reply was for my eyes only - private and confidential - and it could be illegal for me to pass a copy on to anyone. The FSB - at least in this part of the country - is no longer a member-led organisation; it appears to be lead by a Junta, with decisions taken by their civil servants and shrouded in secrecy which is hiding goodness knows what. A comment that suspensions were "until the enquiry had been completed" seem to have been hollow promises too. As I understand it, enquiries completed last month some time, with a concluding vote taken on 1st September, some 10 days ago. But normal service has not been restored.

Even before the problems described in this letter, the FSB's organisation was anachronistic. It saddened me to see active business owners scrambling around to fill in paperwork in quadruplicate, and to deal with an overbearing central control, where trivial tasks had to be sent to Blackpool at great expense to members. And little use is made of modern technology; a survey sent out just last week was still "paper only" and we were invited to post or fax it back. That's pretty impractical for the modern small business man, out (as I was last week) meeting customers in the Netherlands and working from a mobile phone and laptop computer.

I'm busy, and I don't have the time to fight the system, the secrecy and untruths that I describe above. I have a huge admiration for what you do (when you're allowed and informed), Marion, but I can no longer serve on local committees as they now operate. Truth be known, I would find it hard to sign the full confidentially agreement as I would be sorely tempted to take on the role of a whistleblower, and as such I fear I would be more of a liability than an assistance to the branch and region.

But it has been a very educational year ;-)


Graham Ellis
Well House Consultants, 404 The Spa, Melksham, Wilts
0800 043 8225 (freephone) or +44 (0) 1225 708225 (phone)
+44 (0) 1225 707126 (fax)

Written 2007-09-14 07:06:52

Available entries ...

Welcome to News and Views
Welcome to News and Views
The story so far
Looking slightly wider
Don't let this become history!
Meeting, 20th September - getting nervous
Encouraging traffic not just warm words
Official (Government) view ... and I agree
Don't believe everything you hear
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Great meeting but just a start.
35% Growth in one year - Melksham ticket statistics
Swindon to Trowbridge
Regularity, Reliability, Realistic connections
Core meeting
Didn't you read page 52 of web document?
An easy timetable - Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon
Would this government close a station completely?
Quotes from Government
Tuesday, 18th October - Kiss and Ride day
Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
And more train users ...
Try the train on 18th October
Tracking codes for TransWilts stations
New stats prove it - the service IS used
Bump from Glasgow
Ready for Tuesday
Kiss and Ride report
A case of the tail wagging the dog??
The system is overcomplex - no wonder some odd things happen
Warminster Bus Running Day, 2005
The storm's eye?
A disappointing letter
Some scenes at Melksham Station
Monday morning, Melksham Station
Busy train at Melksham
Forum Archives available
A THOUSAND visitors
What does it cost to run a train?
Timetable - Melksham to Reading and London
Plus a footnote - Melksham to London
A bustle before the 17:02
STILL worth writing. To MP, To Dft, to bidders.
Keeping the campaign tail up
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
Driving customers away?
Latest official answer
At Temple Meads today
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?
From the rumour mill
A Quandry
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
Train service fading away too?
Greater Western Franchise awarded
First Group - First answer on Melksham
First specific Melksham rumour ...
Virtually no service - or excellent service. Request the latter.
Should badgers be culled?
Melksham rail traffic up 33% in 3 months
Upside Down
Every journey has a story
New fares from 2nd January 2006
No final decision yet
Even new stations don't always survive
A comparison across the world
Christmas service - unrequired, or just unprovided?
New year, 2006
Bustitution - buses for trains on Saturdays and Sundays
New Sign
The Meeting Season
Reply from MD of First Great Western
Wilts County Council could save the Melksham / Transwilts train
What does First pay the government for Greater Western?
Railway statistics and Melksham comparisons - how do we stand?
Winners and losers in the Devizes constituency
First want to hear your aspirations
Repeat - PLEASE write in with your aspirations
Were they purchasing votes?
Current status ...
Further threats
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
Recent Correspondence
From my postbag ...
Timetable consultation coming up
Waiting, with baited breath
Meeting with a local MP
Today or tomorrow
Draft Timetable is here
Out with the old users, in with the new
On the 05:52 this morning
Background and opinion
Draft timetables (continued)
Three and a half answers out of 4
A week is a long time
Roger Jones answers 5 months later!
Safer current trains - the 06:56, 07:45 and 18:09
INPUTS NEEDED by 8th March
Meetings and Consultation Responses
A whole pile of responses
Ploughing back OUR money, not theirs.
New pages and information
On supporting other campaigns ...
Not just the TransWilts and Melksham ...
Service failure looses more customers
The Waiting Game
Real time train monitoring
Someone can't wait!
High emotion
UPDATE - new timetables
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
First - transforming travel
Constituency Changes
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Meeting, Friday 21st
Celebrating a closure
Meeting, tonight
Friday's meeting
What SWPTUF says
Meeting, 21st - notes
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
First back down or buses too.
Diary Date - 12th May
RailFuture meeting today
RailFuture meeting - some gems
First way to get rid of customers?
Friday meeting - invite and details
It gets worse
Every so often, stop and look
Bus service costs 25 pounds per passenger to run?
Carrying fresh air around?
Home soon.
Put yourself in their shoes
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Our battle ....
... is part of a planned war
Political pressure - press release
How to catch the 18:48 from Chippenham - the DfT suggests
Internet connection issues
Selling off any possibility of improvement
Letter from Derek Twigg
Important but not refreshing meeting
Welcome for Michael Ancram and Chris Grayling
Visit by Chris Grayling and Michael Ancram
Friday, 7th July - Melksham
Rail future - the First Alternative
Pivotal decison - to grow or to strangle?
Bad news coming?
In praise of estate agents
Press Release - Open Access operator negotiations
Open Access case strengthened
A desire for honesty
Flowers for Melksham. Flowers at Melksham.
Has our publicity reached the right people?
One year on
A year on - an empty bank holiday
Bus connections to Melksham from Chippenham
Is this train used?
If its working well, change it so it doesnt.
20% service cut = 40% traffic cut?
A difficult choice for voters
Consultant's reports recommended a modest INCREASE
From Ystrad Mynach
Taunton meeting
More cancellations
Passenger or lemmings
Behind the new timetable
Is this fare?
Returning from their UK course
End of term - don't care
Current and future summary
2 weeks to go
Fading away?
Coming to a course in Melksham
Last Week - Press Release
They're gone ... but ...
New service - first impressions
"Told you so"
Christmas, 2006
Welcome to 2007
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Key players
Keeping the diary rolling
End game?
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
Passengers or Customers?
A fast-moving story?
The traveller, not the train!
Report - Monday night's meeting - press brief
What is happening?
Reply to Petition
Petition Response - detail, opinion, context
Government pressure to shut up. But let us look forward.
Asking for the political and part views
Helsinki and Heathrow to Melksham - Saturday
Gordon Dodge, Rest in Peace
An update
The way forward - improved service and improved station
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
Update being updated!
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
Diary notes
New faces - mayors and chairs.
We have another hill to climb
Radio - tomorrow morning?
Weymouth, Poor Provisional, and Sunday
A Comparison - travel in the USA by train
The Ghost Train, Purton
How to fill platforms, and railway company coffers too!
Frustrated but not depairing
Front page update
Comment on December timetables
A First to Stagecoach comparison
Does the new man want to play hard?
And the week ends with two more cancellations!
Comparing a Wiltshire town with a Norfolk one
Commutes are longer, and in the west we may know why
Campaigning Mantra - Philosophy behind the case
30 late, and a bus not a train ....
Staffing-go-round - but the campaigners carry on
Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
Cancellations, Changes and Crass Christmas
First Great Western's Melksham service branded "a disgrace"
A pile of 160 train tickets for tomorrow
Santa Claus spotted at Swindon Station
TransWilts trains ceased a year ago. Lets look forward
Trains to and from Melksham - Timetable from Dec07 to May08
Happy Christmas everyone!
How have trains being doing in the last 48 hours?
Asda - an opportunity that can be used or squandered
Another slap in the face from First Great Western
On truthfully advertising the case
Fare Strike Day
Comparing a different part of the country
Where has our train gone?
Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
An unusual journey for me - some observations
Milk producers
Meeting Season
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
Not a Swiss clock railway this morning
Senseless service - could become sensible
Terminal 5 - a portent for the Olympics?
Loss of train - loss of job
Population growth, but congested roads
Road - busy ... railway - no trains, so no users
One long journey ends and another begins
Campaign update - news for December 08 / 09 / 10 / 11 ...
Preserved Railways - a look forward
Spring 2009 Campaign update

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