Report from Council
During its first month the new Council has met four times and this report sets out what we have done and what we hope to achieve.
Our first meeting was held immediately after the Annual General Meeting in Cardiff on 5 April. Anthony Booth was elected Chairman, Ann Bigley Vice Chairman and Bethan Jones was appointed Acting Principal Officer and Company Secretary. Other urgent tasks including meeting dates and cheque signatories were agreed.
Council met in Birmingham on 16 April with the sole purpose of agreeing a strategy for our Society. On 30 April an Induction and Training day was held at the offices of the Society’s solicitors in Cardiff. The focus of the meeting was the duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trustees and to ensure that trustees fully understood the new Articles.
On 1 May Council met to appoint trustees to standing committees, working groups and outside organizations and these appointments are detailed on this website under the Society/Governance/Structure. The strategy document, ‘Serving our Members’, which reflected the discussions in Birmingham was approved and it was agreed that it should be published on our website.
Council has deliberately set ambitious targets because we believe that the economic challenges facing our members require a positive and supportive response from our Society. We need to raise our profile to re-invigorate the market for Welsh ponies and cobs, help members to understand and address growing welfare problems and to let you know what we are trying to achieve.
As you will observe from the attached strategy document ‘Serving our Members’ we hope to collect your e-mail address as part of our wish to improve communications and so it would be helpful if you could let us know your e-mail address. We really wish to encourage your participation in our work and so it would be even better if you also let us know what you could do to contribute to any of the projects set out in our strategy or how you would like to help or get involved with our Society, locally or nationally, in any other way.
The Welsh Pony and Cob Society
Serving our Members, a Strategy for 2014 – 2015
Our wonderful Welsh ponies and cobs are part of Welsh legend and heritage, they are the pride and passion of our members and their unique qualities, for performance and pleasure, could make them a global brand. In the current economic climate it is imperative that our Society looks outwards, to improve knowledge about and visibility of the Welsh breeds, to better serve our members and to fulfil our charitable objects which are to:
- encourage the breeding, improvement and integrity of Welsh ponies, cobs and part-breds (Welsh breeds);
- promote the care, management and versatility of Welsh breeds:
- provide or encourage showing classes, activities and events for horses and ponies; and
- address cruelty and the welfare of horses and ponies through education and publicity
To realise this mission and meet the aspirations of our members the WPCS must be run in a businesslike way, must have clear strategic direction, measurable targets and a plan to achieve them. We need to be open and accountable, provide high quality services and communicate effectively with all our audiences.
This ambitious document sets out the thinking underpinning the strategy, summarizes the key objectives and the targets which will be necessary to ensure its delivery. This plan is not intended as a private working document but represents a prospectus to the wider membership about the sort of Society that Council wishes to create. Negative aspects of Council’s recent performance which informed the new policies are not rehearsed but, for example, the importance attached to the drafting of minutes, primarily to record decisions, reflects the fact that, in recent years, Council has spent between one third and one half of its time discussing minutes.
External threats, a central passport registration authority, the economic climate and consequential welfare problems, weak markets for the sale of horses and dwindling registrations are too stark and too immediate to allow another year, let alone another decade, of internal conflict.
Trustees agree that their first responsibility is to give a clear sense of direction and purpose to the WPCS, set the long term vision and protect the Society’s reputation and values. The priority attached to good governance reflects the fact that effective structures, policies and procedures will enable the Society to achieve its purposes and deliver its services efficiently, whether they are in education, welfare or promotion.
A new Committee structure aligned to the Society’s strategy has been established. The four committees, namely:.
- Education and Welfare
- Judging and Showing
- Members Services
will meet on the same day (Mondays) and trustees will be able to serve, together with non-voting subject experts, on two committees. This new structure is intended to reduce delays in decision making, provide better justification for the long journeys made by many trustees and to encourage a more collegial environment.
Committees will elect their own Chairman and may appoint small time limited task forces to deliver specific projects. Their primary role will be to deliver Council’s strategy and will report to Council:
- Any decisions they have taken under delegated powers
- Recommendations to Council on decisions required which are beyond their delegated powers with reasons for, and if appropriate against, the recommendation
- Progress reports on the on-going work of the Committee to implement Council’s strategy
Council has elected the Chairman of a Finance Committee and each committee has elected one of their members to serve on the Committee. The Finance Committee, which will meet after standing committees will play a wider budgetary and co-ordinating role.
Minutes of a committee should be a matter for that committee and, like Council’s, should primarily be a record of decisions. In exceptional circumstances the reason for a decision may be set out in the minutes but they should never become a transcript of the meeting. It will be the responsibility of the chairs of Council and committees to edit/agree their minutes before circulation.
Trustees understand and accept their legal duty of confidentiality but have abolished the current ‘pink paper’ regime whereby anything deemed confidential is circulated to members at the meeting, with no prior warning, and collected up at the end of the discussions. This arrangement made it impossible to properly consider long and complex documents such as legal advice.
There will be a rationalization of all papers presented to Council to ensure that decisions are taken in the light of an explanation of the issue, the options available and a recommendation. Low level correspondence will be promptly dealt with by staff, or if appropriate, committee chairs.
- Make a commitment to our members to be open and to focus on our charitable objects. May 2014
- Abolish the pink paper regime. May 2014
- Minutes to be the responsibility of chairs and primarily record decisions in accordance with the agreed model format. May 2014
- Council papers to comprise one bound bundle which provides the relevant information to enable decisions to be taken. July 2014
- Adopt committee structure aligned to strategy. May 2014
- As a consequence of the new Articles and new committee structure many of the Society’s existing codes, procedures, standing orders and terms of reference need reviewing/up-dating. It is hoped that this time consuming and unrewarding task can be completed by July 2014.
The purpose of the promotional strategy is to ensure that legislators and regulators know what we are thinking, the media, equestrian, national and local, know what we are saying and our members know what we are doing. The fulfilment of our ambition to raise the profile of the WPCS and Welsh breeds is not an end in itself but is fundamental to improving the knowledge of and market for our ponies and cobs both throughout the United Kingdom and overseas.
Membership of the WPCS has been a prerequisite for registering a pure bred foal and our Society has prospered for years on the strength of this press-ganged membership. We have no guarantee that this ‘monopoly’ will continue and so our future prosperity depends on a membership offering and national profile which encourages people who merely enjoy owning a Welsh pony, cob or part-bred to join and participate in our Society.
The Society has a range of promotional vehicles and the first task of a new Promotion Committee will be to review promotional resources and develop a co-ordinated strategy for the website, journal, bi-annual magazines, literature, lorry etc. In the meantime it was agreed to make a start in order to raise our profile.
The current website is not user friendly, is hard to navigate and, is not regularly updated. It was agreed to prepare a specification for and to develop a new customer focused website. It is anticipated that the website will include password protected areas for members and trustees, links to associated organisations, active facebook pages and lively forums. Easy to find answers to frequently asked questions should reduce phone calls and correspondence to the office and we should aim to provide the first choice location for buying and selling Welsh breeds. There is a wonderful museum at the WPCS offices at Bronaeron in West Wales which includes many photographs and other items from the early days of our Society. To enable this resource to be more widely shared it is intended that, over a few years, the museum contents should be digitized and made available on the website.
- New website and first tranche of museum operational by January 2015
- 45,000 visitors per month by April 2015
Raising our profile
To raise the profile the WPCS it is necessary to become the first choice source of information on Welsh breeds, native ponies and equestrian topics for everyone from the Welsh Assembly to the equestrian media. This can be achieved by producing position papers on contentious issues (passports, welfare) timely and punchy press releases and by becoming known as an organisation who can produce articulate spokespersons to address equestrian issues.
- Issue regular press releases on topical issues nationally and internationally. October 2014
- Prepare position papers on contentious issues, October 2014
- Establish panel of experts across UK who can be called upon to speak to local media. Every press release should include the name of a contact/expert. January 2015
- Produce an information pack for vendors to give to the purchasers of Welsh breeds. October 2014
- Develop a long term strategy for raising the profile of WPCS and Welsh breeds aimed at attracting new members and developing new markets for ponies and cobs January 2015
A network of 29 local associations already exist and they organise shows, stud visits, newsletters, social and educational events for Welsh breed enthusiasts in their area. The people who run these associations are the members who are prepared to give their time on behalf of our Society and their local members. Council would like to build its services and support for members on those foundations.
To encourage associations to buy into this strategy it is intended to develop new products and services to ease the burden on local volunteers and to co-opt representatives onto the Members Services Committee in order that they can help shape the nature of the enhanced services. It is hoped that each association could have a local publicity and welfare liaison officers. The sort of support it is proposed to provide to local associations may include:
- Horse show management software which enables on-line entries, local secretaries to download horse details by entering registration numbers and generates all necessary documentation and catalogue.
- Distribute bi-annual newsletters by post or e-mail
- Enable annual discussion forum (linked with their AGM?) with allocated trustee.
- Organize/support at least one educational seminar/presentation/evening covering topics such as preparation for showing, judging, welfare, laminitis and feeding etc
- In conjunction with local vets organize low cost gelding days
- Encourage events which involve young people, including ‘pre-teens’, promote the bursaries available and the role of the Young Ambassador and Achiever.
- Consult with associations on their expanded role and the support with which they will be provided and explore the current legal relationship with them.
- Conduct open and objective surveys, to ensure services are fulfilling members’ expectations, to identify weaknesses in performance and potential new opportunities.
Support /products/capability in place by April 2015
Plans are already underway to hold a non-competitive family fun day weekend event in September 2014, a project which is already under preparation.
- To deliver the event in September 2014
Council believed that the current programme of meetings and support for overseas branches was working well and that new initiatives were not required but that the current projects should be accelerated.
The existing pavilion at the Royal Welsh Showground is in very poor condition and will have to be removed or replaced. Considerable work has been undertaken to design and seek approval for a new pavilion, on the other side of the road from the existing pavilion.
- Trustees with relevant expertise will form a task force to progress this project within the financial constraints imposed by Council. May 2014
Education and Welfare
It is intended to deliver education, in addition to existing visits to equine colleges, primarily through the network of 29 local associations. Welfare constitutes one of the four key charitable objects of our Society and, in the current economic climate, one of the most challenging. It is hoped that associations will be able to appoint a local welfare liaison officer, and that an important topic in our education programme will be welfare. Clear guidance should be issued to members on how they might pre-empt welfare problems, how they should act and to whom they should report in the event of a serious welfare issue being identified and should also highlight the welfare implications of over breeding.
- Education and Welfare Committee to produce guidance for members and liaison officers. October 2014
Complaints and disciplinary
You would expect an equestrian organization to have a complaints procedure in place to address cruelty to animals and abuse of judges etc. but for a charity you would not expect it to constitute the largest item of expenditure in 2012, after staff salaries. In any modern human rights compliant disciplinary process, it is not acceptable for the rule makers, that is Council, to play a central part in rule enforcement.
The previous Council had recognised that the existing complaints and disciplinary process was not fit for purpose and had set up a working party to consider changes. A new working party has been established to put independent procedures in place.
- Adopt new complaints and disciplinary procedures. October 2014
- Explore the possibility of significantly raising the ‘deposit’ required from trustees and former trustees when making a complaint. October 2014
At the Society’s expense one new foal in six hundred is subject to DNA testing and a test is a requirement for registering a stallion. It is likely that, at some stage in the future, external regulators will require all horses to be tested. As a first step towards comprehensive testing it is intended that, from 2016, all maiden mares will have to be DNA profiled as a prerequisite to registering their first foal.
- Mandatory profiling of maiden mares from 2016.
Judging & Showing
Whenever pony and cob enthusiasts get together, whether at a show or in a pub, the conversation almost inevitably turns to judging. This is not unique to Welsh breeds but afflicts every ‘sport’ where judging is subjective and the complex rules and panels of judges as adopted by, for example, skating suggest that there is not an easy answer.
It is proposed that the Judging and Showing Committee re-writes the Judges’ Handbook clearly separating rules from recommendations and guidance. The Committee will explore continuing development/training for judges rather than the current requirement to attend a conference every five years. Council believes that the minimum age for judges should be 25 and that a programme of mentoring by unrelated judges should be required before young judges reach that age. As a short term measure, which Council believes may have a long term impact, shows, both large and small, will be encouraged to invite judges to explain their decisions to competitors and spectators while the ponies or cobs remain in the ring.
- Re-write Judges’ Handbook for 2015 showing season.
- Review minimum age for judges and develop an appropriate mentoring regime. October 2014
- Invite shows to require judges to publicly give their reasons. July 2014
The infrastructure, certainly the key IT systems, are creaking, are not integrated and inhibit flexibility and productivity. Primitive budgetary processes do not give clear accountabilities and anecdotal evidence suggests shortcomings in service standards .
Council agreed to appoint an independent consultant to review and prepare a specification for an integrated membership, registration and financial package which will enable one member of staff to complete all steps for any transaction and, for example, to instantly generate stud books, financial and members services data and be responsive to customer needs.
We are aware that many Welsh breeds registered with the Society remain in the name of their breeder or previous owner rather than their current owner. Following the horse meat scandal such shortcomings in our database are not acceptable. No checks are in place to ascertain whether deceased members with ‘life’ membership remain on our mailing list and we do not hold e-mail addresses for most members.
- Complete review/specification for IT system October 2014
- Database repair: Send printouts to batches of members each week to ascertain which animals they have sold or have died. Regularly from June 2014
- Clean up life members database by instalments from June 2014 and to be completed by year end
- Collect through mailings, during phone calls and correspondence the e-mail addresses for 75% of members. April 2015
The Society’s Principal Officer resigned with effect from 5 April 2014. An acting Principal Officer is in place and when trustees have agreed all the details of their new strategy they will seek a candidate who can, and a staffing structure that will, turn their ambitious strategy into action.
- Appoint a new ‘Principal Officer’. During 2014
Trustees did not believe that the ‘Pqasso’ service standard represented value for money and agreed not to seek any further accreditation.
- Publish demanding service standards for correspondence, registrations, transfers etc. October 2014.
- Investigate availability and capability of additional phone lines to the Society’s office. June 2014
We need well motivated staff able to support, flexibly, the activities of the WPCS. It is certain that a state of the art IT system would increase productivity enormously and so we should now be training staff with the skills required to deliver this plan. This will require more creative skills including journalistic writing, organizing events and negotiating with speakers and using technology to deliver high quality design.
- Provide training in new skills for 50% of staff. March 2015
12 May 2014