Thursday 9 June 2011

Shaking Things Up.

Yes, I am having a gripe with myself, I'm not in a good humour. I lost a much loved friend yesterday. A friend I have not seen for a while. I suppose now I am kicking myself for not going to visit a couple of weeks ago when I had the opportunity. It has been said many times before, "if I could only turn back the clock" that's the way I feel today. The sadness has made for a night of broken sleep and the resolve that it will not happen again.

I have another problem. The more I learn, the more I feel its "more of the same old". As we drift seemingly aimlessly towards the brave new world of a charitable status waterways. Call me old and cynical and you would be giving an accurate description on that particular subject.

I have always been a lucky sort. I have always done well out of whatever life has confronted me with. I have a knack of choosing the right option for any given situation. Look, take last night as an example. I had a go on a raffle. I have to choose a number between one and a hundred. I pay for a ticket, choose a number, and the Memsahib wins the cash prize. When it comes to the new charitable era, I don't feel lucky.

I don't know anyone who believes that the planned change of status for BW will change the fortunes of the Inland Waterways. I don't know anyone who has complete confidence that the change over team is not being used to parachute in a few "trusted" trustees in a bid to deflect some of the increasing heat away from the BW board.

The trustee model of representation is a model of a representative democracy. The model provides a solution to a problem. Uninformed constituents (in this case boat owners) who lack the necessary knowledge on issues to take an educated position. This model was formulated by Edmund Burke, an Irish philosopher. In the trustee model, a trustee considers an issue and, after hearing all sides of the debate, exercises their own judgment in making decisions about what should be done. J.S. Mill also championed this model. He suggested a model where constituents would receive votes according to their level of education (i.e people with degrees receiving the most votes, and working class people receiving the fewest).
I am not sure which version of Trustee model we are using, Burke or Mills.

So who is the new head honcho?

Tony Hales, British Waterways’ chairman, has been appointed to chair the charity’s founding trustee directors following recommendations by the independent Advisory Panel on First Appointments and Transition. Imagine the deep joy I felt as I read that. Well only if deep joy comes with a cold feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Why do I feel "more of the same old"? So here we have an advisory panel, and in their endeavours to find someone with experience of success. The only person that they could find was Tony Hales. I think the advisory panel need to turn the binoculars round and look again. Success in this venture is going to fall onto the shoulders of waterways users (volunteers). They need to have complete confidence in the transition team. I and many others lost all confidence in the existing BW board a long time ago.

Who else makes up this "dream team" well for a start there is.

John Bridgeman, British Waterways vice chairman. Why do I have feelings of "deja vu" combined with "more of the same old". I would imagine that his thoughts and those of Tony Hales will be as one. I refer you to the comments I gave earlier. on the Tony Hales appointment.

Nigel Hugill, British Waterways board member. Why do I have feelings of "deja vu" combined with feelings of "deja vu about the feelings of deja vu I'm already having." All this topped off with feelings of "more of the same old." I would imagine that his thoughts and those of John Bridgman will be as one. Read my comments on the John Bridgeman appointment for a flavour.

John Dodwell, former Chair, Commercial Boat Operators Association. A chartered accountant in corporate finance and corporate law. The Inland Waterways Association, of which he was General Secretary 1970-73. Member of the Inland Waterways Advisory Council and of the British Waterways Advisory Forum He now owns an historic narrow boat.
Jane Cotton, director of Oxfam and change management expert. Well if we are heading towards the third world status for the waterways. Who better to give advice about managing that change than Oxfam. Also ex HR director at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

In an interview, Jane said "There are two problems currently facing Oxfam's recruitment process. One is a shortage of people with hands-on leadership skills and the other is that they do not always offer competitive salaries. Given that we're not prepared to go out there and keep upping the stakes in terms of what we pay and given the skills shortage in a number of areas, I think that recruiting is going to continue to be a challenge. We have to get the balance right between paying enough to get really good people but not being market-driven and not assuming that higher pay will get you the best person."

I still have to get my head around a business plan that will be staffed by unpaid volunteers and require big renumeration and pensions provision for the board. The plan will need expertise in Change Management and Human Resources, like I need a stick with a horses head handle.

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers and leading advisor on open spaces. (you know, advice like, that's a space and its open) Tom is a blogger, one recent posting said "If I were to say the two simple words “thank you” face-to-face to every single person of the Ramblers’ volunteer force, it would take 25 days, non-stop." Inspiring. You can find Tom here. Tom is also currently a member of the Independent Panel which has been established to advise the government on woods and forests policy.

Plans to sell off as much as 150,000 hectares of forest and woodland in England in the biggest sale of public land for nearly 60 years were recently confirmed by the government in a letter sent to all MPs. There are no guarantees concerning future access to our forests and woodlands for members of the public. "Our intention is to fundamentally reform the public forestry estate, with diminishing public ownership and a greater role for private and civil society partners," said a statement on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website. Click Here

Well that's the canal walker's and tree hugger's covered. Just remind me again what the canal walker's and tree hugger's contribute towards the inland waterways infrastructure upkeep. Ah, yes, Zilch.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage. Thurley is an architectural historian. English Heritage also manages what is in effect the national collection of ancient monuments and historic buildings. Most of those have been sold off by BW against the wishes of many. It will be a quiet watch for him. Unless he gets into canal side classical Georgian style tower blocks, with Victorian don't moor here notices.

Lynne Berry, OBE Chief Executive of WRVS and boat owner. Ex Executive Director of the Charity Commission. Ex Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Ex Chief Executive of the General Social Care Council. So we can all look forward to the new Meals on Wheels Boats service.

Even though I have had a pop at them all. With the exception of the BW three, who I think have a lot in common with the Tamworth two. In all honesty I believe that the others have something worthwhile to contribute.

Transition Trustees are expected to devote three to four days per month to their role during the transition period until British Waterways’ duties, functions and assets are transferred to the new charity. Following that it is anticipated their time is likely to reduce to two days a month. (DEFRA)

I do have this niggle, they all have other burdens working as CEO's for other organisations. Is this important process getting the right level of attention to detail, based on a four day month.

What would you do to improve the lot of waterways users?


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