Friday, 2 December 2011

Charity Commission Letter I

Charities Commission
PO Box 1227, Liverpool

Dear sir/madam. 21st November 2011.

I have some serious reservations about the change over of British Waterways into the Canal and River Trust along with a change to a charitable status. I am relatively new to boat ownership and having recently retired from a working life in higher education. I want to spend more quality time with my family aboard my boat. Prior to owning our own boat, we were regular hire boaters and we came to love the canals and rivers of the UK. We look upon the inland waterways as a national treasure. The waterways helped to kick start the industrial revolution and now form part of what I believe should be a linear national park.

What I feel has become abundantly clear over the last few years is that the canals have been allowed to fall into serious decay. There is also serious opposition amongst boaters - many, myself included who would question the ethics of the British Waterways board.

Often assurances that have been made have later been ignored. Information has to be prised out of British Waterways by the use of the Freedom of Information legislation. Boaters without question want to play a part in ensuring the future management of the Inland Waterways is done in a transparent way. The new board which is to a certain extent formulated from the old British Waterways board, openly opposes such transparency. What have they to hide?

The new/old board is made up of individuals in which I have no trust whatsoever. There is a deep felt belief that the old board was only interested in their own salary and bonus payments. Payments which were perceived to be topped-up with the cherry of generous pension arrangements.

Boat owners feel that we should collectively be playing a bigger role in how the Inland Waterways are managed. We also feel that we should have a role to play as a check and balance. One where we can oversee the improved use of existing resources and the generation of new ones. The new management will have to rely on recruiting a willing volunteer force to manage the inland waterways back into an acceptable position. The volunteers will be made up of waterways users, many of whom are already questioning the financial viability of charitable status.

As for CaRT being exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. I believe that this would be a backward step and one that will only exacerbate the existing alienation between the board and the waterways users. If there is no openness and transparency there can be no grounds for a common trust. I have no trust in the previous board and I have no trust in the transition trustees. I and many others will not volunteer for what we don't trust.

I have a fundamental objection to any charity that also seeks powers to make and create new legislation. Especially when it would be done outside of the scrutiny of the British public and the waterways users. This step alone is a charter for disaster. I believe it will be misused as a method to intimidate and bully waterways users. Many boaters currently feel to be in that position already.

Reply from the Charity Commission. 29th November 2011

Thank you for your letter. we are not in a position to respond to your concerns as the Canal and River Trust ("the Trust") does not appear to have approached us for registration as a charity at this time.

Please note that your correspondence will remain on file and will be considered in the event that we receive an application from the Trust to register as a charity.

David J Bishop
Charities Commission Direct.

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