Sunday 15 July 2012

I shall just say No

For some time I have been thinking about making my own charitable donations. Many charities can give a very plausible reasons as to why I should give them some of my money. Last week in Birmingham city centre we met up with a worker from Shelter.  The young lady gave chapter and verse on the work that Shelter does. I was convinced to give shelter an indirect one off donation.

This started me thinking in a bizarre sort of way about what I would say to members of the public if I was fund raising on behalf for CaRT. The problem is that knowing what I know about how money has been wasted previously. I would have a very serious conflict of conscience.

Even though I want to give a donation to help support and improve the Inland Waterways. I only want to support those I have confidence will use my money to best effect. That there will be some real tangible end product given sufficient time.

I could use my money in a number of different ways.

Just prior to the formation of CaRT I had been thinking of joining the IWA for some time. So I could for instance join the Inland Waterways Association. We have friends that are members of the IWA. There is some historical context because the IWA was founded by real canal enthusiasts as a pressure group just after the second world war. Intended to counteract the decaying morass that much of the canal infrastructure had been allowed to become. An organisation with dedication and teeth plus the willingness to challenge wherever necessary. 

The problem for me with the IWA is that in my opinion the IWA has abrogated their chief strength - their independence - to cosy up with CaRT

I have heard all the rhetoric about having input in the decision making and working inside for change. The issue now for the IWA is - if you become an integral part of the governance you are giving your tacit approval to the causal effect of any problems that created. The IWA has taken the BW shilling and given up its independence. I can imagine that if Robert Aickman was alive today he would be busy organising a campaign to regain the IWA its "old clothes" and independence.

There is an old anecdote - keep your friends close and your enemy even closer. Every authority is subject to some form of overview to monitor compliance and good practise. This was one of the functions that the IWA could have provided. Instead it apparently now hangs onto the apron strings and feeds on the crumbs at the table.

I had a long conversation with a couple of boaters about why the IWA would want to have such close tie's to CaRT. One of them speculated that it was because he thought Clive Henderson would like the role of Chairman of CaRT when Hales stands down.

Then I started to think about my reasons not to give money to CaRT.

Witnessing what has been perpetrated upon the Inland Waterways over the last few years by BW and its inheritors CaRT. BW has through piss poor management allowed the canals to fall even further into disrepair. Wasting valuable funds that could and should have been used to repair and improve the infrastructure on speculative property investments. How this backlog of much needed repair and upgrade work is to be achieved and funded is an ongoing mystery. Financial figures seem to change depending on who, when and where and to whom they are given. Government watchdogs have questioned the authenticity of the figures. There is no sense or reason for the creation of CaRT at this time - other than the government washing its hands of a national asset that has not been able to effectively manage itself for years.

I think that under the present funding setup, CaRT cannot remain viable in the long term. I would be unwilling for the foreseeable future to donate any of my money to the current transferred management and under the current funding regime. 

So who should get my money and yours?

Recently, BW has been disposing of maintenance assets by auction that could have been donated to the small canal restoration groups. The small amount of cash raised would have been outweighed by the common good for the canal infrastructure. This gives some valuable insight to the mindset at BW the same mindset that will be carried forward into CaRT.

There are many small canal groups who are trying through volunteering and fund raising to open up and bring back to navigation old canal routes. For years the small canal groups have been running organised fund raising events. Every penny raised by way of donation has to be maximised and used to best effect. 

The small canal groups have no salaried staff and directors on terms and conditions better than the countries prime minister. They are staffed by dedicated hard working volunteers who are into canal restoration for the love of it and also into restoration for the long run not as a way of building a significant pension benefits.

One of the things around giving donation is that it could take the form of a paid membership. I don't know of any local canal regeneration group that would not want to encourage people to become a member. This is where a great deal of their volunteers would also be recruited from. 

However for undisclosed reasons - CaRT does not want to have a Canals and Rivers Trust membership. This is a rather strange state of affairs for any charity. Especially one wanting to encourage donations from the public in support of what is described as a national treasure. Maybe its because a CaRT Membership subscription would encourage people to ask questions about how, where and why their money was being spent.

I see more reasons not to give money to CaRT than I can to do so. So my money will be going to groups with a real interest in the restoration of the canal infrastructure such as the Coombswood Canal Trust.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike, Mags & Poppy,

    I come at this as a prospective boater, and therefore just an interested outsider's POV.

    I suspect that the reason CRT don't want members (and I have no way of knowing this for sure!) is that with membership there would come certain rights. Perhaps a small say in how the charity's money is used, or being able to hold people to account for mismanagement etc.

    As I read it, CRT are saying "we want your donations, but not your involvement (at least, not any more than we'd be comfortable with)".

    At the moment people who donate are classified as 'friends' of CRT. And as such, presumably get an attractive sticker to put in the window and a very nice 'thank you' letter. And that's it.

    Just my two pennuth! I wait to be proved wrong - I often am! :-)




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