Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Things are stacking up

Sometimes to get a good perspective on how things are stacking up. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the recent past. Its called foresight or in some circles technology foresight. Much of the research into foresight techniques has been rather fuzzy work and has been very elitist. Foresight attempts to go beyond the normal and gather information from much more diverse sources. Foresight is intended to be used for long-range planning that's influenced by using a structured and systematic approach. Foresight is helpful to examine alternative paths and not just what is currently believed to be most likely or business as usual. Measuring how effective foresight is requires a benchmark. The benchmark to measure against, is what has taken place in the recent and distant past.

Back in April 2011. Clive Henderson, was at that time the chairman of the Inland Waterways Association. This was when the move to a charitable was being developed. Also before Clive became a member of council and prior to the memorandum of understanding between CaRT and the IWA.

Clive Henderson said "Big assumptions are being made, that charitable income will come in the quantity needed and within a time scale, and from contributions from the property portfolio. BW is assuming the property market will recover in two years. But if it takes five, a lot of funding won't be there. That's a risk. The big consideration is major works, such as repairs to embankments. The government's £39m a year isn't index linked. I think the trustees must battle for money and negotiate with DEFRA for a better deal."

There was some improvement, however the property market like the housing market remains firmly mired in the mud.  Key performance indicators (visitor numbers) for the Trust are not being met. This brings a likelihood of a reduction in the funding allocation from DEFRA.  However, that's not the only issue, the numbers of volunteers are also well below the numbers that were being bandied about at the time. With a 47% reduction in staff numbers in the last 10 years. Add to this the underfunding of the maintenance requirement. The prospects for the trust and the inland waterways look to be dire.

In July 2010 Tony Hales said. 'There is now real enthusiasm for the idea of establishing a new “national trust” for the waterways. For this to happen we have to begin a root and branch change in the way all those who love the waterways - the managers, the users and the campaigners - work together.'

These are prophetic words indeed. Some boaters feel certainly feel that Canal and River Trust have little in common with them. There is a feeling developing that the trust want to work with just about anybody with the exception of boaters. The boaters contribute licence money and moorings fees on an annual basis. So there is little reason to want to encourage interaction with boaters as they contribute a huge amount of money already and are unlikely to want to contribute even more.

Boating is now clearly in decline and it has been for a couple of years. As boat numbers decline so does the funding. In 2010/11 there were 35,241 long term licences granted to boats on British Waterways' waterways in England and Wales. As of 31st March 2013 that number has fallen by over 2,000 to 33,227.

Back in 2011 Richard Carpenter of the National Association of Boat Owners said 'While being broadly supportive, NABO foresees some cultural difficulties. People at BW are used to running an organisation responsible to Defra, not one belonging to members. We've also concerns about salary structures of directors at the top end, and that there are as many as 50 members of the national council.

Once again very prophetic words as the setting up of a 'membership' structure was ignored by the transition trustees. Almost every charity has a membership structure for people to play a part. The membership includes a subscription and charitable activities such as volunteering. 

The overarching management structure is now so top heavy that its totally unwieldy and filled with many different voices singing to many different hymn sheets. If you wanted to bog down a structure, there is no better way than having a huge number of advisor's. 

The trust is headed by a board of ten trustees,Trust has a governing council of thirty-five members. The six executive directors. Nine on the Environmental Advisory Panel. A dozen on the Navigation Advisory Group. Another nine on the Heritage Advisory Group. Ten more on the Volunteering Advisory Group. Three more on the Learning, Children and Young People Advisory Group. Ten more Angling and Fisheries Advisory Group. Six more on the Freight Advisory Group. For each of the trust’s eleven waterway areas there is a Waterways Partnership drawn from local communities. Plus a couple more thrown in for good luck. With around 12 people on each partnership that's a further 156.  Each one with a different agenda. The role of Waterways Partnerships is completely advisory as are the roles of various other groups involved in the governance of CaRT. The cost to us of all these 'incidental top level volunteers' getting involved in the governance was £662,000 last year or £4243.58 each! Giving a running total of 256 people.

The partnerships were supposed to be self funding, and any surplus was supposed to go into CaRT's coffers. At the moment CaRT is putting money into the partnerships. That is an ongoing situation that is not going to change any time soon. In reality its seems to have all the hall marks of a job creation scheme.

So what is the long term and short term prognosis for the trust?

My crystal ball is broken as seemingly is the trust!

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