Monday, 2 December 2013

Hotch potch and botch

The announcement of a new ethos for the trust presented by Richard Parry in his role as CEO was a welcome change. Which comes with a promise from the trust CEO to be 'open and transparent' in dealings with the public. I admit, easy words to bandy around, but I think that boaters should not expect it to be an overnight change. The trust is still peopled by the old guard and I am sure that there will be some deep resentment to such change. A change that might well have to be forced upon those who choose not to embrace the new ethos.

I could point out that there are a good number of outstanding FoI requests which are chronicled on 'What do They Know" (the FoI website of choice) The resolution of such requests will be one of the litmus tests to how well the new ethos is working. In simple terms, the change of ethos should see a fall in the number of outstanding requests. By the requests being resolved and the waiting time reduced.  But I would also align this ethos change to coincide with a timely publication of the various trust meeting minutes.

I would like to see a paid membership of the trust available to everyone who uses and enjoys the waterways. In that way, those with a genuine interest in the waterways would be able to contribute at some level or other. But done without automatic enrolment of boaters. It has to be a personal choice by the individual. As boat owners we already play a vital part in providing some colour and visual amenity. Boaters provide income for canal side businesses. Boaters are often the unpaid ambassadors answering questions about the canals and its infrastructure with members of the public. The public are drawn to boats and as boater ambassadors, we have demonstrated our commitment. Because boat owners also have a significant financial stake in the success of the waterways. 

However, I think it would be good to see a membership discount for boaters, pensioners, children and active waterways volunteers.  This would be in-line with other charities. Charities with a paid membership also have a regenerating peer group that the charity is responsible to. That peer group is the membership itself. The membership should also elect their own independent representatives to the council. Which would be a welcome change to those parachuted in place by the IWA. While I am touching upon independent representatives. Has anyone seen anything published by the 'independent IWA representatives'?

I also have some reservations about the plethora of what I term 'hotch potch and botch interest groups.' Groups like the new 'research panel' could be bringing additional agendas to an already confusing number of other agendas already on the table. There is an old adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth! I feel that waterways partnerships and other such 'focus groups' are a culinary recipe for a waterways version of the Eton Mess. While I'm touching the subject of waterways partnerships anyone know how much revenue has been raised by the waterways partnerships?

This is already evidenced by the visitor mooring 48H 2D fiasco. Supposedly after a pre ordained outcome guided the consultations with anyone and everyone. If you want to alienate a boating ambassador make a charge against against him or her. CaRT might get a piddling little £25 fine, for a fine is what it is. But it will generate many thousands of pounds worth of bad publicity and ill feeling. Plus an almost instant return to 'us and them' situation. If rule changes create confusion then the rule changes are wrong. It seems that whoever you talk to has their own interpretation. This is the worst self inflicted change imaginable. A change brought around by a knee jerk reaction, to what still seems to be on the face of it a non starter in the first place.

Richard Parry is enjoying what I would call the 'honeymoon period' which usually lasts for the first year in office. I expect that the new ethos will be seen as Richard Parry's first significant act and will align itself with the ongoing 'honeymoon'. In the expectation that the new ethos of transparency and openness, should mark the end of the 'us and them' culture. This does not mean that boat owners should not continue to challenge and question what they feel is wrong. I have no doubt that this change of ethos has been brought about by people highlighting the lack of transparency and openness. Transparency and openness are only one of the problems that still need to be addressed. The infrastructure maintenance backlog is another. Currently there is no other alternative to the Canal and River Trust for managing the old BW inland waterways, but that is no reason for giving them an easy ride. Big salaries for directors should ensure good outcomes. While I'm touching on Directors pay, anyone noted any good outcomes that will justify a bonus?

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