Saturday, 28 June 2014

Vanity Unfair.

News of the state of the inland waterways (More asset and infrastructure misery. NBW 12 May 2014) does not make for particularly good reading. Neither does the seemingly deliberate obfuscation over the release of the report given in January to the trustees. I suppose that if its only bad news followed by even more bad news.  It would not reflect so well on the feeble endeavours of those who have been entrusted with maintaining and managing a national asset. This begs the very obvious question what else are the trustees allowing to be swept out of sight under the carpet?

A report that suggests that the ongoing lack of maintenance will lead to unacceptable risk to public safety, and in particular towpath users is very worrying. This goes some way to explaining the ongoing work in brush cutting and the patching in some places and complete restoration in others. So why would you not want to release the report and then be in a position to demonstrate that the trust is responding to the need. The belief that papering over the cracks will make the problem go away. I can only assume is as a result of some misplaced vanity.

I don't want to believe that as the trust is deliberately holding back the information. Because it has previously embarked upon another mission. A mission to attract ever more visitors onto the towpaths. We all know that footfall numbers are one of the ways that government measures the trust's performance. The trust could not be hiding from the public and government the scale of the risks from using the towpaths. Yet these two diametrically opposite positions are - seemingly inextricably linked.

That of course is a best case scenario - because we are now living in an era of the Health and Safety Taliban - which, when combined with a nanny state does not bode well. What is blindingly obvious is that the trust never did have enough funding in place in the first place. Which I can only assume is as a result of another's misplaced vanity. So it's not surprising that the escalating number of infrastructure failures now require special measures. Special measures like a national appeal to the public for additional funding by donation. Suggestions that recent major failures are 'rare occurrences' has already been debunked if only be their frequency. The performance of such appeals should also go some way to alerting the trust to where it stands with Joe Public and the change in his pocket.

There has to be openness, transparency and accountability. Its time for the trustees to front up - and ensure the timely publication of information about the scale and nature of the problems.  Its a bit like going into the confessional - you will be able to utter a few platitudes in lieu of a few Hail Mary's. Then we can all get down to moving forward. My worry is that as we teeter on the funding precipice. As the brown stuff arrives at the fan.  Its easy for a trustee to just resign and walk away. If you can't embrace openness, transparency and accountability its time to go. Its time for a paid membership of the trust where openness, transparency and accountability can be ensured.

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