Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Conundrum of Epic Proportions

Its a conundrum of epic proportions that will ultimately decide the outcome for the Inland Waterways. The trust has finally awakened, if only to acknowledge the precipice that the age profile of the boat owning population holds for the future of the Inland Waterways.

Over the next few years boat owners are going to be reaching that age where poor health, infirmity and the lack of agility will be the most significant decider (other than a wooden overcoat) for leaving the cut. This will not be a small gradual change but will come in ever increasing numbers as the post war baby boomer's arrive at that certain age.

Age Profile:

The people selected by the trust to look for a solution to slow and reverse the trend, are at the top end of the age profile themselves. They have little in common with today's generation. A new generation who have a totally alien set of priorities in life.

Sometimes you need to think outside of the box when looking for a solution to a growing problem. However, if you have not experienced the normal working regime that the younger generation have to contend with today. How are you ever going to come up with a realistic solution. The answer will not be found in the dusty dry atmosphere of a boat club – the younger generation with the odd exception are not exactly queuing to get in.

Part of the problem is the general attitude amongst the 'shiny boat culture' towards the next generation who want to hold down a regular job. The generation who want to put their children through the educational system. The generation who want access to other everyday services such as a family doctor. There are the trite answers trotted out such as 'well go and live in a marina.' There is a need to acknowledge that people also want to live on a boat to save money. Because part time and zero hours does not pay very well. The expensive marina life is not financially available to them. They also want to be able to move their home, sometimes if only to follow the work. The notion of a job for life is now long dead and buried. These are not people wanting to live on benefits these are people with dignity who want to be able to self fund their choice of lifestyle.

Security of Employment:

Gone are the days when employment meant if you were not happy – you could get a job next door. Gone are the days of secure employment, what was once upon a time referred to as a job for life. Gone are the days of job satisfaction having anything other than notional value. All have been replaced by the joys of the brave new world of contract employment. The much more common part time time employment. There is now the whole brave new world of zero hours employment. Into this mix you can now add compulsory volunteering for work. 

This is already reflected in the way the cut is managed today. Now we see the lock keeper on summer contract. (part time) The fast disappearing fully employed. (full time) Both of their roles being replaced by the volunteer. (zero hours)

Providing Social Housing:

As the number of residential moorings grows the trust has a need to recognise that it is effectively becoming - whether it wants to or not - a social housing provider. The government has already hinted at this. The trust is going to have to change in ways that the departing generation will oppose. We are part of the last generation with a final salary pension that provides for our remaining future. We retired at an age when we still had some time left to enjoy the waterways. As Dylan sang when we were the bright eyed generation – 'The times they are a changin.' Can you detect that feint aroma, its the smell of coffee - Its time to wake up to the truth, the future of the inland waterways lies in the increasingly shallow pockets of the next generation. The times most certainly are about to change.

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