Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Poll Tax for the Inland Waterways (5)

A Poll Tax for the Inland Waterways

Governments of all colours have from time to time come up with various bits of stupid legislation, that has eventually created the pit for their own downfall. 
  • For Thatcher is was the Poll Tax. 
  • For Major it was Family Values. 
  • For Cameron it was Big Society. 
  • For the Railways it was the wrong kind of Snow. 
  • For the Canal and River Trust its the wrong kind of Trustee.

There has been chapter and verse written over the last decade and longer, highlighting the distrust that many hold for the way that the waterways are being managed. What has become plain to see with the 20:20 vision provided by a decade or more of hindsight. Is that the quango charged to manage the waterways, was ill equipped with the right kind of personnel for the job. I'm not talking about the skill set of the general staff. The finger of responsibility has to be pointed much higher up the command structure.


I have a few concern over the latest blue sky thinking by someone with a lot of spare time on their hands. The issue of boat recording, which I thought previously was in the remit of the Trust. It would seem that the trust is now passing on that task to boat owners. Whilst at the same time continuing to keep its own very suspect recording system going.

If I choose purchase a boat and use it on the trusts waterways. I will in future - if the trust has its own way - be required to prove certain unspecified information in an unspecified format to the trusts unspecified satisfaction. Basically the trust wants to know exactly when and where every boat owners boat is at any given moment in time. Once again this is a disproportionate reaction and a draconian, big brother style, invasion of privacy. Associated once more with the trite throw away line - 'if you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about' isn't the point.  The point is vast amounts of time and significant amounts of our money are being squandered once again. This is a sweeping change of some magnitude. I don't recall the Environment Agency feeling the need to make such a requirement on boaters using their waterways. Also, I don't recall any meaningful consultation being made with boaters on this issue. 

To demonstrate how well thought through the 'satisfaction' process is:

  1. There is no definition within the guidelines of what will actually constitute a 'satisfactory' level of proof to the trust. So how will I know what I need to supply to comply?
  2. There is no definition within the guidelines of how that 'decision' will be made. So how will I know what I need to do to comply?
  3. Will the 'satisfaction' criteria be applied consistently?
  4. Alternatively will the 'satisfaction' criteria be judged on a on a case by case basis.
  5. What safeguards are in place to stop boaters being victimised by a disgruntled employee.
  6. Who will actually make the judgement call upon what constitutes 'satisfactory' proof.
  7. What process will be in place for resolution of any disputes. Especially now that the ombudsman service has been proved to be little more than a sham charter.
  8. What process will be in place for appeals process. 
  9. Who will manage the appeals process.
  10. Who will actually make the judgement upon the appeals process.
  11. What procedure will be in place for conducting the appeals process.
  12. The guidelines do not specify what the 'proof' should actually consist of.
  13. There is no definition within the guidelines of the method in which the 'proof' should be provided.
  14. There is no definition within the guidelines of what form the 'proof' should take.
  15. There is no given example within the guidelines of how the evidence should be gathered.
  16. There is no definition within the guidelines of who is authorised to request the proof.
  17. There is no definition within the guidelines of how the proof will be kept, stored or retrieved. 
  18. There is no definition within the guidelines of  who will have access to the proof and for how long.

Now I know that the trust records my and every other boaters movements. So why don't the trust supply the information they have collected to all boaters. It could be in the form of a monthly update of the sighting records that the trust holds. Then if the records are wrong - the boater can then rectify the situation by correcting the errors. I think that this is an equally justifiable procedure as the boater having to keep duplicated records. Which someone within the trust can on a whim decide are not satisfactory.

I don't think that the current acts of parliament actually require me to provide such information to the satisfaction of the trust. I would think that the collection of such proof if needed would be within the remit of the trust. Especially if the information I am expected to provide could be used to prosecute me. Which therefore opens up a whole new can of worms. But as we all know, the trust for some reason seems to have a need to invest our money in taking boaters through the high court. This is simply another abrogated enforcement issue and the burden of any proof, if proof is needed, should be provided by the trust through its enforcement team. 

So where is the responsibility element?
Where was the oversight by the trustees?

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