Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Extracting the Michael

Obviously in a 'taking the piss with boaters moment' some wag at the Canal and River Trust decided that as it was 'Friday the 13th' of February, it would be a good day for a bad news announcement.

A Convenient Reinterpretation.
It was time to announce that anyone who does not - in the Canal and River Trust's opinion - comply with the Trust’s guidelines for continuous cruising. Will not have their licences renewed, unless they agree to take a home mooring. We all know that boats on the canals are much more than just pleasure craft. They are in many instances peoples homes and in some cases their place of work. I have said this before and I repeat it again - call me old and cynical - but the guidelines are much more than CaRT's own clarification it is a convenient re-interpretation of the Legislation. 

Is Your Boat A Shed
What the trust is doing is like a landlord coming along to a tenant on a year-by-year tenancy agreement and saying. 'You must rent a garden shed.' The tenant says 'I don't want or even have a use for a garden shed.' The landlord then says 'I don't care if you use the shed or not, I say you must get one. If you don't rent a garden shed you have got to vacate my property.' The tenant says 'In my tenancy agreement there is nothing about a requirement to have a garden shed.' The landlord says 'I have now updated the tenancy agreement, sign here or remove you home.' 'But I need time to sort things out.' says the tenant. 'OK you can have a three month tenancy agreement, sign here. Now go and get a shed.' says the landlord.

Draconian Interpretation
How the Trust Trustees (ultimate responsibility lies with the trustees) can accept and agree with such a convoluted, draconian interpretation and subsequent application is beyond me. However, as someone who writes on various forums it has always amazed me how people read and then come up with what they think I actually wrote. It could be that the trust sees something that everyone else fails to see. Some people would see this reinterpretation of the waterways acts as a form of arm twisting by a bully. Applied by a monopoly to force people to spend money that they do not necessarily have or do not necessarily wish to spend. Being required to spend on something they don't necessarily want or necessarily need. Spending on something that the legislation recognises as constant cruisers they are not required to have. The guidelines are circumventing peoples rights to have a boat licence without the need or requirement to pay for a home mooring. 

Appropriate and Proportional
Setting aside the moot point about legality which I am sure will be decided elsewhere. setting aside whether is it is an 'appropriate and proportional response' for all boaters renewing a licence to have to sign up to such a document. The trust is using public donations for a purpose I am sure the friend would never have been told about when signing up. However, I am worried about the prospect of another round of canal evictions. Which will hit the national press, radio and television. The surrounding bad publicity will just go to reinforce the public perception about the charitable status of some trusts. Legal the subsequent evictions may be. But the question of morality will be decided by the giving public. I think that once again the 'charitable' trust will be seen to hang by its own petard.

Rhetorical Question
But asking myself the rhetorical question: Why would CaRT want to impose such a drastic course of action? CaRT is of course in a monopoly position and the recipient of much money from their own directly managed moorings. It has a number of moorings operated by a wholly owned subsidiary (BWML) CaRT also has a cut from various private marinas for each berth that is occupied. It also wants to make a charge for people who over stay on visitor moorings. Many of which have been pre-emptively reduced in the length of time that boats can stay. It begs the question is the 'dash for cash' because the trust is in a dire position.

Motives Questioned
I have said this before and I repeat it again - call me old and cynical - but the guidelines are much more than CaRT's own clarification of the law. It is much more a very convenient  reinterpretation of the prevailing Waterways Legislation. Many times I have questioned the motives of the trust - but I have at the same time recognised the need to support the trust in its broad aims for the future. My position is changing and I am now beginning to ask myself is the Charitable Trust fit for purpose.


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