Monday 21 July 2014

Tank Tops and Custard Creams.

Things are changing at the canal and river trust. It's been some time since I last felt so up-beat about the senior management profile. When David Evans decided to take to the corporate lifeboat and abandon ship. I felt for the first time in years, a positive change for the better. I understood how Fletcher felt, when he saw Bligh sail away.  Though, I still had some misgivings, because I thought Evans might have already anointed his successor from amongst his minions. It came as another pleasant surprise that a new chief evangelist would have a guiding hand on the helm of the foundling trust.

With the arrival of Richard Parry, I welcomed the possibility of a significant change away from the bland ex British Waterways mindset. But even then, I still had those niggling doubts. However, during the honeymoon period that most new senior managers get.  I think Parry would have done some fact finding in the interim while waiting to take office. He could not have failed to see the level of distrust that boaters felt. To his credit, and a good bit of PR. Richard has been down on the towpath engaging in conversation with whoever he happened to find there.

This was where I first met him. I have always been a keen observer of body language and I liked what I saw. He was relaxed and at ease, which is always a good sign. But he did not stop after walking round a few marinas, he continued to engage with people who cared enough to turn up to his open meetings. But most of all he seems to have listened and I hope that he has benefited from the many and varied opinions. I can't, even in my wildest dreams have imagined this level of engagement being done by the previous management incumbent.

Its not all rosy in the garden, there are still some serious issues still to be addressed. Issues such as the wrong kind of public profile.  The litigious mindset that has garnered continuing distrust and suspicion. Looking back over the last year or so. I have observed a few changes as people have moved on or retired. Now the trust has created a couple of new roles and appointments. With these appointments have come some very significant changes in the reporting structure.  

But there is still one one final and very significant change that needs to be made. The Chairman of the trustees needs to go. Tony Hales said he was going and then went back on his word. More than anything else, the trust needs a strong and committed chairperson. Not someone who does not know if he will stay or if he will go. I am usually reluctant to recommend someone for such a role. However, Lynne Berry is in place and is one trustee who would be the ideal candidate. She has all the background credentials to make a significant contribution to the role of chairwoman. If only to bring about a gender balance, it would be good to have a class act right at the top.

There is however, an ill wind blowing along the canal. Its down to the IWA team of representatives that like last moment political candidates, were almost parachuted into place. Along with a capitulation notice called a memorandum of understanding. Which to me was as worthwhile as the letter Chamberlain's waved from Hitler. I think the main reason that the 'election' failed, was by not having the correct calibre of candidates.  I remember thinking at the time, some of the people I thought would have made excellent candidates, were noticeable by their absence. Which actually proved to be quite an astute move in the 20-20 vision that comes with hindsight. After all, real winners know how not to be losers.

It would be no good someone like me being nominated, I'm far to old, crusty and grumpy for such a role. Anyway, I like my custard creams far to much. What's needed is some young fresh blood, you know, someone below pensionable age. The trust needs a new perspective if only to address the age demographic. It's no good electing someone's granddad when what is needed is someone that can appeal to the younger generation. No matter how the future of the trust is to be shaped, its not going to be achieved by anyone comfortable wearing a tank top! 

Maybe the representative roles should also be shared across the gender divide. At risk of sounding like an old misogynist. Maybe one or two ladies would like to consider leaving the kitchen sink and providing the cucumber sandwiches, for what I think would provide a much more rewarding role.   Like everyone else reading this, I love the inland waterway. I want the trust to be successful and one way would be to loose the image of a club for port drinking gentlemen of a certain age. 

Which gets me nicely on to my last topic of the day. Call me old and cynical if you must. But I thought that one of the key roles for the creation of the waterways partnerships was to act as a catalyst for raising funds for the trust. Looking across the range of partnerships, I find its quite a mixed bunch. Apart from seemingly being a cash sink for much needed lucre from CaRT's depleted coffers. Has any of them actually moved from the red and into the black yet. Or is the fund raising just a smoke and mirrors notional one, like those often conjured up for matched funding.

Answers please on the back of a friends £3 note..... No, now that I think about it, lets not go there....

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