Sunday, 21 November 2010

BW is still trying to deceive it's residential moorings customers

Having lost a complaint about clarifying boaters' eligibility for Houseboat Certificates, BW is attempting to move the goal posts.

Earlier this year I 'won' a complaint against BW. Their current terms and conditions* claim that: 1.4 "Houseboat" means a boat which is not used for navigation and is kept on a British Waterways long term mooring with planning consent for residential use."

Unfortunately BW's evidence to Parliament prior to the 1995 British Waterways Act and their own subsequent interpretation, negotiated with national user groups at the time, makes it quite clear that this is not the case and that anyone who moors at a properly established BW long term mooring should be entitled to claim the better legal protections that apply through having a Houseboat Certificate (instead of a Standard Cruising Licence). In evidence of this, numbers of Houseboat Certificates increased to over 300 in during the years following the '95 Act.

During my Stage Two complaint, when I produced evidence of what they had said to Parliament and boaters at the time, BW conceded that they had got it wrong. During the course of the complaint they most amusingly admitted that they could not find their papers from the Committee hearings on the Bill that became the 1995 Act and could I direct them to the appropriate records!

However following a short interval during which the results of the complaint were discussed with the main national user groups representing boaters, they then refused to commit to publicising this finding. Rather than concede gracefully they only agreed a timetable to publicise the decision after I complained to the Ombudsman.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Be careful what you wish for

The new message from British Waterways is that the new Waterways Charity will not be the old BW. Depending on your point of view this is either an important message or a statement of the blxxding obvious!

This message appears to have been delivered with a three line whip at two public meetings recently. It is interesting that on both occasions, this mantra was offered in the context of and in direct response to people raising concerns about the competence and track record of the current BW management.

If I really believed that the coming of the new waterways charity meant we would be sweeping away most of the current Board and Management Team and replacing with something better and closer to the public, I would offer my support. Problem is I see no sign of this. It seems to me that emperor is  is just getting a new set of clothes, and like the old ones, best not subject to too close an examination.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Doing it the hard way

Further to my last posting, British Waterways have of course promptly repaired the diffuser on my electric point, within days of receiving the formal complaint. just annoying that it wasn't done when I just asked in the normal way.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Repairs by the complaints process

Back on this again. BW don't seem to learn from previous complaints: one broken diffuser on a mains power bollard:

Note the missing corner at the on the bottom left.
  • Point it out to at the annual electrical safety inspection: the engineer agrees it needs replacing.
  • Wait all Summer nothing happens. 
  • Point it out a second time to another engineer inspecting the electrics, he agrees it should be fixed and will tell BW. 
  • Nothing happens
  • Phone BW up to report this and another repair. 
  • The other repair is done but no response on this one.
  • Thinks, I am paying BW nearly £5000 a year for this mooring. 
  • Start Stage One Complaint.

I will let you know what happens!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Letting the mushrooms see the light?

It may surprise my regulars but I'm going to say something (almost) positive about British Waterways today.

Along held grumble at local user group meetings has been how on too many occasions local staff leading those meetings have been not been briefed over national policy discussions. The phrase "you seem to know more about this than us", has been heard from their lips more than a few times! (= mushroom theory)

It seems after many years of asking, both personally and nationally through NABO's good offices, someone has finally decided to do something about this one. Accordingly all local user group meetings have been issued with a national briefing on boating issues. (As soon as I find one posted on the web I'll add a link.)

I have to acknowledge this as progress at last!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Paddington Business Barges confirmed as a White Elephant

My friend Allan Richards has through his persistent public questioning of BW proved what most of us locally thought was the case: The business barges BW installed in Paddington Basin are a financial failure. It did not take a genius in property investment to work out that trying to market these barges as workspaces adjacent to one of the biggest office space developments in West London was going to be a challenge, whatever the economic climate.

The signs of course were apparent a year ago.

The answer to Allan's latest FOI request demonstrates that over the last eight years the project has made no return.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Boaters - An afterthought in BW's thinking?

To all of you who have been sitting round waiting for my latest musings my apologies! Please blame BW because my spare time has been pre-occupied with their latest musings on the future management of directly managed residential moorings.

What are their latest thoughts? Well that's the nub of it. BW have made it clear they don't want me to tell you!

This is of course a point I have made about BW's attitude to it's boating customers in the past: BW's preference seems to be to try to make changes to the terms and conditions of boating by whatever method that ensures boaters are the last people to hear about these changes.

What has been happening is that BW only grudgingly revealed their latest intentions over the future of Houseboat Certificates and directly managed residential moorings to me in the course of an Ombudsman complaint. It is only out of respect for the Ombudsman’s good offices that I am restraining the considerable urge to publish their correspondence with me and be damned!

I have in fact written to BW recently and proposed that actually they should go public with what they now have in mind and let all the boating customers that might be effected by what they are proposing have an opportunity to comment on the proposals in advance of the event. That suggestion has to date been studiously ignored! For the moment then you are going to have to be patient while the Ombudsman muses over how she wants to work through the situation.

However these events have found echoes in a couple of other things that have happened recently.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Report on 'Waterways For Everyone' consultation issued.

I would commend to readers DEFRA's report on its consultation which  from earlier in the year on 'Waterways for Everyone'. Full details from the DEFRA web page. A fair bit to read but I think worth the effort.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Feathering the nest?

BW Directors have had a good year even if the rest of the business has suffered. According to the Annual Accounts, last year the value of their pension funds increased by £1.8 million pounds. (Annual Accounts page 47).

Robins Evans pension fund increased by in excess of 33% in the year and spin master general, Simon Salem's pension pot increased by 43%, which the annual report claims will provide them with pensions of £78 000 and £63 000 a year respectively.

Now I don't how that increase I was achieved and maybe the directors had a result on their Lottery Syndicate? However it is curious that at a time when everyone else's pensions are reducing in value that the BW Directors pension funds did so well.

As predicted their property portfolio sucked money out of BW instead of providing net income. Page 50 of the annual reports suggests a net loss for the year of in excess of £12 million.

Can someone explain?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Spending our money on Spin

This week BW have been heralding how they have 'invested' half a million pound in new pontoons in Liverpool. Good news for boaters?

Of course as Victor on Narrowboat World has so accurately pointed out, getting to take your boat there to take advantage of the new moorings may prove a problem!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Robin Evans Pay

Thanks to the publication last week of the salary bands of the top earners in quangos etc, Robin Evans' salary is again in the public domain. Robin comes joint 14th place from the top of the 332 person list, (in the £230 000 - £235 000 salary range.)

I also saw Christoper Hope's comment on his telegraph blog pointing out that this is more than the heads of M15 and M16. He wonders what Robin (and others) do that is of so much more value than the security of the nation. Good question! Well I don't think it's that the heads of the Security Services are under-paid... See 23 April

The BW Board was due to meet on 17th June to approve the latest set of Annual Accounts*, which many of us await with interest, to see just how much money BW has lost this year and how much of their our commercial portfolio they have sold off to keep themselves afloat and maintain Mr Evans and his cronies at the salary levels they are used to!

Stop press! - the 2009/10 Annual Report and Accounts are now up on their website here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

New tactic to increase visitor numbers on the towpath?

A new shiny signpost has in the last week appeared opposite my mooring at Kensal Green, presumably funded by the latest tranche of money BW have taken from from London Government to improve the towpaths. It's right opposite the window I sit next to when issuing these missives, so I could hardly be expected not to comment.

At least after many years of making the point, the notice on the sign finally admits that pedestrians have priority over cyclists.

However as is too often the case, BW just can't seem to get the detail right!

Who can spot the deliberate mistake?

The truth about Moorings Tenders?

Senior British Waterways officers have apparently come to the view that they do not like mooring tenders as much as they used to.
  • Is it because there has suddenly been an outbreak of reasonableness in their bit of Watford? 
  • Or have they finally had a change of heart and accepted that selling chargeable services to the highest bidder might not be an appropriate way for a a public body to conduct itself?
No.  In the current climate it seems that the moorings tenders process is suggesting that they should reducing moorings fees.

Of course, they don't want to admit that to the rest of us!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Info on BW 2010 Mooring Fee Increases and price setting

I reported yesterday that the relevant info appeared to have been moved. I was wrong - it's one of BW's directions to that info that seems to be wrong!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Latest dose of Mushroom food

As mentioned in my last post, myself, neighbours on my mooring and many of the other boaters effected, have not surprisingly, asked BW to justify the up to 20% mooring fee increases which have been handed down this year.

We have had an amusing and often contradictory set of reasons given.

More Mushrooms - Realities of being a British Waterways residential moorings customer

Myself and my neighbours are fighting huge price rises (as are a small number of other boaters who are BW mooring customers). Mysteriously, all the information that BW had previously posted to justify these increases seems to have been removed from the BW website. (If it is relocated I will let you know.)

Although many BW Moorings Customers got a reasonable settlement on moorings fees this year (2%), a small number of us have been hit hard with increases of up to 20%.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


The recent British Waterways Local User group Meeting on the Kennet and Avon Canal highlights what for me is a longstanding and infrequently spoken of aspect of British Waterways. I have often described the Watford Head Office’s approach to consultation and waterways management as “mushroom theory”: Keep ’em in the dark and feed them sh*t!

It seems to me that this approach applies not just to boaters, but also to their own operational staff.


For those who don't know Macavity (refered to in a previous post): source

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

Friday, 23 April 2010

More Smoke and Mirrors

In a previous post I commented on my and others' doubts about whether the proposed BW move to the Third Sector was any real financial solution to their problems. I said I'd ask BW. Well they have answered, well sort of...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Spending public money wisely?

I was reminded of some old accusations against BW London about abusing the the funding process by a couple of things this week. Some more recent examples? What do you think?

Games Monitor has been watching the Three Mills Lock project closely and I have to say their and ITV's findings tally closely with mine. We may have our first completed white elephant of the London Olympics.

Alive and well: Smoke and Mirrors

A few things have come zipping over cyberspace over the last few weeks which reminded me of something I said in the past: my view that the current debate about the future structure of British Waterways is a load of smoke and mirrors.

(In my book it's the also increasingly looking like the dying throes of a failed BW senior management who have led BW to the edge of oblivion, and are now desperately scrabbling around for a way out.)

The real question for me remains the question I first raised at the BW AGM, back in the Autumn. "The fear is, as was mentioned, this doesn’t address your £30m a year funding gap."

Friday, 5 March 2010

Cyclists agree that using the towpath is not always appropriate

I was pleased and relieved to see that many London cyclists have apparently recognised that canal towpath's may not always be the a suitable place for cycling.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

"Serial Complainers"

In a recent post I described some of those who had raised complaints against boaters on the K+A as "serial complainers". To be fair I think I should qualify that, even though I hinted strongly at the possible qualification in the original post.

I am sure their are some people in BW (and others too maybe) reading this who will have become slightly indignant with me using the phrase, because I am confident that in their eyes I am also regarded as a serial complainer.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Time for more labels

Due to the burgeoning volume of posts where BW get a mention I have added some more labels, in effect as subgroups of the existing 'British Waterways' label I already use to sort my posts. I have so much to say on the subject of BW it now needs sorting in to sub categories, even if only for my benefit - not sure if this is a good or a bad thing?!

Although this makes the BW label almost redundant I'm leaving it in place anyway as a counter!

K+A complaints - another "perfect balanced sample"

I read with great amusement the latest posting on the Kennet and Avon Boaters website, "Truth will out". As neat an example of certain people in BW apparently manipulating information to create the result they want I have not seen in a long time. Another way of looking at the numbers is to point out that:

It seems that of the sixty three complaints about boaters that BW cited to justify their proposed mooring restrictions on the Western K+A, thirty of these were from one person!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

What the local press thought of the BW Marsworth fiasco

I couldn't resist highlighting this report from a local paper (further to my previous rant on this subject).

Consultation or con - 'the perfect balanced sample'

The more paranoid among us believe this could in fact be a training video used for training BW staff to write public consultations - enjoy!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Useful Woodburning Guide

Sitting indoors nursing a cold and surfing idly, I found old link not working from AIE (Arboricultural Information Exchange) on one of the canal forums - a useful guide to which timber to burn.

The main thing I have found is getting your wood as dry as you can seems to makes a huge difference - more and cleaner.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Friday, 1 January 2010

Consultation Con - the latest moves

I've also been silent on this front for a little while. More specifically I've been suffering from "consultation fatigue" at the hands of BW. BW consultations on boating issues are like buses - nothing for ages and then loads all at once!

I highlighted the moorings consultation a while back. True to the spirit of that posting BW are in fact going ahead with setting up local consultations about implementing the local moorings strategies before the complete the consultation on whether local mooring strategies should go ahead in the first place closes !? This second consultation concludes a week or so before the national consultation. If this is not an example of prejudging the results of the first consultation I don't know what is.

NABO’s legal complaint - a personal view

I’ve been wondering what to post about this one for some time. It’s been taking a lot of my attention over the last while. Sorry - this is quite a long rant!?

That NABO has engaged a legal complaint about a number of concerns over how British Waterways is approaching some enforcement issues over moorings has been widely reported in the waterways press, waterways websites, forums and so on.

The more most observant among you, if you have trawled through the wide range of coverage and discussion, especially in chat rooms and forums, may have noticed that precious little of what has and is being written has actually come from NABO!