- 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?
Of course, they don't want to admit that to the rest of us!
In a recent set of papers that Allan Richards has dragged out of a kicking and screaming BW, you can find the following admission:
The key issue for us, looking ahead, is the abrupt change in the market for BW directly managed moorings since November with only around 50- 60 % of berths selling at auction and very few of those selling doing so at above guide price. Although the number of sites coming up for auction is a small percentage of our overall berths, we are monitoring this change closely and looking for innovative ways to market sites.
(Section 2.4.1, second paragraph in MARKETING REPORT – JANUARY 2010)
There you have it, from Simon Salem, deputy chief spin master at BW: Now that moorings tenders are not helping justify price increases, BW's previous enthusiasm for the process is waning and so BW are now looking for other ways to try to "market" moorings vacancies.
(Little wonder they have refused to disclose detailed information about which tenders they have looked at to justify my mooring fees increase!)
Now if BW were really committed to setting a market rate for moorings fees, they should be reducing reserve prices at the sites that they have not been getting successful bids on. Did Simon Salem even offer offer this obvious suggestion to the BW Board? Of course not, because that would be a clear signal that a number of their existing customers are paying more than the going rate and they would then be obliged to reduce the price for the existing customers on those sites.
It seems BW would rather leave those moorings vacant and in so doing give up the opportunity of the income they might otherwise be be receiving if they let those moorings be used. In the present climate and given BW's parlous financial this position seems totally indefensible to me.
In their document explaining the current increases published the following month, BW conveniently claim: "Despite the economic downturn, we are not seeing increased number of vacancies coming onto the market suggesting that demand for our sites is holding up."
It seems that while they will admit to their Board that the market is at best static, they have simultaneously said something different in public to justify putting nearly all their customers' mooring fees up.
All this of course also puts the lie to BW's market rate moorings pricing policy as a whole. To me (and I suspect many others) this is further confirmation that we have a BW senior management team who are more interested in justifying their own existence (and in so doing fleecing their boating customers), than running the waterways in a practical and strategic manner. They would rather leave moorings unoccupied than allow people to pay a fair price for them.
Many of us said from the outset that the moorings tenders policy was more about increasing income than about setting a fair price and now that, thanks to the national economic situation, the matter is being put to the test, its seems we have confirmation that we were quite right in our suspicions!
Let's just say it as it is - this looks to me like blatant price fixing.
What a bunch of complete cheats and charlatans!