Monday, 31 October 2011

British Waterways bans people with Children or who work from Continuously Cruising?

Now I have seen a few pretty weird things from BW over the years but I have to say this tops the list: Just noticed what on the face of it seem to be a rather sinister statement on their Waterscape website:
continuously cruising
You will not usually be issued with a licence unless you have a permanent mooring. However, if you have no ties (such as jobs or children at school), you can opt to cruise canals continuously, never staying at the same place for more than a fortnight. British Waterways has a special set of guidelines for such boaters.

The message seem to be, if you are a Continuous Cruiser don't let BW know if you work or have children: they might revoke your Licence?

If this really means what it says, it seems like a pretty direct statement that BW are going to be taking a much more aggressive approach towards some Liveaboard boaters who don't have home moorings. Taken at face value the it seems that BW have decided to target continuous cruising families and employed boaters who only cruise a limited range with the implied threat of withdrawing licences, and the subsequent likelihood of legal action if you have nowhere to go. Actually that's old news isn't it? I suppose BW see the Paul Davies case as endorsing such an approach?

I try hard to find another interpretation but this seem to me like a direct threat to make a significant group of people homeless. It seems particularly obtuse that BW are seemingly targetting people who are raising children of school age or who are trying to make their own way financially in the world: A very strange sort of social engineering agenda seems to be hidden in here somewhere?

(What if you have a long term health condition and have to attend periodic GP or hospital appointments? Does that count a "tie"?)

Now let's be clear. I put a lot of what BW does down to a mixture of thoughtlessness, incompetence and cock-up among some senior and national managers. Twenty plus years as a boat licence holder and over a decade as a BW moorings customer have done little to change that point of view. This one has all the hallmarks of another example, put out there on the basis that they hope no-one informed or in touch with the reality of the situation will notice it?

But I also have some sympathy with anyone, BW included, wanting to discourage additional people from taking on boats as permanent accomodation with unrealistic expectations of what is possible or reasonable. Don't get me started on whether BW has any sort of duty to provide adaequate facilities to its boat licence holders but it would certainly give me more comfort if more people went into living afloat with their eyes more fully open. There is certainly a sub-culture out there that you can just buy a cheap boat and live on it and that's the end of it. Let's have some reality here: if you don't have a mooring you will  have to adopt a travelling lifestyle to some degree or other. But don't forget that a lot of people manage that very successfully. But where BW go wrong here is the apparent assumption that you can't ever do that with children of school age or if you work. That in my eye is pure nonsense to the point of prejudice. That's not say it's easy, but it is possible.

Of course this is not a complete surprise to those of us who follow these things. BW's antipathy to liveaboard continuous cruisers has been a constant issue, with their true attitude sometimes barely concealed.

By strange coincidence it also happens that BW are also currently advertising for a new member of staff:

Boating Co-ordinator - SOUTH
£18,400 - Milton Keynes OR Hatton

We’re looking for a Boating Coordinator to join our National Enforcement Team. As Boating Coordinator you would be tasked with coordinating the initial enforcement processes for the Southern Enforcement  team.

You will respond daily to customer emails and telephone calls relating to British Waterways enforcement proceedings and will therefore have excellent demonstrable customer service and communication skills. 

One assumes additional responsibilities of this post may include assisting boaters with families or who work  to complete homelessness applications, and unemployment benefit claims. Condons and other forms of contraception will also be available...?

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