Monday, 26 December 2011

British Waterways ends the year as it started

It's that Boxing Day vibe. Not too much rushing about and a bit of reflection. Looking back through these pages I see that I started 2011 with a personal dig at BW Chairman Tony Hales. A year later on I stand by those words, because I see no change of attitude, especially when I look at British Waterways' track record through the year.

In that post I commented on the huge frustration I felt as a NABO Council member over BW's prevarication over responding to our legal complaint, the core of which was concern about some of the seemingly draconian and potentially unlawful proposals BW was attempting to impose on boaters through their unilateral and un-consulted changes to Licence conditions during 2008. Where are we at a year later?

The much heralded test case in the event told us very little that we didn't already know and resulted in a boater being made homeless to prove a point, sadly with the benefit of hindsight not a very good point.

A year ago the River Lee consultation was getting underway and of course that has since come to nothing.

In the last few days it seem that the Kennet and Avon consultation has also come to nothing as BW are apparently refusing to complete the process.

Of course as I reflected early during the year, whole agenda that Continuous Cruising is the source of huge problems for BW was yet again confirmed as being a red herring , based on a false prospectus and outright prejudice, which the facts don't support.

In all these examples of course Boaters have said clearly to BW, 'don't go there' and been duly ignored, only for us to ultimately be proved right, with BW skulking away, tail between legs, but still malignant enough to come back and have another snap around when they think we aren't looking. (If you haven't yet worked that one out BW, I assume you will be coming round again for another....)

Of course there's nothing new in any of this on BW's part. I had year nine of my own ongoing battle with BW over Houseboat Certificates and this was more of the same: BW in a continuing state of denial, were again (via their habitual method of changing the rules without effectively consulting the people directly effected), stupid enough to come back for yet another kicking over something I genuinely hoped has been sorted a few years previously.

Anyone see a pattern of behaviour on BW's part here?

All these example go to the heart of the big issue of the year, the proposed transition to the Canal and River Trust. That word "trust" of course goes to the heart of the matter and as Narrowboatworld's recent poll shows trust is the one thing many boaters do not feel when it come to BW senior management. If the current incumbents are allowed to continue in CRT it will not make for a happy start.

Tony said that critics like me diminish the achievements of so many dedicated partners, including so many passionate campaigners and contributors from the boating world.

What have you got to say, Tony, to all those people who last year gave up their free time to make submissions and attend consultation meetings on the two local moorings strategies only to see BW walk away in an apparent sulk, before the conclusion, (presumably because the results of the consultations did not appear to be saying say what you wanted?)

For me goes to the heart of why we need a new management team at BW, why the current incumbents are not the right people to lead and influence the birth of CRT. The current people are consistently unable to engage successfully with the boating community and when faced with the difficult questions which might  involve admitting they might be wrong on some points, are people who simply do not have the bottle to admit the facts and try to move on to other more constructive things.

Boaters simply do not seem ready to rally round to the CRT if the people who have shown a consistent contempt for our views and our input, both voluntary and financial, are to remain at the heart of the decision making process. Why feed the hand that bites us? While that remains the case it is difficult look into the future with huge amounts of optimism.

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