Monday, 10 December 2012

Same old nonsense

After a silence a little rant; but that's where I'm at so here goes.

I don't know how others are feeling, but I'm sitting here feeling pretty uninspired about CRT right now. Over the Summer we had the various launches over the promise of a bright new future. We had new committees and subcommittees, all be it with a variety of democratic deficits, and we had the royal wedding; I mean the civil partnership of CRT and the IWA. But for me it's all talk, no action, and the same old reality when you sit back and look.

I tend not to write a lot about NABO here but today a little change on that front. I've just allowed myself to be on the NABO Council for another year and it's clear when you look at the forums and listen to people around and about on the cut, that a lot of people ask, why bother with committees and such things? We don't seem to get much done.

It sometimes feels like that on our side too. But then it takes two to tango and this is where we seem to have a problem. Many in CRT still don't want to dance.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Still breathing!

Still here. Just been busy with other bits of my life. Lots of boating issues bubbling about under the surface but keeping my thoughts to myself for the moment. I'll be back....

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Manipulating Moorings Prices?

I've long held that British Waterways manipulated the moorings auctions process in order to push mooring prices up artificially. I've long held that they have almost never reduced reserve prices for moorings that are 'hard to let'.  It seems CRT are going to continue in the same vein. I wrote last year about Engineers Wharf in West London, how the moorings were blatantly over-priced and no-one took them. I wrote about the number of vacancies that persist there and about the then BW's steadfast refusal to reduce the price, apparently prepared to lose income rather than lose face.

Well guess what? I looked that moorings auctions website a few minutes ago and there are presently no less than 5 vacancies advertised at reserve prices of £5189 per annum, nearly £700 more than a year ago. (Do a search for residential vacancies before next Thursday and all 5 should still be there.)

What more proof do we need that the claim that where there is lack of demand BW/CRT will reduce the mooring price is too often a lie? This case seems to to prove beyond doubt that the reserve price system is being blatantly abused. It also confirms the view that  BW/CRT will forego income (in this case perhaps something in the order of £20 000) in order to artificially hold up prices.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Losing the plot? - Poetry please!

Narrowboatworld has been on point again highlighting reporting the vagaries of our re-branded lords and masters and it seems that CRT have lost the plot entirely. Apparently immediate priorities are putting poetry on lock gates and filling a dumb barge full of trees, both it seems at considerable expense.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Executive salaries at the Canal and River Trust

An interesting week of news around the CRT but the headline must be the announcement about executive pay. It is a huge relief that the Trustees have grasped the nettle and even the most hardened critics of BW/CRT like me are mostly pleased with the news.

One might be tempted to say 'cut down to size' but I think a better description is 'some sensible pruning'. As all gardeners know, in most cases pruning is something you have to keep an eye on and come back to periodically. It's a good start but lets not get complacent, because there are still things to watch on this front.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Canal and River Trust Launched (again)

This Thursday (12 July) saw the next launch of the CRT. Formal events took place at various events around the country and Robin Evans got a spin slot on Radio 4. As others have noted, precious little mention of boating. It seems acknowledging the largest group of existing fee paying customers was taboo?

As for my last post in response I have had a message from CRT thanking me for my 'vigilance' and they have now corrected the form. Though no apology for them getting it wrong in the first place. (Will this episode count as a contribution to the volunteer effort I wonder?)

Anyway despite the odd false start the begging bowls are now officially out and about and we will see how it goes.

RIP British Waterways. What is to follow? A resurrection of the waterways or the rise of the undead, now unchained from the encumbrance of government scrutiny?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Canal and River Trust launched (and my first formal complaint to them!)

It did not cross my mind to set out to be the first official complainant to the new Canal and River Trust (and maybe I'm not the first?) but,

I do not believe it! They have launched this week by publishing incorrect eligibility information for Houseboat Certificates repeating the old lie that I have spent many years highlighting to BW.

Just when I think we are finally getting to the end of it through the public consultation, BW, sorry CRT, just can't resist rubbing salt in the wound. Plus ca change...

Simplest thing is to see my complaint in full.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

British Waterway's marginalisation of boaters plan proceeding well

Steve Haywood's recent vent on the subject of what a stitch up the recent election for boaters to CRT were reminded me of this theme. You've heard what I think, which is not so different. I've long observed that the one thing BW seem to fear the most and will do their utmost to disrupt is individual boaters from talking to people in power and authority about the reality of being a paying BW customer.

If there was any doubt about BW's contempt for individual customers, BW Director Stuart Mills kindly reminded me of it when he wrote to my MP in response to our complaints about the £600 mooring fee increases we are getting this year.

Anyway apparently I and my neighbours (so its not just me!) are mistaken in our complaints and should remember that we enjoy various privileges by being allowed to have our moorings. Gosh,  I am so honoured I don't know what to say; may I just grovel and say thank you, oh Great Munificence!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

British Waterways/CRT begging bowls delayed

Still here - just been busy with lot of personal stuff over the last month but as BW will be delighted to hear I am still watching you! Like many of you who read this I keep a weather eye on the press and my personal highlights have been:
  • BW's apparent discomfort over Parliament following due process leading to the postponement of the CRT launch.
  • The complete mess that BW have made over Olympic moorings management, resulting in them having to offer to refunds boaters who had been led to believe they had no alternative but to buy extortionately priced towpath visitor moorings.
  • The confirmation that BW did not do 'lessons learned' from past mistakes like the K+A bollards fiasco as has been clealrly demonstarted when it comes to the new fiasco with the Staffs and Worcester lock tail bridges. (This is a two part cock up - part 1, part 2.). Of course the lesson to be learnt from the 'waht a load of Bollards' case was remember to ask Boaters about plans you have that might effect them. This it seems remains an alien concept to too many people in BW!
Alan Richards continues to receive my admiration over his relentless dissection of BW spin over maintenance funding. When resorts to saying "misinformation", in my book that's  a good sign! It is in turn somewhat ironic that simultaneously we are being told that CRT's first priority and  one that is billed to be a central part of the official launch will be to start asking the public for donation money.

Don't forget Tony Hales thinks we are nasty people because we don't praise BW's achievements. With list of failures oops, sorry Tony, achievements like these what do you expect? 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Boaters and the Canal and River Trust

Been away from here for a few weeks, but been watching as ever. Some of my fellow boaters continue to disappoint, (but not surprise me). On the Facebook Boaters' Manifesto Group  a member posted the following on 05 April: Would i be right in thinking that The Boaters Manifesto has now died a very slow death?

No response from anyone for the next ten days, so I then said: Would it not be an idea to ask the recently elected Boaters Representatives for their detailed views on the Boaters' Manifesto?

This prompted a huge number of responses, but sadly most were in the negative. It seems no-one in the group has energy to take things much further following the elections. (If I'm wrong, and time may prove me so, that won't upset me.)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

British Waterways/CRT begging bowls to appear shortly

This week saw the EFRA select committee's opening session on the transfer of BW to CRT. I have spent an amusing couple of ours watching Parliament TV. No huge surprises but what do you expect from these witnesses? Three core proponents of the CRT transfer and a fourth who pointed out from the outset that the people he represents rely on BW for their living. Hardly a representative group of the wider waterways community!

For me the most amusing part was Tony Hales explaining to the committee BW/CRT's apparently well-advanced plan to appear on towpaths with begging bowls disguised (as clipboards) this summer. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

British Waterways' latest proposals for wasting public money in London

With it's usual talent for wasting time and public money BW has launched a new consultation on cycling on the towpaths in Islington. BW is seeking view it's proposed mitigation measures for the towpath east of Islington Tunnel.

The whole consultation conveniently ignores BW's own policy that where appropriate they should direct cyclists, especially London commuters on to collateral routes. As a quick look at the London Cycling network website shows there are well established route parallel to the canal in the area.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Boaters fall for British Waterways divide and rule tactics

In all honesty I'm feeling pretty p'd off with the waterways world at the moment.

It seems to be finally dawning on more and more boaters what a pig's ear the proposed Canal and River Trust is turning into. Shame it's about a year too late and that people have only spotted it now we all but have a fait accompli.

People are also finally seeing the reality that the elections to the Council are being poorly run, that the constituencies are inadequate, badly thought out, leading to huge inconsistencies and discrepancies over who gets to vote in which consistency. More opportunity for boaters to be divided and be ruled at the hands of BW and a lot of people have walked in eyes wide shut.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Boaters' financial contribution to British Waterways: update

FYI - I have just added the following to the previous post on this:

Addendum - 22 January 2012 - As anyone who has used the link to my FOI on this will see, BW has answered and say that an additional £4.7M of their annual income comes from businesses whose primary customers are boaters. Add this to the the figures above and we have confirmation that Boaters provide at least 20% of BW's annual income worth around £35 million pa at last year's rates.

British Waterways' Commercial activities - Risk versus Gain

Something strange for you today - I am going to say something positive about British Waterways' property portfolio! (Before you get too excited do read the whole thing!)

Headline news is the Wood Wharf development in London Docklands, and that Canary Wharf Group has bought out Ballymore and British Waterways' regeneration/redevelopment interests in the scheme. British Waterways retain their freehold interest and it seems have some reasonable expectation of significant rental income in the medium to long term, once individual elements in the regeneration are completed and let.

Whatever the detailed in and outs of the Wood Wharf deal, this deal is, to me at least, reassuring. This much safer and less risky model of commercial investment, where BW stick to the Landlord function and stay out of the riskier Developer function, is one I have advocated to BW for years. I therefore have to be pleased about this week's events.

Now to return to my usual more critical mode!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

British Waterways confirms that CRT represents privatisation (and a warning to the CRT Transition Trustees?)

It seems we have confirmation of my previous suggestion from a reliable source - British Waterways.

Their web page 'Charitable Trust Plans' today states that, "In April 2012 the Canal and River Trust will take over as the guardian of the waterways in England and Wales bring to an end over 60 years of public ownership."

RIP the Select Committee who said:  We were extremely surprised to discover that privatisation was one of the options being considered by BW’s ongoing strategic options review, and are disappointed we were not informed about this during our evidence sessions with BW. In our view, privatisation is not a serious option: the waterways network is a public asset providing wide benefits to society and some Government funding will always be necessary. It should be ruled out by the Government.