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.

In the last edition of NABO News we published a long and slightly technical piece on the Kennet and Avon issues and BW, now CRT's attempts to get a grip on the situation. Two of my Council colleagues dedicated a lot of time over the last two years to this. Many hours in meetings with other canal users, lots of us following, reading the reports and offering comments and support. Collectively with others, hundreds of hours of voluntary effort was offered in good faith to try to help improve things for everyone. Then this Autumn the whole project was summararily and unilaterally taken out of their hands and passed to the new Kennet and Avon Partnership. When we prised open the briefings that had been passed to the Partnership they were riddled with half truths and inaccuracies on the group's work and conclusions. We and other former members of the group are still trying to correct that. The whole thing feels like a sulky child taking their ball away because the others won't let them 'win' or play by their rules.

For me this is a pattern of behaviour we have seen before most memorablely for me with a thing called the Moorings Contracts Working group, anyone remember that?

We did the same thing, went to the meetings, spent time, sharing our advice and thoughts with then BW on how to run their moorings better. The whole thing foundered in acrimony. In the first case BW claimed we had come out in favour of the policy of selling vacant moorings to the highest bidder. We hadn't, quite the opposite. The group never met again I suspect not helped by my observation that the group only contained one mooring customer - me. I suggested that after a year's work it might be time to get more mooring customers involved in the discussion. Again the ball was taken from us.

One of the reasons you have not had much from me here recently is my latest complaint to CRT about the management of my moorings. At the stage two complaint they have again conceded the inevitable. They still don't do the basic maintenance they should on my £6000 a year mooring.

However more annoying is this: having spent several months and many hours again having to ask for what I'm already paying for, it's a little annoying to be told again by a CRT director that I should consider it a 'priviliege' to be a customer. This while sat on the table at home is a grovelling letter after having the raft of lies and untruths they just told my MP a couple of months previously, systematically demolished, including a cheque in compensation for failing to have implemented another one of the Ombudman's most recent recomendations on maintainance failures at this mooring. It doesn't fill me with any confidence that they are sincere in their future intentions.

One of the excuses offered for the latest failure was that it went pear shaped because of the CRT transistion. I don't seem to remember anyone saying I could stop paying while you sorted it out? So for me it's still a case of only getting repairs done through the complaints process.

My mood was not improved by an incident last month when a senior CRT manager inadvertently copied NABO into a message they forwarded to their colleagues in response to NABO's latest letter badgering CRT for answer on outstanding points in NABO's so called legal dispute with CRT over licence terms and conditions. (Yes, more unresoved business). What we got to see in error was pretty revealing. The author attacked our integerity and that of our chairman, and expounded the view that the only reason we were still taking issue on was in some sort of perverse recruitment drive in support of continuous moorers. When we received the e-mail the reaction was frankly a mixture of laugther at the schoolboy error in forgetting to check the cc line before hitting the send button and real anger that all our genuine concerns and all the work behind the latest letter was dismissed with such cynical scorn. There has been some grovelling over this incident subsequently, which is amusing, but sadly to date the original questions remain unanswered.

Mention of NABO's longstanding concerns and reservations about parts of BW/CRT's approach to continuous cruising was also glaringly absent from the recent report on the subject.

The re-branding, new faces and new promises all feel pretty hollow to me when compared to the reality I experience. A feeling of being consistently ignored and sidelined.

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