Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Is Canal and River Trust a 'housing authority'?

It is to say the least ironic that many of those presently living on boats owe their 'right' to do so to the same person that many of them (with more than a little good cause) saw as their principle persecutor in recent times! The start of the 'trouble' was one of Sally Ash's first decisions when she was put in charge of boating, to remove the general Licence requirement not to use your boat as a dwelling. That in effect gave blanket permission to all licence holders to live on their boats; Unsurprisingly many have taken up the offer.

When we get into the nitty gritty of residential boating issues, the 'excuse' for in-action frequently wheeled out by BW (and which CRT seem to have adopted), is: 'We are not a housing authority'. The problem is that by waiving one of the byelaws twenty years ago Sally Ash made you so!

It seems to me that many of the subsequent disputes between BW and now CRT and boaters have flowed from that and from Sally's and others' attempts to get that cat back in the bag.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Book Barge row - missing the point?

It's interesting how the media furore around the 'book barge', Word on the Water, has developed. On social media and elsewhere there is much about the 'unfairness' of a higher bidder getting the long term mooring in Paddington. Make of that what you will but given the background to my recent petition to CRT, and the way the allocation of CRT moorings is decided generally, the outcome in this case should come as no big surprise.

Narrowboatworld, never a gentle critic of CRT, acknowledges in its article that the boat has a roving trading permit (clue in the name) and that the current occupation of a berth in Paddington was a temporary arrangement. So it seems inevitable to me that CRT would ask Word on the Water to move on if they didn't make the highest bid.

However more worryingly many of those complaining seem to me to have missed the bigger point. The idea of having a commercial mooring or two in the Paddington area was consulted on with local canal users through the Better Relationships Group (BRG) and CRT have as usual ignored what was said in the consultation process and gone another way.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Petition sent to Canal and River Trust trustees

Just to say thanks to those who have signed the petition so far; As I said to supporters through 38 degrees,  

I am planning to leave the petition open at least until CRT issues its response, so if you have friends or contacts who you think have not signed yet and who would still offer their support please encourage them to do so even though the formal consultation period is over. Any additional pressure we can keep on them to think again in advance of them deciding what to do next must be a good thing.

I have just sent the petition with 442 signatures to CRT with the covering letter reproduced below.

Given what they have said so far and given their general track record when it comes to acting on what boating customers say, I will not hold my breathe about them changing their minds. CRT knows best children.

PS. Spell check just offered the following option for the first time: Cabal and River Trust. I know Google is quite smart at discrening user preferences and learning stuff about you but....!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

CRT knows best!

As I have just said on Facebook; I'm smiling wryly at Alan's latest article on NBW;

...and of course please sign the petition if you haven't already and think that the option of scrapping the policy of selling public assets to the higest bidder should be on the table.

Don't forget that the consultation ends this weekend. Please also send your thoughts direct to CRT; 'all comments and views to mooring.updates@canalrivertrust.org.uk'.

Sorry to go on, but further proof if needed that CRT Trustees don't really care what boaters think. Same old 'we know best attitude' we experienced with BW. Plus ca change...

The same seems to be happening with the so called London Better Relationships Group. Lots of stuff flying around about having an agenda but a seemingly steadfast refusals, (it has to be said not just from CRT but from other members of the group), to go back to the consultation responses that started all that:

My missive to the BRG earlier this week, by way of illustration. Are you sitting comfortably?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

CRT blatantly refuses to reconsider the 'merits' of selling moorings to the highest bidder

As I said to some friends when I saw this, in the words of Brick Top, 'Are you taking the piss?'.

The latest consultation from CRT will let you discuss just about anything you want about their much hated moorings auctions process except whether it should exist at all.

Narrowboatworld has already reported this and columnist Allan Richards has had a go and I have decided to join in with something I rarely do, starting a petition. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/that-the-trustees-of-the-canal-and-rrver-trust-withdraw-the-current-consultation-on-moorings-sales.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Throwing away charitable funds

So yet again more funds have been pissed against the wall on a dubious legal case as CRT attempts to back down from the Dunkley case.

The full ramifications have yet to be revealed and it should be noted that the Court has still to speak on a number of matters. The questions I have for CRT are who authorised the case to go ahead in the first place and if they are still in post, why!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Shackerstone Festival ecology issues

Further to yesterday's post CRT have issued a press release which seems to me to represent some sensible compromise: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/news/mooring-restrictions-at-shackerstone-festival.

Not often I praise CRT but if what is said in the release is acheived then that seems like a fair balance to me and one that takes account of boaters and navigation.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

... but which way will the wind blow?

I think we are at a critical time for the future of boating on CRT canals and rivers. I said before that I hope that the recent departure of the much reviled Sally Ash and the other changes in the boating management team represents an opportunity for the winds of change to blow. But of course as ever there is no consensus about what form or direction any change should take.

Friday, 8 August 2014

'Friendly' London Cyclists

Poor old CRT - they are in a mess. It was with some amusement that I reflected on NBW's recent article as I watched a CART Chugger on the towpath opposite my mooring last night, trying to stop commuting cyclists to persuade them to' sign up'. The poor geezer was nearly flattened more than a couple of times, and sworn at in no uncertain terms at least once as said cyclist whizzed off into the distance.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

CRT still price fixing moorings

Two vacancies advertised at Engineers Wharf again at the moment. Have CRT reduced the reserve price to try to get them let after all these years vacant ? Of course not!

Can't Really Trust'em!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Winds of change at Canal and River Trust?

For many of us the most significant change happening on the waterways at the moment is the retirement of Sally Ash, CRT's Head of Boating and so I read the Kennet and Avon Boaters (KANDA) 'retrospective' on Sally's recent activities at BW and CRT with a mixture of amusement and sadness. I have to say that KANDA's article strongly resonates with my experience of and frustration with many aspects of boating politics over the last decade.

Where I would differ or perhaps add to the KANDA critique is to observe that it is too easy to blame one individual for the history of events. One must not forget that we are talking about the relationship of boaters with the whole organisation that was BW and now is CRT. While Sally has been the lightning rod for much dissatisfaction about boating management and policy, (and undoubtedly directly contributed to many of the problems), don't forget, she was not alone.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Caretaker boats

Ralph Freeman's latest post on Narrowboatworld rang a particular bell in my memory when he said of liveabard boaters, "Could it be that they see and know too much and embarrass the Old Guard at CaRT by complaining ?". This was certainly the case under the old caretaker scheme of which I was a part for over a decade. This apart from the general customer experience. (Just filter this blog using the label 'repairs' and you will see what I mean if you don't know already!)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Silent too long?

Sorry about the silence here but had some family stuff to deal with, but all has turned out reasonably well considering. Back here with more thoughts soon no doubt.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Mooring customers still being screwed by Canal and River Trust

I've been tracking the state of play with vacancies at Engineer's Wharf for several years now and latest observations from the CRT moorings Auctions site re-confirm that CRT are simply lying to us when they claim that prices of directly managed moorings are market led.

As of today there are yet again two vacancies advertised, but the reserve prices have been increased since I last reported vacancies in Winter 2013. The current vacancies have reserve prices of £5292 pa. Agreed this is a modest increase of just over 1% compared to the reserve prices I reported in Sept 2012 but the facts are the same: The berths are it seems unpopular and/or have high turnover, but instead of lowering prices and getting them in use, the price goes up. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

A Sick Joke?

My last post on April 01 yielded a number of reactions which let's be honest was exactly what I intended!

The vast majority of people realised at once  it was an April fool because like me they know that the current CRT set up doesn't really give much of a damn about boating customers. It is noteworthy that so many people found the idea of CRT offering boaters a better deal and addressing long held concerns about facilities and moorings to be unbelievable. The thought that CRT might actually invest money in facilities for boaters as opposed to more and more hare brained enforcement schemes is clearly something many boaters found to be highly unlikely.

A few conspiracy theorists linked my post to the announcement of Sally Ash's retirement. I must say I did not have foreknowledge of that news, because in the past Sally has said she was going to go on and on and on. However the fact a few people thought my post about investment in facilities was linked to Sally's departure speaks volumes.

NABO's posting on Sally's imminent retirement still has me smiling!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A New Deal for boaters from the Canal and River Trust

Canal and River Trust has today announced a revolutionary new plan to re-invigorate private boating on the Inland Waterways of England and Wales.

A spokesperson for the Trust was heard to say: 

"For many years British Waterways neglected aspects of their the core responsibilities as a navigation authority and failed to give sufficient attention to it's most important group of fee paying customers. It is time that we improved on that. Private boatowners should be our most loyal supporters and our most valued customers and we have a duty of care towards them. 

"Recent policies of emphasising enforcement, restrictions and sanctions against boaters have been shown to be be counterproductive and a poor use of resources. We recognise that investing in better and more diverse physical facilities for all boaters is a more sustainable way to proceed in the future."

Friday, 14 March 2014

RIP Roving Mooring Permits?

I'm not sure how I should react to the news that CRT have backed off issuing Roving Mooring Permits. (The CRT press release is here as a Word .Docx file).

As a former NABO Council member I suppose I should at least be slightly pleased that our scepticism about the legality of the proposal has proved valid.

However I'm more relieved that unsuspecting boaters are now not going to be duped into parting with money for what I have personally highlighted as a highly dubious if not outright corrupt proposal.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The hand that bites you...

Not a very happy start to the year for CRT; huge amounts of coverage around CRT's treatment of what for want of a better phrase we seem to be calling vulnerable boaters. This followed the Bargee Travellers breaking the story with three cases and the associated petition.

While we do not know the whole story in each individual case (and indeed it is difficult for CRT to defend their actions without breaching data protection and confidentiality rules), for me there are just too many of these stories knocking about over the years. Having worked with and represented boaters to BW/CRT over many years and based on the poor standards of customer service I get, I find these reports wholly believable.

CRT of course have subsequently admitted that they do not have any written policies about when to take vulnerable boaters to court. Not then a huge surprise then.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Should you bother volunteering with Canal and River Trust?

The whole question of volunteering with CRT is a difficult one for me, and I suspect for many others. What I do know is that CRT urgently have to up their game on this front by several orders of magnitude.

There is no doubt that CRT does not have the resources to maintain the waterways as a whole and are constantly fire fighting. Many jobs especially when it comes to litter and grounds maintenance, that in the past were done by staff or contractors, now only happen when volunteers are available. CRT realise this but are they going about engaging with volunteers effectively? Some examples of my personal frustrations: