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!)

Most of us were dismissed under a spurious and never completely transparent claim that the then BW were worried about potential Income Tax issues when it came to the reduced rates we paid for our moorings in exchange for the work we did. This excuse has always seemed to me to be complete and utter nonsense; many public and private bodies use resident caretaking and concierge staff, and a competent HR and and payroll team has no difficulty dealing with that; nor to my knowledge does the Inland Revenue who provide helpful guidance on the subject.

However many of us were fed up to the the teeth caretaking for the old BW precisely because the issues we reported, from repairs on our moorings and in the locality, to overstaying and unlicensed boats in the area, anti social behaviour, etc were rarely acted on. After a while you get to a point of saying, why bother, or like me start getting into more formal complaints about the more serious failures to respond. If you don't look after the people who are fundamentally on your side, eventually they will not simply withdraw their support, but will kick back.

To a large extent that's were I was generally with BW and so far I find much the same with CRT; nothing much has changed - I'm fed up with the slaps in the face that come back when I go to the trouble of trying to engage.

I used to get calls from other caretakers around the system with similar problems to those I experienced. It did indeed feel that in the end that rather than engage with us and support us, BW decided, let's get rid of them all, regardless of how well we had done our jobs, (not that this was ever formally assessed). The essence of the job is of course to be eyes and ears for the waterways.

In London we are about to see an extension of a new volunteer caretaker scheme. I'm sort of neutral about this. Certainly if boaters want to volunteer to take some responsibility for moorings and for encouraging other boaters to make the best out of the waterways, I have no problem. But there has to be a bit of quid pro quo. Some of those who have participated in the pilot have already hinted strongly that the support they get 'from the office' is at best patchy.

As I and others have said many times (and most recently in the so called Better Relationships Group) volunteers need support and encouragement and some reward, even if that is just thanks and acknowledgement . I do not yet see evidence that CRT consistently get this.

Ironically while I write one of my former fellow caretaker colleagues is sailing past having been kicked off his 'til then long term mooring when the original caretaking scheme was scrapped.

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