Friday, 13 November 2015

CRT Trustee nails some old myths

In his recent speech at the London Waterways Museum, CRT Trustee John Dodwell, among other things has acknowledged some things I and and others have been complaining about for some time. In the notes from his presentation John says:

"Just a word about overstayers. If you see a boat staying too long at a visitor mooring, don’t assume it is a continuous cruiser who’s not moved on. It could be someone with a home mooring who’s left it there for too long whilst the owner has gone home."

For me this suggests a move forward in CRT thinking and perhaps a move away from the old mantra that Continuous Cruisers are the root of all evil , a view falsely promulgated by the previous regime.

Does it mean that all is well yet - of course not.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

An outbreak of common sense in CRT?

Saying something positive about CRT? Well yes. It seems that what many have said about the futility of tinkering with visitor mooring durations, so beloved of Sally Ash and some others, if not to stop, will at least now only be attempted on a rational basis. Last week CRT announced its Short Term Mooring Framework.

The policy sets out detailed rational criteria that must be considered before imposing changes on visitor mooring durations. It acknowledges a clear distinction between formal visitor moorings and casual mooring and sets some basic standards of maintenance for visitor moorings. The only notable absence is anything about dredging and depth of water. Most importantly it sets out a national framework. It seems that someone has realised the futility of different things going on in different regions, confusing boaters and frontline staff alike!

The policy also included what is supposed to be a comprehensive consultation framework and makes piloting future changes all but mandatory.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The ghost of Sally Ash returns to haunt CRT

Following reports that CRT's General Towpath Mooring Permit may have been 'illegal', we are receiving reports that a number of PPI claims firms are looking at this new line of business. Consequently some boaters should expect to receive the following communication shortly:

"This is an important message. Have you been mis-sold a mooring permit? Your mooring authority has set aside thousands of pounds. We at Grasping and Shyster have many years experience helping consumers..."

These permits were of course promoted by Sally Ash and my old friend Dr Milkem Drie. The permits were of course thinly disguised and rebranded Roving Mooring Permits and as I said at the time, Buyer Beware! Reports that Dr Drie has an interest in Grasping and Shyster have been denied.

Sally Ash has of course since been awarded an MBE for her services to the waterways as part of a tradition that those familar with the banking sector will be aware of. Oops!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

NABO, BW/CRT and legal stuff - some personal retrospective!

I don't look at Canalworld Forum that much cos frankly I find that there is a lot of junk verging on personal abuse in there which is not constructive. However NBW's article highlighting that the CRT vs Wingfield transcript is now in wider hands prompted me to look.

Sterling work from my old mucker Nigel Moore and others here and I believe more valuable insights now (and to follow no doubt) into what I previously wrote about as the double edged sword.

Out of all that there were some comments about NABO and its 'legal activities'. I wrote about this a while back and it is notable to me that the 2013 post is one of the most read  on ths blog. I have felt moved to write some more now, albeit largely about past matters, which is now up on CWF and which I reproduce here for your consideration.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Engineers Wharf.... again!

Yeah I am going to bang on about this again. As of today there are still six vacant berths up for auction, again at £4704 reserves. I've said the things about how CRT claiming to charge Market Rents is self evidently a farce, how CRT are more worried about losing face than the huge void losses they are incurring. I've said it again and again: so a couple of different thoughts today.

How about offering the vacant berths here as Winter moorings? Three or four months rent in a year has to be better than none?

How about keeping a pontoon clear as a service point for the wider community? The Better Relationships Group and boaters in general have been pressing CRT for more facilities for cruising boats for months and years. Here is a ready made opportunity to improve access to facilities in West London?

Come on CRT; dare you to think out of the box?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

All quiet?

Mid August is usually a lull in the storm of CRT issues and one the whole much the same with me. If this year is true to form around about the beginning of September a load of things will kick off again.

Me; had a short dialogue with Richard Parry about the disappointing experience as a long term mooring customer. Ironically a few days after that conversation, CRT contractors turned up as planned to change our Service bollards over. A few hours in, one of my neighbours knocked on the boat to alert me to the fact that the new bollards did not have pairs of taps on them.

It seems CRT have unilaterally decided that having had a tap per berth for the last fifteen years or so we now have to go over to sharing. So much to being a valued customer!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Engineers Wharf conspiracy theory...

Maybe someone at CRT has taken my last post on this to heart? Vacancies at Engineers Wharf are  advertised for auction today with a reserve down to £4704? Though not as low a £4324 reserve in 2012... Still taking the pixx in my view...

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Canal and River Trust's Double Edged Legal Sword

It is well known that going to Court can be a double edged sword. And it seems CRT is going to be put to the knife yet again?

We have recently seen an FoI request revealing how much CRT spent in three other prominent court cases. CRT subsequently say they are unable to provide their internal costs (staff time), so the figures are incomplete, but the cases concerned have on the partial figures cost in excess of £150 000. One case was successful from CRT's point of view (Mayers), but the other two (Wingfield and Dunkley) were settled without full trial.

Now two other boaters have made High Court applications about CRT's conduct. (Outlines of Leigh Ravenscroft's and Matthew Jones' claims can be viewed via these respective links.)

As ever some of the forum trolls have been having a go at the boaters concerned, about the money they are costing CRT, conveniently forgetting that these latest two actions are in response to CRT having previously initiated actions against the boaters. It should also be noted that the respective Courts due to hear both cases had to be satisfied there is some basic merit in the claims before these actions could go ahead.

As many have been asking over the last few weeks, are the levels of legal expenditure being incurred by CRT appropriate?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Still fixing mooring prices?

I've highlighted for several years the moorings at Engineers Wharf in West London, and more importantly, given CRT's inability to keep the moorings fully let, the apparently inflated reserve prices that had been maintained, one suspects to help justify keeping prices up for other moorers locally.

It is more than three years since I first highlighted this, and for much longer than that, there have been persistent vacant berths (and lost income) at Engineers Wharf.  (Link to 83 no. closed vacancies/adverts and prices at Engineers Wharf since 2010! )

Well as of today there are no less than seven berths advertised as Buy It Now vacancies and the price for a 70' berth has been set at £5880 (up from £5292 as the reserve this time last year.)

Curious too that in the interim similar berths were the offered only three months ago with a reserve of £4998? So if you want, you can buy it now for £900 more than the reserve price when it was last auctioned - Any takers?!

What the heck is going on here!?

It seems that despite the good intentions set out  in the outcomes of the Moorings Sales Consultation, CRT are still in this case setting prices at pretty much at random. If anyone can make sense of these price variations, do let me know!

And of course it remains to be seen if the current vacancies will let. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Hi Brenda R

Hi Brenda. Just saw your comment on the last post. As this is about your personal circumstances I haven't published it, but if you want to get in touch please do so through the NABO website; NABO contact list

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The latest smoke-screen

The consensus seems to be that NABO's hard hitting stance against the CRT licence changes as set out in their open letter has had some effect. CRT have dropped some of the more extreme and ridiculous proposals. (My favourite silly idea was the draft clause which taken at face value would have meant you could only change home mooring on the day of your licence renewal.)

It also seems that someone has re-read the Data Protection Act and realised that handing out personal details of licence holders to anyone who asked was probably not such a bright idea after all!

Nonetheless some dubious terms and conditions remain. As ever we will see in due course which of these stand up in Court if they ever come to be tested in that way.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Problems ahead

A pretty short one today but just to highlight Mick FitzGibbons' article today on Narrowboatworld. Many of the themes Mick raises chime with my own thinking on this and much as per my previous post on trust between boaters and CRT (or the lack of).

It is interesting that the URL to Mick's piece includes the phrase 'problems ahead' - a sentiment I wholly agree with.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Who are the Freeloaders?

The comment about continuous cruisers being 'Freeloaders' made by a representative at the Birmingham open meeting has poured petrol on the social media flames again. But of course this is an old claim that many have debunked in the past.

The Canal World Forum trolling society particularly rounded on one Meg who tried to offer an honest and open view of what happened. They also went off on a whole range of conspiracy theories about the National Bargee Travellers Association. Never let facts get in the way of a 'good' argument.

All this has highlighted how a small minority can spoil the vibe for all. If anyone is a freeloader, it's the people who pour out their bile and hate against people they don't know who simply offer a different view in good faith. Most of those doing so when pressed have admitted they were not even at the meeting! These boaters do more to divide and harm the boating community than the very few Continuous Cruisers who take the piss out on the cut.

However the most interesting thing to me is that CRT seemingly failed to challenge the 'Freeloader' assertion during the meeting.

If they had done so they would have cut the whole thing down to size in a few words. The fact that the meeting was heated thereafter therefore comes as no surprise and just adds fuel to the claims that CRT are anti all continuous cruisers.

A missed opportunity for CRT to make some peace with many boaters they have recently pissed off.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Boat teleport trials announced to address new Canal and River Trust cruising rules

In response to the latest boating rules from Canal and River Trust, Dr Milkem Drie in association with Professer Denzil Dexter will today start public trials of their new boat teleport system. Dr Drie says:

Our new teleport system is designed to assist boaters deal with the new rules from CRT. Not only does it means you can move your boat to another part of the country at short notice, thereby complying almost instantly with the new requirements for a minimum movement range during each licence period, but this complex system also provides infallible location data down to the nearest molecule. 

Accurate space time location data is an essential part of our design and is available at all times when the unit is active. This data can of course can be provided to CRT should the need arise.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Canal and River Trust extends policy of not trusting its boating customers

I have frequently said that CRT stands for Can't Really Trust'em

It seems the feeling is mutual. CRT don't trust the boaters either as reflected not only in the latest moves on Continuous Cruising but also in the parallel terms and conditions changes for boaters with home moorings.

According to CRT, from now on, whenever you move your boat, you have to gather enough evidence to prove to them that you are moving and show how far. If you fail to have such evidence available when challenged you could ultimately have your licence removed.

It's a sad state of affairs that CRT's relationship with it's boating customers has descended to the point where we are all suspect, where we all have to worry about proving that we are not liars, when we are almost routinely assumed guilty unless we prove otherwise every time we move our boats? No wonder that trust between boaters and CRT is all but dead.

Has anyone stood back long enough to think how completely mad this all is?

Monday, 23 March 2015

A case study in how to alienate your customers?

Many people's hopes (including mine) that changes in the Canal and River Trust would lead to better relationships with boaters have been dashed by recent events. Reflecting on CRT's recent attempts to take stronger action against Continuous Cruisers who don't move very far, NABO's open letter to CRT sums up the problems pretty well.

It is difficult to understate how big a failure this episode represents. I think I give no secrets away when I say that colleagues in NABO who have come to Council recently were genuinely determined to try to build bridges with CRT. The presence of new blood, in whom I have great confidence, was a major factor in my feeling able to stand down. Again it is no secret when I suggest that they feel they have been well and truly slapped in the face for their recent efforts.

As a former NABO national officer, the narrative in the open letter comes as no surprise: One sits down in one's own time with CRT/BW, tries to give them constructive advice and feedback on how to implement something difficult and sensitive, taking into account your experience and knowledge of boating and they then do something different, omitting key parts of what you thought you'd just agreed. Seems that the change from BW to CRT has not changed that?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Canal and River Trust's new Continuous Cruising Policy

So the battle lines are being (re-)drawn on the issue of Continuous Cruising. Only time will tell what the full impact of what CRT are proposing will be. But having reflected on these matters for a few days since my last post, things seem to be getting murkier not clearer.

I was struck by the latest from Victor Swift on NBW, suggesting that the NBTA have scored an own goal with the 'admission' that there are many living on boats who are indeed tied to a small area for work, health and/or family commitments. That is not news; As I said in a previous post, British Waterways largely created the present situation by waiving the bye-law limitations on living on boats many years ago.  

However despite the, some would say acerbic, criticism of NBTA from Victor, he then goes on to say something that is much more acute:

Mind you, as I have stated before, if those at CaRT pulled their fingers out and actually stated a distance that must be travelled to avoid having to pay for a permanent mooring, at least the continuous cruisers would know what the rules are.

At the moment, with those at CaRT unable to make a decision one way or t'other, no one knows.

That of course is the elephant in the room, still sat there watching us all! 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Mutton dressed up as lamb

Some of us vainly hoped that Sally Ash's departure might lead to CRT adopting some genuine blue skies thinking about their boating business.

One hope was that CRT might finally abandon the almost annual tinkering ritual when it comes to Boat Licence Terms and Conditions: but apparently not. This time it seems that they are not even bothering with the pretence of doing consultation but are just planning to impose the changes from April come what may (see NABO article, which also links on to a document from CRT on the changes). After due consideration, NABO have described the proposed changes as adopting "an unnecessarily aggressive tone".

Subsequently we also have an old favourite back in the fore with the latest CRT pronouncements on continuous cruising. The nub of this seems to be to formalise a policy of trying to force people to take long term moorings. I suppose at least they are now saying so openly!