THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOAT OWNERS

Thursday, December 14, 2017

NABO News Ch'man's Col

NABO News Chair Column October 13

Chairman’s column

 

In July the Waterways Minister announced that he had decided to delay the decision on the transfer of the EA Navigations to CRT. Both navigation authorities were in discussions that might have led to a merge in 2015. There are no details as to why the merger has been delayed and I have no insider knowledge. It is my view that first the funding needed to sweeten the deal was not available, and secondly, the merger was sufficiently controversial for politicians not to want to push it through. I do welcome the announcement because I think, and have consistently said, that CRT has enough on its plate in these early years and taking on the EA would be beyond reasonable expectations and risk.

But the downside is that it does leave EA Navigations in limbo for the coming years. The long-term commonsense need for new funding of the EA waterways remains, as it did for BW. EA has been consulting national user groups recently on the registration fee increase for next year, proposing to raise fees by above inflation, in part anticipating that the Government Grant in Aid will drop next year. This is a groundhog moment from the last years of BW: BW Licence fees went up year-on-year and DEFRA neatly cut back the GIA to match - and for good measure took any BW efficiency savings too. We should not forget this is why we still need the CRT concept, with ring-fenced government funding and a chance to find new money from other than boaters. In the meantime, EA is proposing a registration increase which is simply a further transfer of funding from Government to boaters; I have objected.

And in the meantime for EA? The users are broadly split into Thames, Eastern Rivers and the Medway, with little boating interchange between them. I observe that there is little support for the balance of the funding split between these areas, with the Thames perceived as a prima donna, jealously protected, and the others relatively under-funded. There needs to be wide user support for this budgeting split, something in which CRT is well-experienced. Also the expenditure for flood defence has perhaps benefited the EA navigations, and there is a real fear that this will become a burden or disappear as navigation is ring-fenced, and departmental budget protection kicks in. This needs to be sorted out so that when the transfer is again put comes back on the table, the right solution will have been found and be working. 

Val and I have cruised the system more this year than for a long time, moving the boat from one side of the country to the other, and taking the long way round. It has been very pleasant, and the main waterway issue has been ‘how quiet it has been’. There have been hardly any boats out, and we have seen many hire craft tied up in the basins. We have enjoyed visitor moorings in towns where none were expected. This is very unusual for us, as we often cruise late in the day and don’t expect to find them empty. Where is everybody? I think that the green shoots of recovery have not yet flowed down to boaters and the price of diesel is biting.

Which takes us to the new CRT mooring rules and events on the K&A and in the SE. Elsewhere in this issue we bring you up to date with the plans, where minimum cruising distances, no return rules, overstay charges and community mooring permits are all in vogue. I hope we do not have different rules in different areas, as the confusion will affect boaters just going about in their lawful way. CRT is always confident about their interpretation of the Acts, so let us have some action so we can see what the courts think too. This will continue to be a major subject for comment by NABO.

I am pleased to say that membership numbers are holding up well after the increase in membership fees and I thank you for your loyalty to the Association. We do lose members, some saying we are too aggressive and some saying we are not aggressive enough. But those who write are most often going ashore because they are selling up, and there is little to be said other than best wishes for the future and thanks for your support. As always I welcome letters, and try and respond to them all; they give guidance to Council and help it to remain sensitive to the mood on the cut.

Melanie has told us that she wishes to step down from handling our membership administration next year. This will leave a big gap in our housekeeping. We need to build a new team to handle the essential work and think about the way we do things, maximising technology and minimising effort. Could you be part of that team? Please get in touch if you can help.
We are now approaching the AGM in November and thoughts turn to plans for next year. As always, we need your support to continue the work, and that means new faces. Please help to take the load as two long-serving Council members will not stand again this year. The best way is to come to Council and see the work in hand and find what you can do. Please don’t be shy. We cannot continue effectively without fresh energy and ideas. Put simply, six cannot do the work of twelve.

David

Chairman’s column, NABO News 4, July 2013

Chairman’s column, NABO News 4, July 2013

 

Legal

Last month I mentioned the concern felt by NABO Council about the legality of some of CRT’s proposals on the Southern Grand Union. Since then a NABO team has met our legal advisors and reviewed the issues again. The advice to us is that nothing has changed and the Counsel’s written opinion from 2005 and 2009 is as valid today as it was at the time of writing. NABO has consistently used this content in guidance and opinion to BW/CRT in the various consultations and correspondence in which we have engaged over the years, most recently for the SE mooring review. It is a cause of frustration to me and Council that we have been unable to get clarity from CRT on several legal issues and all we get from them is the 1962 Act ‘as they think fit’. In recent years a few brave boaters have taken on BW: Nigel Moore for example, and we can see that BW has been found legally fallible in that case at some considerable cost. I do not imply that CRT has no powers to enforce the 1995 Act, indeed NABO has always called for its application and regretted the dearth of cases. This is both because of the obvious need and the lack of case interpretation for all parties to understand.

It is the ‘add on’ features, either in Terms and Conditions or the mooring proposals, which are controversial to us. CRT lawyers should not have the sole view on these matters. Our Counsel is just as expensive as CRT’s and they have a different view on some issues. It is most unlikely that NABO will ever take CRT to court; we do not have the resources or the status to do so. We have to find other ways, but it is clear that normal correspondence and doing the ‘right thing’ in consultations simply does not work. I think we have to be a little, how shall I put it, irksome?  It is a great shame that we have reached this point on boater rights, when there is so much to support in the fledgling CRT and members are working hard to do this. But boater rights are at stake.

Turning to internal matters, I have to tell you that Andy Colyer has resigned from the Council due to work and family commitments. He will remain as Southern Secretary, looking after key issues on the K&A. Andy has served on Council for many years and we are very grateful for his wise input and support for the Association. In recent times, he attended many of the MSSL meetings and his knowledge of the waterways and the personalities contributed significantly to making the progress that it did. Thank you Andy. 

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Philip Ogden, a member since 1992 and active in various roles, who has recently celebrated his centenary. He is currently our Assistant for the Disabled and he maintains an interest in the canals, living on the north end of the Grand Union. He still gets afloat from time to time. Please join me in wishing him well. 

Since April when subscription rates were increased, membership renewals have become problematic. Our Treasurer warned us from experience of previous increases that this would be a difficult period, and he was right, because members are failing to amend standing orders and attempting renewals at the old rate. Both Melanie and I have spent many hours trying to stay on top of this. We used a new mailing system to email members to remind them, and my thanks to those who have responded. But we have a long way to go. Please, please read the notes elsewhere in this issue, and if they apply to you, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Having experimented with membership mails, I want to restart NABO bulletins to all members. This is not intended to compete with NABO News, but rather to tell members what Association officers are doing for you. There will be no essays on policy, just one-liners on this and that. If we don’t have your email address, then you will not get it, and there are 250 members in this group. Are you one of them?

 

A Good NAG

I attended another CRT Navigation Advisory Group meeting this week. There were five hours of constructive discussion and work on navigation issues, with experienced boaters giving input to listening CRT staff. Discussions included boater safety issues, HS1 and 2 impacts and progress, strong-stream warnings, out of hours phone numbers and responses, and of course pump-outs. It is really good to have a dedicated venue where boaters can spend time on navigation issues and make a contribution to the running of the system. I approve.

Val and I will be moving our boat from the east end of the T&M to the Shroppie during the summer. I hope to see many of you on the water.

David

 

Chairman’s column, NABO News, Issue 2, March 2013

NABO News, Issue 2, March 2013

 

Chairman’s column

 

Last month, I gave a serious message about the future of the Association. I would like to thank all the members who took the time to write and express their views. These were (almost) universally supportive of the work we do and the need to raise subscriptions. It is common sense that we cannot continue to operate unless the basic fees cover the core costs, so an increase is inevitable. Our Hon. Treasurer reports elsewhere in this issue on what the Council has now agreed. We now need your help to follow this through with your correct details and paperwork when your renewal is due. Please do not neglect to do this: chasing up wrong payments costs the Association in administration time and money, which is avoidable if we all do our bit.

I am delighted to say that two additional members joined Council at the February meeting. I welcome Mark Tizard and Mike Rodd. They are introduced in the coming pages. They bring new energy, ideas and leadership to the table and they are already contributing, with Vice Chair Jane Taylor, to rebrand our membership offering for 2013 and the years to come. Much of what we achieve goes unseen by the waterways community, even our own membership, because it goes on behind the scenes. It is often not about winning or losing but about maintaining a long-term relationship with navigation authorities and refreshing our knowledge of what is going on. It is from this strength that we can campaign and respond to individual events or wider consultations. We have not been that good at selling ourselves, and we have to make changes to address that. NABO enjoys its independence, free from dogma, history and the Charities Commission, an open national agenda applicable to a broad spectrum of boaters. What is not to like? So welcome again to Mark and Mike, but don’t think that the rest of our membership can now sit back and relax; Council is still under strength and we need more help. It is your Association, not mine.

Sustainable membership of course is at the core of all this. Some have written and explained that they are unable to directly help and I accept of course that many of us cannot take an active role. The one thing every member can do for us is find a new member during this year. Member to member recruitment is the most cost effective way to get new members. If every member recruited just one new member who stays with us, we would be in a stable position and able to move on with a solid base. You know there is a need for an independent national organisation. Please tell others too. 

CRT has just started a quickie formal consultation on moorings in the South East area. This will run during February and by the time you read this, it will be near closing or already closed on the 1st March. We have provided information and the NABO view on our website and tried to contact members in the SE area to get their views. If you have missed this date and you have good local information, send it anyway or let a Council member know. All boaters should read the consultation because sooner or later one like it will come to a mooring near you. These proposals will affect all boaters whichever way you use your boat. We neglect these consultations at our peril! Watch the website for updates. NABO will make a response, but please send us your personal and detailed views.

I got an enforcement notice put on my boat in January in the marina. I had seen a couple of officers on the pontoon as I walked down to the boat. A quick glance at the red notice in its little bag showed the offence was not to display a valid licence. Interesting as the notice was stuck on the window right next to the licence, which is valid to mid 2013. Hmmm. I went to find the officer and brought him back to see it. ‘Why have I got this?’ I asked. He pulled it off the boat and looked closer. It was written correctly, but it had been stuck on the wrong boat! Profuse apologies followed. What is a boater to do?

We heard during the month that Robin Evans is to step down as CRT Chief Executive this year. I am not surprised. The last few years, with the launch of CRT, have been a major journey and it would be very difficult to return to the routines of normal life. Setting up is one thing, but consolidation and growing is another. The Trustees have a serious task on their hands to select the replacement and this will be just as important as any decision they have made to date. I wish them success as the CE puts a personal stamp on any organisation. No doubt they will get plenty of advice from the towpath.

David

 

Chairman’s column, NABO News, Issue 7, January 2013

 

Chairman’s column

 

Well here I am again. Not quite what I had in mind, but Council have asked me to continue as Chairman for the present. This is not what I would have wished and it really has to stop some time soon. The AGM took place in Bradford on Avon in November and those members who stood for Council were returned unopposed. I welcome Jane Taylor to Council as a new member. She attended her first Council meeting and already is offering a new perspective and experience. You can read some words of introduction elsewhere.