In the Chair
Effects of ‘bonfire of the quangos’ start to hit home
Mike Rodd analyses how DEFRA policy is driving the change in emphasis by CRT and the EA away from boating.
We’ve seen many intriguing responses to our appeal for members to write to their MPs asking for support for CRT to continue to receive government funding, at least at the current level. While we have always been the first to highlight the many shortcomings of CRT, we are also only too well aware that they will simply not be able to cope if they do not receive this support. The original Cameron model (now being re-energised by the infamous Rees-Mogg) was that the so-called ‘quangos’ should be taken out of government departments and made into charitable organisations that would then be able to attract charitable funding. Experience has shown, though, both in CRT’s case and elsewhere, that although charities may find it slightly easier to attract funding for projects, boring old maintenance just doesn’t excite donors in the same way…
Many of those who have objected to our suggestion feel that the only way ahead is simply to revert to the original BWB model! That simply will not happen, I’m afraid – especially with all the other current pressures on the Government.
Mike Rodd peers into a very uncertain future for the waterways.
The coming months are going to be absolutely critical for all of us who boat on our inland waterways, as it is clear that reports into the futures of both CRT and the EA – as I have mentioned in my previous columns – will soon come under consideration by the relevant government ministers. These reviews will ultimately determine not only how CRT and EA are going to operate, but what (if any) government funding they will receive. So you will have to forgive me if I concentrate in this Chairman’s column on these critical issues, as each and every one of us will need to understand the situation and do whatever we can to influence our local MPs, and also shout loudly across social networks, or wherever we have a voice.
In the Chair
Mike Rodd takes part in the Defra consultation on Government funding.
So far, a very mild winter has meant that we can all go out and do some lovely, quiet winter cruising. For my wife and me this always means – after her hectic Christmastime as our vicar – diving out straight after Christmas Day and spending a week on our boat on the beautiful Mon & Brec. Not so easy this year, though, with some major (and essential) canal re-lining work before Christmas having left the parts of the canal short of water and the towpath in a total mess – see below. But it was still wonderful.
Before Christmas, probably the most important meeting I attended on behalf of NABO was a session run by Defra, preparing the way for a review of the Government’s future funding for CRT. To help inform their deliberations, Defra ran a series of engagement sessions, not only exploring how CRT has performed since being established in 2012, but also considering possible opportunities and challenges in future years. We joined in one of these sessions, with representatives also present from across Government and from other boater organisations. CRT did not attend on the day but was able to view the recording made by the review team.
Mike Rodd’s 2020-21 Annual Report to the AGM
This has been a particularly interesting year and especially a real joy to be working with so many new members of your Council, even if the bulk of meetings have had to be via the internet. It has also been encouraging to see a small increase in membership – largely, I am sure, because of the issues we have been tackling, which have a direct impact on most boaters.
What has been the most worrying development, however, has been the seemingly growing feeling that both CRT and the EA are actively ignoring the views of their prime customers, us boaters. Yes, at times we have publicly opposed some of their actions and/or proposals, but we have consistently said that we aim to fill the role of – and indeed must always remain – their ‘critical friends’. And with both of their agreements regarding government funding coming up soon, they need more friends than ever right now – and especially the boaters, who care more than anyone else about the waterways!
Mike Rodd believes that this is what the new words in CRT’s terms and conditions are saying, even though CRT denies this.
At last we were able to have a real NABO Council meeting and it was such a pleasure to meet our new councillors physically! It is amazing how we have coped over the past year, especially with so much going on in both CRT and the EA – but nothing can replace a face-to-face discussion. With the AGM coming up in a few months, we do have an urgent need to recruit someone to take over Mark Tizard’s roles as General Secretary and Vice Chairman. Sadly, Mark has sold his beautiful boat and will be stepping down from the Council. He has made a huge contribution to our work in so many ways.