CRT have this week published their intended wording for boat licence terms and conditions. This follows a consultation in 2020. There is also a report on the consultation.
You can read the details here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/news/weve-updated-our-boat-licence-terms-and-conditions
CRT unhelpfully say "After such a positive and constructive response to the consultation with respondents largely recognising the purpose and strength of the proposals, and their feedback further shaping several of them, we thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts."
This all needs detailed study to see what, if anything, they have done with our comments. It is also clear that there are controversial legal issues that have been introduced in the wording which were not covered by the consultation. NABO Council will meet in the coming days to review the new document and see what is to be done.
One aspect that NABO had recommended was that the general wording be reviewed for readability. CRT appear to have taken this on board. CRT have not published any parallel rewording of the Privacy documents.
These terms come in to play on 1st June for boaters who apply for a new or renewed licence.
CRT have taken 6 months of secret internal and legal review to come up with this. Now they produce it like 'a rabbit out af a hat'. Magic?
South West Regional report
I attended the meeting of the non-Wales part of the Wales and South West Region chaired by David Hagg, who leads the South West Regional Advisory Board. As is usual now, the concentration was on everything non-boating, but fortunately Ed Helps, a member of the Board and CEO of ABC, did point out that it was essential that the boating activities were recognized as a key source of revenue for CRT! We (about 40 attended in all) were introduced to the members of the Board and it is clear that the bulk are non-canal folk. After a brief introduction by Mark Evans, the Regional Director, covering the activities over the past year, we had lengthy presentations on the multi-million pound work to provide the River Severn with extensive fish passes and also on Gloucester as a regional hub. A useful Q&A session was held at the end with some interesting comments on the situation regarding the Bridgewater docks (where CRT does not intend to continue its lease) and also a useful input from a Claverton Pumping Station volunteer about the lack of support from CRT for the volunteers who keep the station running! There was also a quiet comment that none of the presentations had mentioned anything about CRT’s heritage responsibilities!
Mark Tizard, Anne Husar and Peter Fellows respond to a recent CRT statement.
CRT inherited a portfolio of properties from BW, some of which are needed for its operations. In a statement, it says that others were specified as investments to provide an income stream to fund ongoing maintenance. It also claims that it has to manage these investments commercially to generate as much income as possible as a condition of the Government grant agreement. To do this, it regularly sells assets if it thinks their potential to grow income has fallen and then invests the proceeds in new assets with higher growth potential. It denies it is ‘selling the family silver’ and reports that the investments now contribute more than £50 million each year to CRT funds. This compares to approximately £40 million a year from boating and mooring revenue. The statement goes on to say: “We do still own waterway-related properties like marinas and boatyards and some waterside properties with potential for development...”.
Editor, Peter Fellows, considers an alternative to the present CRT structure.
This issue reflects two concerns that have been raised recently regarding the poor state of the canal infrastructure and the loss of waterway heritage. There are currently a record number of unplanned canal closures and lock or culvert failures, especially in the North. Given that the waterways have largely been out of use for months due to the Covid lockdown, these failures have to be due to inadequate inspection and/or lack of maintenance, rather than the usual excuse of blaming boaters. On the second point, CRT does not seem to understand that not all of its building assets are available to be sold off to generate income. There has to be due attention paid to the heritage of the waterways, which is embedded in CRT’s objects as a charity. These topics are longstanding criticisms that have featured in NABO News for many years, and appear again in articles and reports in this issue by Mark Tizard. But CRT seems to consistently ignore them. Mark also reviews the results of the latest boaters’ perception survey which, unsurprisingly, does not make happy reading for CRT.
I suspect that every boater would agree that a renewal of the Government grant to CRT is essential for the upkeep of the waterways. We are where we are with CRT’s senior management, and they are probably the best people to lead the negotiations with DEFRA. However, as part of these negotiations, I believe that there should be thought given to planning for a new structure for CRT. This should clearly separate the Trust’s responsibilities as a navigation authority from its wellbeing agenda that promotes the waterways to the wider public. Currently, these seem to be completely intertwined, but the Trust’s responsibilities for maintaining and improving the waterway infrastructure seem to take a decidedly backseat position. As Mike Rodd notes in the Chair’s column, boats and navigation are rarely mentioned, let alone discussed, at CRT forums and regional meetings. A separate wellbeing division would allow the Trust to continue to generate income from a wide range of sources as it currently does. So the bulk of the new Government grant could be made available to the navigation division, to maintain what are unique national assets (with of course the income from boat licence fees). The division could then employ senior staff with the expertise and experience to properly manage the waterways.