NABO News editorial January 24

A tale of two countries Editor John Sadler goes north

I made a road trip last year to Scotland, spending the first night at The Kelpies, by the canal, and returning after a few
days further North to the Falkirk Wheel. Of course I had to experience the canal lift. In the speech that accompanied the trip we were informed
that every penny generated by the attraction was reinvested into Scottish Canals.
According to Michael Matheson of the Scottish National Party, British Waterways was an organisation that sat in the background and did little but
manage a bit of the infrastructure in Scotland. Campbell Christie was the chair of British Waterways when the UK Government decided to abolish
it, leading to the creation of Scottish Canals which, under Christie’s leadership, transitioned into Scottish
Waterways and became an economic development organisation, using canals to develop potential. This started with The Falkirk Wheel project which
led on to the Kelpies and significant investment in Springburn, an area of North Glasgow.
I quote this as an example of how a public service body has adapted, with no structural change, to a more holistic approach to community support.
A very good public body that is making a real difference in communities, particularly in deprived areas, that uses assets and unlocks them in a way
that results in much greater benefit.
Because of the economic development approach that has been taken, an area has been opened up that people would simply not have gone to
previously. We have to encourage more of our public bodies to do that.
According to Civil Society, in 2022 Canal and River Trust saw its assets grow by 18% to £1.04 billion but I don’t see the same degree of praise for
its constructive use.
In response to one of our Letters I invited a comment from Richard Parry, it was a lengthy reply and is printed in full in the letters section.
NABO has no wish to be seen to be bashing CRT but in return for our support, on behalf of all boaters we will challenge injustice and questionable
decision making.
It seems that there is an element of secrecy in the day to day operations of CRT. What we don’t know we can’t criticise. I do sympathise with the
problems caused by the reduction in funding when facing increasing costs but that demands more efficiency,
fewer overheads or less maintenance.
It’s brutal but any business that I’ve worked in, when faced with reduced turnover, the first economy is staff reduction. It’s one of the largest
overheads. I have only noticed recruitment in the case of CRT, perhaps they are very confident in reversing the Government’s decision. But
quite honestly, looking at the queue of organisations demanding extra resources, the NHS, the Post Office, the Armed Forces and Local Government
to name but a few, I can’t see CRT being high on the list.

Spring is around the corner and boaters will soon be thinking of travelling. What excitement will Spring and Summer bring?
We do need to protect our cut by careful usage and campaigning to enjoy what is one of the UK’s greatest assests.