The Canal & River Trust concerns Stephen Peters

Stephen Peters (NABO and TBA preferred candidate in the CRT elections) writes:

I am beginning to get a little concerned about the direction in which CRT matters are proceeding in the run-up to the eventual handover of British Waterways’ activities to the new charity later this year.


We were originally told that CRT would take over responsibility from BW in April 2012. All the efforts of the trustees and interested parties have concentrated on achieving this objective. The first Council meeting has been notified as Wednesday 28 March. Now it seems that the process is becoming more protracted than anticipated, the Parliamentary stages have taken longer than previously thought, the Transfer Order will be subject to lengthy scrutiny in both Houses, the charity has yet to be formed and registered and the final improved Government Funding settlement has only just been announced. The Minister has stated that the new charity will be launched as late as June 2012.

Trial Waterway Partnerships

In the meantime, the recruitment of Chairmen of the local Waterways Partnerships has taken place and, indeed, some of these partnerships are already operating we are told on a “trial basis”. Simultaneously, the election of boaters’ and trade Council Members is currently underway, with ballot papers to be returned by noon on Friday 9 March 2012. There is also an election for an Employee to join the Council, but no details appear to have been published informing us who their 9 candidates are.


By now every eligible boater should have received the voting pack and/or email for the election. Please read the candidates’ election statements carefully before placing your votes. We were assured that the style of these statements could include emboldened, capitalised, underlined and italicised text. This has proved not to be the case, so the emphasis in my own statement has been lost.

Some of the statements read rather like job application CVs and I cannot see the relevance of giving a personal life history, family connections or how experience of national intelligence organisations would be relevant to boating on the inland waterways. Some of the candidates have offered extremely bland statements which throw no light on why boaters should support them. Others make wild promises to effect fundamental changes which would require Parliamentary legislation or hands-on management of CRT.

Council members will not have the power and cannot fulfil many of these aspirations. I repeat what I have said before – vote for persons who you consider will best represent your boating interests and leave other matters such as heritage and social issues to others.

Missing representatives on CRT Council

My initial thoughts about the structure of the CRT and composition of the Council are that they need to involve a wider spectrum of stakeholders and skills. For instance, although local government will be represented on Council there will be no involvement of grass-roots local parish or town councils who actually have the closest relationship with the waterways and their users. There are other obvious gaps too – no specific residential member (despite the Government requiring CRT to report on housing issues), nobody from sporting activities, youth groups, disabilities, charity / community boating, to name but a few. Maybe the new Council will recognise these omissions and seek to co-opt up to 4 more members with the appropriate broader skills and interests?

Lack of Openness

The workings of the Waterways Partnerships cause me some concern because it appears that some of them are already in operation and formulating initiatives such as the mooring strategy on the K&A, without many of us being informed, let alone having notice or access to the partnership meetings. They must not be allowed to operate in a vacuum or in secrecy. I urge everyone to question what is happening in their local partnerships and insist that they are open and transparent and involve boating customers. We do know that the Council will establish a permanent Appointments Committee to select the chairs of these partnerships in the future.

I am sure NABO Council will be devoting considerable time and effort to ensure that the CRT succeeds whilst at the same time improving considerably on the past record of its predecessor BW. The signs are rather worrying at the moment. Click here and look at Appendix D to read the Terms of Reference of the Waterway Partnerships and the roles of the Chairman and Members.