Tuesday, 13 March 2012

How credible are IWA council members of the Canal and River Trust?

Four IWA candidates have been elected for the four positions designated to represent boaters on the council of the Canal and River Trust - but are they credible representatives of all boaters on British Waterways waters?
To begin with they were elected by just a quarter of those entitled to vote - hardly a ringing endorsement.
Secondly they were backed by the IWA, the biggest waterways charity and the most able to influence boater members by producing recommended candidates.
That makes this result predictable (in fact I predicted it to John Dodwell when the Boaters' Manifesto group met with him) especially with the inevitable low turnout of a hurried election conducted in the winter season.
Thirdly there will be those who conclude that the IWA is a campaigning organisation of boaters so what does it matter that they have all four seats? The answer is that the IWA is no longer a campaigning body but a collection of committee people happy to do business behind closed doors. It is run by and for often elderly hobby boaters and no longer represents the whole boating community. That is amply demonstrated by its hostility to full-time boaters, especially continuous cruisers.
So we now have the CaRT council with too few boater representatives and those handful that are in place completely controlled by just one view of boating - and that view hostile to thousands who boat as continuous cruisers.
Not only that, they were elected by just one in four voters in an election which allowed a single body to distort the result by jamming the list with nominees.
I suspect that some of the so-called apathy that led to the pathetic 25% turnout was a boycott by boaters who see the election and CaRT as a stitch-up between a Government anxious to offload responsibility, a BW management happy to take perks for as long as possible and 'trustees' from the 'great and good' unwilling to challenge or question the BW management propaganda.
That can only leave full-time boaters more wary and more suspicious of CaRT than we already were.
Here is a so-called charity that is being run by the same people as mismanaged British Waterways - Hales, Evans and the other bonus boys - being monitored by a handful of IWA yes-people who are, in any event outnumbered on the council.
Of course, there are also increasing doubts about the power or relevance of the council as the trustees appear to be colluding in the establishment of commercial structures within CaRT that may end up making the financial and commercial decisions that will decide the future of our waterways.
Those IWA council members may be powerless to prevent Evans, Hales and co from awarding and collecting yet more undeserved bonuses, flogging off more key equipment, investing in more failing ventures as they spend what little funds there are available on anything except the waterways themselves.
I began the Boaters' Manifesto because I feared just such a stitch-up amongst the greedy BW bosses and the professional committee people of the trustees, the IWA and others.
Along the way I met with, argued with and enjoyed the company of a lot of proper boaters.
As I have been politically active for nearly 50 years I never really expected to win but it is always worth getting important truths an airing.
Boaters like me are now privately resigned to more bonuses, more financial failures, less spent on the network.
We can't look to the IWA council members to fight for our interests and we are reduced to standing on the sidelines once more keeping a beady eye on this ridiculously over-committeed structure that will probably become CaRT evetually.
They are not our friends and we will to continue to question, criticise and complain when necessary.

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