“The politest climb down I’ve ever seen” – BW promises to release minutes of meetings with K&A Trust

A boater recently appealed against BW’s refusal to provide information and minutes of meetings which had taken place with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust (see previous article on this web site “I don’t believe it” http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/wordpress/?p=831 ). This is the apology she received from Caroline Killeavy, BW’s Head of Customer Relations:

“Thank you for your email of 7th June requesting a formal review of the information we previously supplied to you. Your second email has been very helpful to us in that it now specifically identifies the meetings which you are interested in. 

 Chris Grey and I have reviewed the initial response we sent to you and we both agree that in the light of your most recent detailed request the original information supplied to you was insufficient.  Please accept my apologies for this. I can reassure you that this was not intentional. There are often many departments working in the same geographical area at any one time and therefore it is sometimes possible that our FOI officer is not always aware of every meeting held.  We approached a number of managers to gather information for your initial request however it now appears that we missed a number of key personnel who attended meetings during the dates specified. This was unknown to us at the time.

 Additionally we have since been made aware that some meetings were recorded but since the minutes were still in draft and not yet agreed by all parties,  they were not available for distribution externally.  It is hoped that these draft minutes will be approved shortly and we will of course make them available.

 Now you have supplied additional detail  we can approach the internal staff directly and obtain any written material.   Given the circumstances we will endeavour to do this quickly (and not necessarily apply 20 working days to the request) although given the scale of the request it may take a few days to collate the information.

Your patience in this matter is appreciated”

Ms Killeavy was responding to the boater’s request for an internal review of BW’s refusal to provide information:

“I am writing regarding Chris Gray’s refusal, dated 26 April 2010, to provide the information which I asked for under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which I made to Mr Gray by email on 23 March 2010.

I do not think you have properly considered my request for information and I would be grateful if you could refer your refusal to an internal review and consider this as a complaint in accordance with BW’s complaints procedure. The nature of my complaint is set out below.

I made the following request for information:

“Please could you send me the minutes or notes of all meetings between
British Waterways and the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust which took place
between 1 January 2009 and 23 March 2010.

Please could you send me copies of all email correspondence and notes of
telephone calls and conversations to British Waterways from the Kennet and
Avon Canal Trust between 1 January 2009 and 23 March 2010.

Please could you send me copies of all email correspondence and notes of
telephone calls and conversations to the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust from
British Waterways between 1 January 2009 and 23 March 2010.

Please could you send me a list of the dates, times, locations and
attendees of meetings between British Waterways and the Kennet and Avon
Canal Trust between 1 January 2009 and 23 March 2010.”

I received the following reply from Mr Gray on 26 April 2010:

“Please see attached, the notes were intended to capture key issues and
action points that were raised during the course of the Kennet and Avon
Canal User Group Meeting that was held on Thursday 19th November 2009.

There was no formal minutes and no emails or notes of telephone calls
connected to the meeting or with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust in general
within the  period specified.”

The attached document which Mr Gray sent me was the minutes of the Kennet and Avon User Group meeting on 19 November 2009.

I do not believe that there were no other formal minutes and no emails or notes of telephone calls between BW and the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust between 1 January 2009 and 23 March 2010. BW issued a press release on 25 May 2010 regarding the establishment of a waterways  partnership between the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and BW. The existence of meetings between BW and the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust has been publicly documented by Mike Rodd, the Trust’s General Manager, and also by Terry Kemp, a Trustee.

Mike Rodd wrote an article entitled “One Year On” which referred to meetings with BW in the Spring 2010 issue of the Trust’s magazine, the Butty. This is what the article said about meetings with BW:

“Alongside this has been extensive behind-the-scenes work with BW, including
exploratory high-level discussions regarding our underlying future
relationship.”

“This could, for example, possibly be based on the powerful and
effective management arrangements developed for handling the Heritage
Lottery Fund Grant that was received by the Trust, working in partnership
with BW and the canal-side local authorities.”

“We have also been working with BW’s moorings team to develop an effective
policy that will gain general user acceptance, trying to address the growing
over-population problems on many sections of the waterway.”

“On the volunteering front, we have teamed up with BW to bring more
volunteers into areas where BW will simply not be able to provide sufficient
support in the future.”

“We have also been working with their property professionals to determine
where we can best help to maintain (and, where necessary, acquire for the
Trust) important heritage sites.”

“Finally, we are working ever more closely with our Waterways’ Manager, Mark
Stephens, so that we can collaborate to ensure that this wonderful waterway
is maintained and protected  — so that it will still be fit for use another
200 years from now!”

Terry Kemp, in his Blog at: http://worldofdifference.vodafone.co.uk/uk/terry-kemp/ (last viewed 26 April 2010) wrote the following entries describing meetings with various BW officers. I have highlighted in bold the relevant entries.

“Post | Making changes for the future perhaps 16:04 on April 2nd 2010
The development of the future organisation of British Waterways will no doubt
spurn a range of new opportunities for us Voluntary Canal Organisations in
respect of the required changes in the way our Waterways are managed. These
changes relate to the present needs of the network and should be embraced
with this in mind. Too often we hark on about the past but our economic
climate and the way our nation has now developed means that we have got to
change. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust have recognised this and have
positively offered to assist British Waterways. Initial discussions have
revealed the similarity between the aspirations of British Waterways for
their network and the local ideas along the Kennet and Avon Canal.The
discussions are not concluded and of course there is a need for consultation
amongst our Partners to ensure we have a majority consensus. Having said we
should not hark back to the past I do feel that there are some good
practices that were used by the Canal Partnership in the past and could be
resurrected and used.
| Working top down and bottom up   
17:02 on February 20th 2010
Having spoken about volunteering to one of the British Waterways
Directors we were able to gauge the corporate response to our ideas. The
overall view was really positive.

We are, though, extreemly keen to get started by moving towards a series of real works rather than just talking
about them. We now have had a a practical meeting with Mark our British
Waterways Waterway Manager who is as keen as we are to get going. We have
therefore agreed a way forward with him asking his works planner to produce
a bundle of works for us to get our teeth into.I now await these.

In the meantime though John Webb of our Bath and Bristol Branch and the IWA had a meeting with Sarah another officer from British Waterways. She has a scheme for the Bath Lock Flight which could very easily be adapted to a
works schedule for us volunteers.

I have now sent out an avalanche of emails to get it on its way. Have issued
the The Volunteer Handbook and it will go up on the website. Did this a
while ago as a volunteer myself. But it needed editing and also some
additions . Its done now and I already am getting good feedback.

Have also issued an interim report to the Trustees as well as made a
proposal for the next steps. Much will be down to our first project, a
meeting next week with the Chief Executive of British Waterways , then a
meeting with the Operations and Marketing Directors.

So from the top down we are moving. Lets hope that we get some bottoms up
while we are all bending over improving our towpaths! I am continually asked
about my other community project – The Barge Inn at Honey Street by our
canal .

We have the development grant we have an architect on the case re the
capital works and we need to get our second stage application business plan
in by the 3rd of March. Just over a week so lets not panic yet. Well perhaps
we have to plan to panic soon.

Post | Making progress in leaps and bounds 20:02 on February 9th 2010
The project is moving forward in leaps and bounds. Though all positive the
progress will and has put demands on us, and me, in respect of time. Perhaps
the best way to collect my thoughts together will be to detail the items of
‘political’ progress as they have happened.

The story it tells will I hope reveal that I am not just being optimistic.
So are we sitting comfortably, if so, I will begin. I had a long informative
meeting with British Waterways Volunteer Coordinator South Karen Fishwick
and The National Volunteering Manager Edd Moss. A thorough exchange of views and ideas as well as the opportunity to see ways around barriers to success.

The key start point was to consider the way in which the Kennet and Avon
Canal Trust could become what BW call self supervised. It was agreed I would
be supplied with the detail and we would seek to achieve all that was
required as soon as possible.

The requirements are all in essence a series of key questions
regarding competence, capacity and process. Interestingly there was a strong
indication of BW controls staying in place rather than a delegation of
responsibilities to the Trust.

I had advocated that we as the Trust could be appointed as an agent for the implementation and management of community based works bearing in mind what we know of the lack of resource in BW.

Agreed was the fact that volunteers could do anything. However there was a
view that the controls should rest with BW. Though I agreed with this I said
that as an appointed agent/ contractor we could undertake the designated
tasks to a designated quality standard under a service level agreement.

This would mean we are being more directed towards real task delivery rather
than being given jobs that seem appropraite for volunteers. This argument
was advocated as it would seem possible for the Trust to recruit a mix of
volunteers and professionals as well as draw on a variety of employment
training schemes. and funding opportunities. All this could be achieved with
limited cost to BW, achieving items of work they might not otherwise afford,
removing from them the costs of management.

For us we would have engaged and employed volunteers and supporters in real
work that benefits the sustainability of our waterway. This debate was not
concluded, however it was agreed that the Waterway Manager would be asked to
supply us with a range of jobs that could be undertaken by Trust volunteers.

Met Mark Stephens the Waterway Manager who agreed to a further meeting as
well as agreeing that we would be provided with jobs that potentially could
be done by our volunteers.

Went with MIke Rodd General Manager of the Trust to BW HQ to meet Simon
Salem the Director with the responsibility for the development of
Volunteering. It was a frank and constructive meeting that allowed us to
push through our ideas as hopes. Simon listened and agreed he would talk to
his colleagues about how to move things on.

Met Mark Stephens again two days later, he wants a meeting soon to discuss
how to progress and implement our ideas.

No presuure but his Board want to visit the Kennet and Avon Canal in March
to see things in place and happening. All this and a meeting also arranged
with the Chief Executive of BW with the President of the Kennet and Avon
Canal Trust Michael Ancram and Trustee Chairman David Rees and Mike Rodd. It looks as all things are coming together”.

Please could you provide me with the minutes, and all other records regardless of the format, of the following meetings mentioned by Mike Rodd in his article:

Exploratory high level discussions regarding our future relationship
Meeting with BW Directors
Meeting with BW Moorings Team regarding the development of an effective
policy that will gain general user acceptance, trying to address the growing
over-population problems on many sections of the waterway.
Meeting with BW property professionals regarding maintenance of heritage sites
Meeting with Kennet and Avon Canal Manager Mark Stephens.

Please could you also provide me with the minutes, and all other records regardless of the format, of the following meetings mentioned by Terry Kemp in his Blog:

Mentioned on 2 April 2010:
Initial discussions regarding the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust’s offer to positively assist BW.

Mentioned on 20 February 2010:
Discussion and response with a BW Director regarding volunteering.
Practical meeting with Mark Stephens.
Meeting between John Webb, the IWA, and Sarah from BW regarding Bath Lock Flight.
Meeting next week with the Chief Executive of BW.
A meeting with BW Operations Director following the meeting with the CEO.
A meeting with BW Marketing Director following the meeting with the CEO.

Mentioned on 9 February 2010:
Meeting with Karen Fishwick and Ed Moss regarding volunteering.
Details supplied by BW regarding how the Trust could become self-supervised.
Correspondence between the Trust and BW regarding BW controls staying in place.
Meeting between Simon Salem, Terry Kemp and Mike Rodd.
Meeting two days after the above meeting with Mark Stephens.
Meeting between Robin Evans and Michael Ancrum, David Rees and Mike Rodd of the Trust.

Please treat this further request for information as a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Thank you.

I look forward to your reply.”

Watch this space!

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