A boater attended the BW Annual General Meeting in Birmingham on 2 December and put the following question to the question and answer panel.
“When will BW stop acting beyond its powers in carrying out enforcement that makes liveaboard boaters homeless, given that Nigel Johnson’s evidence in Bristol County Court on 23 September shows that such enforcement is unlawful?”
Mr Johnson, who is a solicitor and BW’s Director of Corporate services, sidestepped the question by saying “the judgement has not been given. I disagree with your description of my evidence – the case was about non-payment and how much a continuous cruiser has to keep moving. It has to wait for the judgement.”
Later in the meeting the same boater asked why the objectives of the proposed new waterways charity (which BW is likely to become) made no mention of the thousands of adults and children who live on boats, for whom the waterways are their home. Simon Salem, BW Marketing Director replied “It’s first thoughts only – the objects have to be broad. It’s not a catalogue. The waterways may be used in different ways. It’s a good point and we’ll have to consider it.” Robin Evans, BW Chief Executive added “ It’s questionable that giving people places to live is a charitable object”. At this point the boater asked “Does that mean we’ll be made homeless?” The panel unanimously replied “No!”. Tony Hales, BW Chairman replied “You are an important part of the community. We’ll take that away. You provide security for other boats”.
The BW AGM is a public meeting and anyone can attend. If you want to be put on the list to attend next year’s AGM, phone 01923 201367, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Chief Executive’s office; his secretary is on 01923 201359.
Many organisations that provide homes for people are charities, contrary to Mr Evans’ belief.