Just before the retirement of Sally Ash, CRT announced on 24th June that it is to create a new post of Head of Customer Service, reporting directly to the Chief Executive Richard Parry. The new post will be responsible for leisure boating, licensing and enforcement as well as other customer service changes. This strips Marketing Director Simon Salem of much of his role. Until now Mr Salem was responsible for both the Boating Team (headed by Sally Ash) and the Licensing and Enforcement Team (headed by Denise Yelland). He is also responsible for CRT’s charitable fund raising. There has been speculation about what would happen to Mr Salem after Sally Ash’s departure, as her inept and arrogant way of working undeservedly protected him from criticism.
The Head of Customer Service post will be filled temporarily by Dean Davies, currently West Midlands Waterways Manager. Mr Davies has a reasonably good reputation amongst boaters, unlike Ms Ash. Mr Parry stated in an open meeting with boaters in Devizes on 21st May that it had troubled him from day one that CRT had such a poor relationship with boaters; the new post is evidently aimed at addressing this. It appears that the Head of Boating post will not be replaced, although it is rumoured that Matthew Symonds, Boater Liaison Manager for the South, is to take on Sally Ash’s role. Mr Symonds, a relatively junior member of staff, joined CRT in summer 2013. However, he has been seen to accompany and assist Mr Parry on many occasions. We believe that he was invited to apply for his current post by Sally Ash, on recommendation from Bristol Community Resolve, who provided the external facilitator for the K&A Local Waterway Partnership Moorings Sub-Group and the London Better Relationships on the Waterways Group.
If he is to fill Sally Ash’s role, Mr Symonds will leap-frog more senior colleagues like Sorwar Ahmed, Boater Liaison Manager for London, who also joined CRT in summer 2013, and Damian Kemp, Boating Consultations and Communications Manager, who joined BW in 2009. A number of people have commented on Mr Symonds’ resemblance to Tony Blair, so the development would not be surprising. Both Mr Ahmed and Mr Kemp have a reputation amongst boaters for being nice people, so perhaps they do not have the right qualities for this role. The new structure will be fully implemented in the autumn.
CRT is also expanding the role of its Head of Planning Heather Clarke, who will take on a broader role as Head of Strategy and Planning, also reporting directly to Richard Parry who has obviously taken this opportunity to clear out more of the old BW structure, people and attitudes. If this results in more respect for the rights of liveaboard boaters without home moorings then it is a welcome development. So far the only positive change we have noticed is a slight reduction in the number of Section 8 cases in recent months compared to the flurry of Section 8’s that followed the grant of charitable status in 2012 and the increased involvement of the IWA, an organisation that opposes the interests of itinerant liveaboard boaters.
You can read CRT’s press release here