The K&A could be split into two waterway regions with the western end to Froxfield being run from Gloucester and the eastern end managed from London, after CRT announced on 7th December 2017 that it would restructure its management. The K&A Waterway Partnership met CRT Chief Executive Richard Parry earlier this month to try to persuade CRT that running the K&A from two different offices would be disastrous for the canal and the people who live and work on it. Mr Parry heard their case but made no promises.
The CRT restructuring will mean redundancies and office closures, including “a significant reduction in the size of its senior management team” in which many staff will have to re-apply for their own jobs. It has recently undergone 60 days of consultation with employees. The proposals include merging 11 waterway regions to make 6 “super regions” and the appointment of 6 Regional Directors, according to a recent advertisement in the Sunday Times.
The number of waterway partnerships will also be reduced to 6 and they will be redefined as Regional Advisory Boards. CRT has also advertised, again only in the Sunday Times, for Regional Chairs for 4 of these new Advisory Boards.
The Waterway Partnerships were originally set up with the aim of generating additional income for CRT. This has been a spectacular failure, with each partnership costing CRT at least £50,000 each year. A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Waterways in 2014 stated that:
“The APPG for Waterways published a report on the Waterway Partnerships in April 2013 that raised concerns over the lack of clarity of the Waterway Partnership’s financial role. The APPG suggested a number of recommendations on the funding of Waterway Partnerships and is disappointed that there are still concerns over the Waterway Partnerships from stakeholders on a number of issues raised in the report. The APPG urges CRT and its Waterway Partnerships to develop a strategy to follow the report’s recommendations and become financially self-reliant.”
The new regional structure is likely to see all but senior enforcement staff devolved to regional management along with many other staff. This takes CRT almost full circle back to the old BW structure that existed until 2009, when the K&A was managed from Gloucester.
The restructuring follows a year when at least 5 senior CRT staff decided to leave the organisation. The inexplicable departure in April 2017 of Head of Boating Mike Grimes, who left after only 22 months even though he did not have another job, was followed by the departure of Sophie Castell, Marketing, Communications and Fundraising Director, who had only joined CRT the previous year. The stampede for the door continued with Executive Head of Customer Service and Operations Ian Rogers leaving (it is not clear whether he left of his own accord) after less than 3 years in December 2017, together with Caroline Killeavy, Head of Community Engagement and Programmes who went after 21 years; Wendy Capelle, North West and Borders Waterway Manager decided to take early retirement after 20 years, and unpopular South East Waterway Manager Vicky Martin who left after just 30 months.
We do not know why these senior staff left but perhaps they jumped ship after realising that CRT was never going to be able to raise enough charitable funding to be independently viable. In the case of Mr Grimes and Mr Rogers, perhaps the strain of managing a team that is responsible for making liveaboard boaters homeless proved too stressful. In a conversation at the CRT Annual Public Meeting in September 2017, Ian Rogers let slip that the “illustrative cruising patterns” for boaters without home moorings who have school age children was held up because “they can’t agree”, suggesting major policy disagreements at the top level of CRT.
The All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group reports are here