I don’t believe it!

A boater made this Freedom of Information request to BW recently:
“Further to the attached Press Release from British Waterways dated 25 May 2010, please could you send me the minutes of the discussions regarding setting up a Waterways Partnership Board for the Kennet and Avon canal, referred to in the press release as:
 ‘discussions, which also included representatives from the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the KACT and BW will work together in setting up a Waterways Partnership Board for the canal. ‘
Please could you also send me a copy of the Waterways Partnership agreement between British Waterways, the Kennet and Avon canal trust, and any other parties which are formal partners in this agreement.”

This is what BW’s 25 May 2010 Press Release said:

“British Waterways and the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust pilot the third sector

As part of its plans to establish a ‘national trust’ for the nation’s canals and rivers, British Waterways (BW) together with the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust (KACT) are piloting an innovative approach to managing the 200-year old Kennet & Avon Canal.  The launch of the initiative will give the people that use and waterway and the communities that live alongside it a much greater say in how the canal is managed. 

Following discussions, which also included representatives from the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the KACT and BW will work together in setting up a Waterways Partnership Board for the canal.  Members will be drawn from the highest level from the five local authorities and other key stakeholders who came together and led on the canal’s restoration.

The pilot includes reviewing the current plans of both organisations including development, operations, funding requirements etc. and by September agree and produce a combined Waterway Area Plan for the canal corridor which can be implemented by all partners. 

It is hoped that the pilot will provide BW with valuable information and experience on how to put waterways on a ‘more sustainable footing’ and ensure the lessons are incorporated into the consultation on the setting up of a new third sector body.

Commenting on the pilot David Rees chair of the KACT said: “To ensure and safeguard the future of the Kennet & Avon Canal, and as a model to be considered for other waterways, it is essential that decision making and engagement comes closer to the people and organisations which it serves and is more integrated into local communities.  A key feature will be the drive to attract more volunteers to the canal. We can achieve this by offering new opportunities and demonstrating  that it’s worth getting involved because there is a real chance to make a difference.”

Simon Salem, marketing director at British Waterways, said: “Local communities are crucial to the sustainability of their waterways.  We hope we will learn a lot from this pilot and that it will inform further discussions on British Waterways’ proposed move to the third sector.” 

Clive Henderson IWA national chairman said: “We are delighted that this approach is being looked at as a model for ensuring firm local partnerships, as we want more local accountability. We are pleased to be part of that development process and will continue to help support it.”
Before this announcement was made, the same boater made another Freedom of Information request to BW asking for the minutes of all meetings between the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and BW. The reply?  “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.”

Do we believe this? We know that a number of meetings took place between the Trust and BW, because Terry Kemp of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust wrote about them in his blog http://worldofdifference.vodafone.co.uk/uk/terry-kemp/, and Mike Rodd, the Trust’s General Manager, wrote an article about developments between BW and the Trust in the Spring 2010 issue of the Trust’s magazine, the Butty. Not exactly a promising start to a Waterways Partnership, is it?

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2 Responses to “I don’t believe it!”

  1. Paul Biddy MonsterID Icon Paul Biddy says:

    As a public authority, BW are obliged to consider and respond to all reasonable FoIs. This should include meetings concerning the future of the K&A and therefore minutes should be made available to the public. See the link at http://www.foi.gov.uk/yourRights/publicauthorities.htm. Public authorities are also duty bound by the ECHR.

  2. Nick Brown MonsterID Icon Nick Brown says:

    If teh FoI requisition was responded to falsly take it straight to the ICO. Another point: if this so called partnership has been established, how come no other interested body has been consulted? If this is a strategic position and BW hasnt consulted on it then they are acting ultra vires.