BW directors and members of the public attending the BW AGM on 13 October were greeted by a group of BW employees condemning the “already overpaid directors” £15,000 inflation-busting bonuses as a disgrace while employees pay was not increased. The staff handed out a leaflet asking “are these the people you want to run your charity in future?”.
After a slick presentation on various aspects of the Canal and River Trust, boaters posed awkward questions to the Transition Trustees. First, whether the new charity would value the liveaboard boaters on its waterways as a diverse community with a low impact on the environment. Trustees sidestepped this by saying that they valued all the communities who use the waterways.
A question about whether the Freedom of Information Act would apply to the charity was also given a non-commital reply. Another boater asked whether the talk of “culture change” in the new charity would include acceptance that it is perfectly legitimate to live on your boat without a mooring and have a job and send your children to school. The reason for this question was that Paul Griffin, BW’s Enforcement Operations Manager, told the K and A Local Mooring Strategy the same week that “you can’t continuously cruise and have a job or send your children to school”. Avoiding the boater’s question of whether one group of people were being denied rights that everyone else enjoys, Trustee John Bridgeman, who is also the Vice-Chair of BW, replied that nobody was being prevented from going to school but said his wife was a teacher and described the inconvenience to the school of having to accommodate the children of travellers. A culture change doesn’t look very likely at this rate.
Another boater buttonholed Simon Salem, BW’s Marketing Director, during the lunch break to complain that BW issued a press release last winter warning walkers and anglers to take care on lock sides and towpaths in icy weather but had sent patrol notices to boaters who were iced in telling them to “continue your journey” regardless of the dangers. It was pointed out this this would not reflect well on BW in a Coroner’s Court. Mr Salem agreed to advise the Enforcement Team not to issue patrol notices when conditions could put boaters at risk.
The Transition Trustees’ first report states that the CRT will consider whether to take a different course from BW in a number of areas including licensing and mooring, and residential boating. It is not clear whether this will be better or worse than the way BW treats boat dwellers now. You can read the report here CRT Trustees 1st Report