RYA view on CRT reinforced
Boat owners survey and first annual CRT meeting reinforce RYA view on the new Trust, reports Tony Roome Chair of the RYA’s Inland Navigation Panel.
The results of the last Boat Owners’ Survey by British Waterways were recently published by the Canal & River Trust (CRT). The survey effectively covers 2011, and was undertaken before the Trust was formed. The results make interesting reading:
- Around 5% of cruisers on the canals are RYA members, comparable with the membership of canal-specific organisations like the Residential Boat Owners Association, and the National Association of Boat Owners.
- The Inland Waterways Association remains the largest representative body on the canals, with roughly 27% of boaters being members.
It will be interesting to see if these proportions change as Inland Waterways Association (IWA) becomes increasingly integrated with the Trust (all the CRT Council boating representatives are from IWA).
- Inland boaters spend around £4000 per year on their boats and boating on the canals and around 72% are either very or quite satisfied with the experience.
- However, while 63% thought the upkeep of canals was excellent or good in 2006; by 2011 that proportion had fallen to 38%.
That’s a really significant drop and reflects the perception that much work needs to be done to achieve an acceptable standard of engineering around locks, banks and dredging etc. The issues of most concern to boaters included: rubbish and weed contamination of canals along with the depth of water available for cruising.
- The need for a culture change within the Trust is reflected by the survey which finds that while 84% think bank staff (lock keepers, maintenance staff etc.) are either excellent or good, only 62% think the same of the organisation’s office and management staff.
The RYA is keen to see the Trust becoming an organisation with an empowered, active and committed membership (as we have in the RYA). Currently CRT, and BW before them, does not want to follow this model – preferring instead to rely on ‘Friends’ contributing money but having no say in the running of the organisation.
The survey bears out our belief that greater commitment is built through true democratic involvement – with 64% saying that they would join a membership scheme, but only 32% being prepared to commit to regular donations without membership rights.
Good to know that the survey confirms what RYA has been telling BW and the Trust all along!
CRT ‘Annual Meeting’
Following on from the difference between empowered members and ‘friends’; BW/CRT has always argued that they will be open with the information they make public, and that they will hold an annual meeting which will be at least as good as an AGM.
CRT held the first of these meetings on 27 September in Birmingham. It is important to recognise that the Trust has only been in existence since 2 July this year – so they are not able to provide accounts, annual reports etc. as we would expect to see at an AGM.
However, even for an organisation only three months old, it was slightly disturbing to find that the annual meeting consisted of a 10 minute presentations by the Chairman and the Chief Executive which were relentlessly positive, but just about entirely lacking any real information.
These presentations were then followed by one and a half hours of ‘networking’ with attendees talking to each other – and then a couple more presentations by Chairs of Waterway Partnerships. Questions were allowed in one-to-one situations during the networking, but there was no real interaction through which the concerns of other groups present could be heard.
There was a minor protest outside the meeting from continuous cruisers (those boaters who live aboard their boats and do not have a fixed mooring). It is clear from what they were saying that CRT is interpreting the law on residential boating in a fairly cavalier way, and seems to be imposing mooring restrictions inconsistently through the system.
It was also worthy of note that the stalls/displays around the meeting ignored the role or importance of boats completely. There were displays on nature and the environment, volunteering, the involvement of Google maps in the inclusion of towpaths on their mapping so that people can walk and cycle along them – though there are no plans to include any information of value to boaters like locks, sanitary stations and water points.
The RYA welcomes the idea that the annual meeting takes place, and also welcomes the regional meetings which will follow it. We’d just like to see someone in the Trust recognise that the canals and rivers are nothing without boats!
Read the Boat Owners Survey in full.
Tony Roome, Chairman of the RYA Inland Navigation Panel. Let us know your views and comments at email@example.com
Article Published: September 28, 2012 15:32