Thursday, 5 January 2012

Standing for Canal and River Trust Council - More about me, for those who have asked.

(Posted by Alan)

The Canal and River Trust Council election process limits candidates strictly to a 150 word election statement. The problem I see with this is that there will be a lot of candidates, (as it is relatively easy to find 10 sponsors), and hence there will be a lot of 150 word election statements that may actually say rather similar things. I think these will often prove inadequate to allow anyone who doesn’t actually know the candidates to make informed decisions and to sensibly choose one above another.

With "Sickle" at Braunston Historic Boat Show 2011
Whilst I hope for a lot of support from those who do already know about me, my boats and my love of the waterways, clearly as an “independent” candidate I need to attract votes from people who will not necessarily know who I am, or anything about me, if I am to win against candidates sponsored by big associations or clubs.

So if anyone wants to know more about me, this is my fuller boating CV, and why I would like to serve you.

I am 59, married, with 2 adult sons, and was offered and took early retirement almost exactly 7 years ago now. Most of my working life was in computing and information systems, the last 24 years of which were with a large multinational where I specialised in the technical side of computing, and for many of the later years heading teams supporting databases world-wide or in related consultancy roles.

I first came to canal boating in the early 1970s, initially through hire boating, then with family owned boats and eventually my own converted ex-BCN day boat, which, apart from the hull, I had to rebuild from scratch, including the wooden cabin top. However this was in the years when major structures on the canal could remain unusable for years, and long term tunnel closures on the Grand Union cut off easy access to most of the system. Family boats got sold at this time, and it was to be some years before I came back to boat ownership, although we did hire on occasions, and I was a regular canal visitor, even when not a boat owner.

With "Charlie" Caldon Branch, Trent & Mersey 2011
It was the opportunity to take early retirement that convinced me that the time was right to buy another boat. My wife Cath would carry on teaching for a while, but at least we now had the benefit of school holidays to actually use one, and really put in the miles, and we haven’t looked back.

“Chalice” is a 50 foot boat that has served us well for 7 years, although much has been done in that time to make her more suited to our needs. Alongside that I have never lost a love of the more historic boats, so when “Sickle”, (a 1936 working boat converted in the war years to 40 foot icebreaker tug), came on the market last year we jumped at an opportunity to own her in alongside “Chalice”. Currently “Chalice” is used for the longer trips, and certainly when more than two need to be on board, but the plan is that whenever we are able “Sickle” will visit the galas, festivals and historic boat events. It also means we get to understand the issues of the more deep draughted boats on the canals!

In 2011 we reckon we covered just under 1,200 miles, went through over 900 locks, and boated on about 90 days of the year, visiting up to 20 different waterways, (depending on exactly how you define “different”).

So I consider myself very much both “boat owner” and “boater”, even though we are not currently full time live-aboards. We now have a large network of friends around the system that we regularly meet up with, and these come from a wide range of different boating and boat owning backgrounds, many of them being permanently on the move.

On "Chalice" on the Worcester & Birmingham 2011
I am coming to this election just as a very committed and experienced boater - not as a member of any particular organisation or society. I believe that anybody elected as a boater representative to the council is going to need to be able to represent all boat owners, irrespective of the many reasons they may have for boat ownership, or their boating backgrounds. I think that for only four council members to represent all boaters it is best if they are truly independent, rather than nominated by any of the large associations or societies.

There is already much debate about what will make a good Council member, of course. I come from a work background where I was very used to listening to what people actually wanted and brokering the best solutions for them, even when faced with some decisions that already looked in danger of getting finalised when they really were not the best that could be negotiated. I am comfortable operating in an environment with large meetings or committee work, but as a safe pair of hands that can win over support by negotiation, rather than by coming to it with any dogma about how things must be done.

However, once I am convinced that something has not been thought through properly and is being handled badly, I will certainly be amongst the first to try very hard to get that remedied. Too many bad decisions have happened under British Waterways that there has never been a mechanism to challenge, and the CaRT council should be exercised wherever necessary to ensure that there is far more accountability about how things are run in future.

If you are happy for me to represent you, please not only cast your vote for me in the election, but please draw me to the attention of other boaters who might consider supporting me as well. There will be some very heavy competition for these Council places, some of which I feel is not in the best interests of boaters generally – I would like to be your representative if I can, and ask for your support.



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