Tuesday 31 January 2012

Canal and River Trust Council - Candidate List Issued and I'm On It!

The BW wheels have turned very slowly since I got my election papers in in good time, and it was finally only late yesterday afternoon that I got an email confirming they had all passed scrutiny.  It does beg the question about whether enough time was allowed to sort out potential queries in time for ballot papers to be prepared, and posted out to boat owners to arrive before the start date of voting, in little over a week, (voting is 8th February to mid-day 9th March).

Anyway it appears most other people got their confirmation yesterday and the final total of 33 candidates for just 4 "private boater" places on CaRT Council was confirmed this morning by a publication of the candidate list.

Link to list of candidates for Boater places on CaRT Council.

So now for the first time I know the full list of names I am competing against.  Some further research is clearly now possible, but it is interesting to note already that it is far less than obvious from these 150 word "election statements" which candidates are there by virtue of being their as the nominated choice of a big "association", and which are independent of a "party whip".  There are, for example 5 officially sponsored candidates of the Inland Waterways Association, (one actually also the choice of the Residential Boat Owners Association) .  Or even arguably 6 IWA candidates, if you consider one is also being put forward by the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, itself a corporate member of the IWA.

I believe that based on just these election statements you might not realise there will be these 5 or 6 IWA candidates, (plus several others from other "associations"), receiving a block vote, simply because members of those organisations have been asked to vote for those candidates.

So there are choices to be made.......

Do you vote for a candidate to represent you as a boater because he is a trustee of a major association, and a key player in its hierarchy, (in the most extreme case the actual National Chairman of the IWA).

Or do you vote for a candidate that appears to want to focus on the needs of one particular "type" of boater, even though only four council places are available, and should, to my mind, at least, fairly represent all boat owners.  (You can for example pick a candidate with a specific interest in people in boat share schemes).

Or do you pick someone totally independent of any association or organisation, committed to boating, boaters, and fellow boaters, whatever part their boat plays in their lives - someone sponsored and widely supported by a mix of leisure boaters and live-aboards, some cruising extensively, the others with sometimes anchored to a "base".

As we face the challenges ahead on the move from British Waterways to a charitable trust, I believe we are by far best served by all boat owners pulling together to try and get the best deal for all, and that trying to promote the needs of any one group unreasonably above another will be to our overall detriment.

That's why I am standing as an "independent", and receiving an ever growing amount of support.   That is why I would ask you to cast a first preference vote for me, and give me the chance to prove this approach can win.

You can get in touch with me as follows........

Facebook group: Alan Fincher - Canal and River Tust Election candidate
                        (this is an "open group" - simply make a request to join if you wish to post).
Phone: 07901 - 864321
Email: alanforcrt (at) gmail.com  (replace the spaces and (at) with the proper symbol).

You already know where our blog is, of course, if you want to find out more about me, my boats, and what boating we typically get involved in.


As a result of multiple requests for clarification, this is my "take" on who is actively sponsored by an "assosciation".  That is that the "association" concerned is actively promoting them as their chosen candidates, and urging their membership to cast their votes for them.  (Others will be members of some of those organisations, and possibly officers or trustees within them, but are not actively being promoted by them, as far as I can tell).

All the following, (except my notes), are taken as quotes from directly available information......

Inland Waterways Association - IWA

is fielding five IWA sponsored candidates on behalf of all boaters;

Ivor Caplan a trustee of IWA and residential boater,
Clive Henderson national chairman of IWA ,
Paul Roper a trustee of IWA and chair of our navigation committee,
Vaughan Welch a trustee of IWA and chair of our restoration committee
Peter Scott a trustee of IWA and regional chairman

(Note:  only 4 places are on offer in these elections!)

Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs - AWCC

David Pearce - Council member of National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) for the past 18 years - currently Hon Treasurer and Rivers Secretary.

(Note:  some have pointed out that AWCC is a corporate member of the IWA, making David Pearce effectively the 6th IWA supported candidate for the 4 elected places on offer)

Residential Boat Owners Association - RBOA

Endorses candidate for CRT Council

Ivor Caplan is standing as a candidate for election to the CRT Council, as a private boaters representative and is endorsed by the Committee.

(Note:  this makes Ivor Caplan the only name to be directly sponsored by two associations – the IWA and the RBOA)

National Association of Boat Owners - NABO

Stephen Peters  - Council member of National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) for the past 18 years - currently Hon Treasurer and Rivers Secretary.

Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club – HNBOC

The HNBOC committee has nominated

Sue Cawson for the Council and urges all club members to support her election.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Musings on the Canal and River Trust Council "Boater" Elections

(posted by Alan)

Being an election candidate seems to have forced me into the modern world, and I now (kind of!) "do" Facebook, something I had not invested a lot of my time in until now.

In fact it has proved to be another good place to "meet" further boaters, and carry on some sometimes lively debate, not always on my own territory, (and not necessarily with a friendly greeting - although I have received friendly support most places!).

Anyway I now have my own fledgling Facebook group page, (an "open" group), in support of my candidacy.

I have just done a couple of postings there about current state of play in the elections, and also an issue that I have uncovered.  I'll repeat these here for those not comfortable in Facebook......

Knowledge of Other Candidates or Candidate Numbers
Unofficially, I have heard from two different sources that the number of candidates who will be competing for the 4 elected boater places on the CaRT council is about 40. I can't confirm that number, but it does not surprise me, as the only requirement to stand is to be a boat owner, and to find 10 other boat owners prepared to sponsor you.

It seems to me an odd election where the candidates may not only not know right up to the point polling commences anything about many of those they are competing against, but also not even how many there will be. In many cases only when I see the 150 word personal statements of other candidates will I know anything about them, (and even then perhaps not a lot). That point is not officially reached, say BW, until just before voting commences.

So far I am only aware of....

4 candidates supported by the IWA, all of them leading players within that organisation.
(One of these is also jointly supported by RBOA)
1 candidate supported by NABO, again a leading player in that organisation.
1 candidate supported by the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club, (I am told, but I have not seen in the public domain).
6 candidates not openly supported by an association or club, as far as I can see, (including myself).
(I also believe one candidate has now withdrawn.)

Those last 6 are broadly "independent" I would say, although I would judge at least one to have an agenda that is very much based on the needs of only part of the boating community generally.

So maybe there are another 28 or so candidates that we may,or may not learn anything about much before polling commences. Unless you know of these people personally, or by personal recommendation, I rather think that will not now change.

There does seem to be a general lack of knowledge amongst many boaters that these elections are happening, and that they can have input into choosing who represents them on CaRT council for the next 4 years. (I think in many cases it is fair to say "lack of knowledge" rather than "apathy", although of course for some, it will be the latter!).

I would urge all boat owners to try and spread the message to fellow boat owners. Even if you do not want to give me your first preference, (or a high preference) vote, I think it is important that people are aware, and do vote for someone, so that a large number of boaters can be seen to have had an input into whoever ends up elected.

Potential Voting Problems For Continuous Cruisers

John Sloan in a comment to my previous post has mentioned an important topic I have been trying to first to get to the bottom of, and then follow up.  The answer I finally got from the CaRT election pages, (actually from Sally Ash of BW), says.

“If you wish to vote electronically you will need your voting pack as it will contain your unique reference number which will be needed in order to cast your vote.”

I had feared this might eventually prove to be the answer, and can immediately see the difficulty that it could cause John and many others.

I have therefore also contacted the Electoral Reform Service.  They acknowledge this as a problem, and say they are working with BW to see if a way can be found at this late stage to allow Internet voting by those who have been unable to receive a postal pack.

I am highly disappointed that no consideration seems to have been given to this matter until now.

I did also try submitting a news story to Waterways World to try and raise awareness on this, but their news editor has said he cannot use my copy, because it can be seen to be unfairly favouring one candidate above another.  I’m also disappointed by this, as I would at least hope it identified me as someone prepared to try and be proactive in trying to sort out what I consider to be ill thought through.  It is possible WW may use my story, but are not prepared to credit me as the person who first (as far as I know) raised the issue.

Oh, and even amongst the considerable time being spent "electioneering" , other "boaty" things still need to occur.  Sickle has her first Boat Safety Scheme inspection under our ownership next week, and there were certain items I was just plain unhappy with.  So yesterday a degree of "re-engineering" was going on in Sickle's engine room.

Of course, you simply can't make any change without testing it out can you ?  Of course not!  So a bit late in the day, Sickle enjoyed a short trip out just to prove everything still worked as expected.

Not only did she remain mechanically sound, but Cath proved that the Epping will make a very presentable job of cooking potato wedges, even when not burning at its best.  So we enjoyed these with cheese, beans and peas, whilst perched on the cabin top chugging along in fading light.

Boating, hey ?  I love it!

To Tinkers Bridge and back
Miles: (just!) 3.2, Locks:0

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.



Monday 2 January 2012

Start the year as you mean to continue...

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

Sunday 1st January 2012
Having had an excellent year last year from the boating viewpoint we decided to begin the year in a suitable manner.

We knew we wouldn't be out for very long, but it was important for us to get out on the boat. We set off at about 2 pm on Jan 1st, but were fairly soon overtaken by rain so we stopped only 3 locks from our home mooring.

beginning to rain

A vegetable stew with cobbler was put onto the stove and we opened a bottle of Pinot and spent the evening playing cards and talking about what we want from this new year. Mostly we agreed that spending as much time on the boats as possible is very important.

It was a cold night, with the temperature outside falling to about 3 degrees, but inside we were warm.

Monday 2nd January 2012
Waking up to a bright, but cold, day
A very relaxed start to the day for us. Alan got up and took Charlie for a walk, I have to admit that I didn't surface until Alan brought me coffee in bed some time later - I then spent quite a lot more time dozing on and off.

We made proper porridge with oatmeal, then finally set off at about 11 am. We really only planned to get to Slapton so that we could wind and start the journey back. Despite being cold - probably only about 5 or 6 degrees C - it was bright - and a little windy.  Not suprisingly there were very few other boats moving, but quite a lot of walkers, joggers, and cyclists on the towpath.
Bright sunlight, between Ivinghoe locks

Ivinghoe upper lock

Nearly home, not long to sunset
Last night's stew had been much larger than we needed, so on the way back I added some more stock and set the cast iron casserole back onto the top of the stove.  We moored up for about half an hour to eat the rest of the stew - which was even better than last night, and finally got back to our mooring about half an hour before sunset.

Miles: 6.0, Locks:12