C&RT is busy recycling old promises

January 2018 - Senior Canal & River Trust managers are now briefing groups across the business, telling them that Waterways Partnerships will be reconstituted following the transition from ten Waterway Regions to six Waterway Super-Regions and suggesting that the 'new' partnerships will have greater clarity of purpose which will include income generation. Which has led Allan Richards to ask: “Have we heard all this before and whatever happened to Waterway Partnerships Action Plans?”

The formation of Waterways Partnerships (WP's) was hailed as one of the key differences between British Waterways, and C&RT. Yet, very early on, politicians were expressing concerns regarding the role of WP's.

These concerns culminated in the 'All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Waterways Inquiry into the Progress and Future Aims of the Canal & River Trust Waterway Partnerships April 2013'. The inquiry highlighted a lack of strategic plans and came up with a number of recommendations regarding funding. The report recommendations included -

Recommendation 3: To ensure that Partnerships have clarity of their financial role and that funding from the Partnerships beyond their operating costs are used within that local Partnership's region.


Recommendation 4: Waterway Partnerships should approach LEPs, LAs, the business community and other bodies to develop joint bids for funding and secure support for the Waterway Partnerships and its projects.


Recommendation 5: Waterway Partnerships should continue to develop relationships with LAs, LEPs and the local business community with an aim to be self-funded in all their activities by the end of 2014.

Many think that C&RT subsequently simply ignored parliament, but investigation has shown that this is not the case. Indeed, the APPG for Waterways recommendations were taken very seriously indeed!

A supposedly four year old action plan created in November 2017 by Heather Clarke

Just a few months after the APPG report, C&RT's board were presented with a 'PROGRESS REPORT ON THE STRATEGIC WATERWAY PLANS – SEPTEMBER 2013 (DECISION REPORT CRT58C)'. The report documented progress toward ten year strategic plans and shorter three year action plans. The report included the following paragraphs -

'The Partnerships are continuing to work on their Action Plan. The Action Plans will include a wide range of projects ranging from strategic projects such as the resolution of the water supply on the Rochdale Canal and major investment to secure the future of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, to community engagement, engagement with young people with linkage to the skill/employability agenda, and the natural health service access improvements and habitat enhancement.

Partnerships are working on the assumption that they will have to secure funding for projects in their Action Plans. With local knowledge and contacts they may be able to forge new partnerships and secure significant grants to fund their projects. However, the Trust may choose to provide match funding for strategic initiatives on a project-by-project basis. Work is in hand to establish the costs of the Action Plans at a macro level, for the guidance of Trustees, and indicative funding sources. These estimates will be part of the SWP.'

The report was produced by the following three people -

- Head of Governance Services, Roger Hanbury - now retired
- Head of Planning, Heather Clarke. Ms Clarke was later given a directorship and more recently addition responsibilities as Strategy, Impact & Engagement Director.
- Head of Enterprise, Julie Sharman, She was also later given a directorship. More recently she has been appointed Chief Operating Officer to mastermind the reversal in C&RT centralisation policies of 2014.

Today, however, these original three year action plans can not be found on C&RT's website.

In December, the ten Waterway Partnership chairs were contacted via C&RT email addresses and invited to provide copies of the action plans and evidence of progress.

Specifically, chairs were asked to -

- Provide a copy of the original Action Plan.
- Provide details of any funding obtained by your Partnership for projects within the Plan.
- Provide details of any match funding provided by the Trust.

Not a single chair provided any of the information requested. There were various reasons for the lack of response -

One email was undeliverable. It was subsequently found that Brenda Harvey (North Wales and Borders Waterways Partnership) had resigned.

One chair, Bob Pointing, (North West Waterways Partnership) chair responded saying he had recently resigned. He provided no information but suggested contacting C&RT.

- Another chair, Tamsin Phipps (Kennet & Avon Waterways Partnership) declined to provide the information after contacting C&RT.

- Seven chairs simply failed to respond!

It would appear that Waterways Partnerships chairs do not wish to be judged on performance against three year action plans.
... and it is not only Waterway Partnerships that are reluctant to be judged. Requests to C&RT for the original 2013 three year action plans have so far only resulted in one document being produced.

Sadly that document appears to be a forgery. It was created by Heather Clarke on 30 November 2017 after C&RT were informed that the original could no longer be found on its website.

C&RT have been asked to consider if they have breached section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act. It is a criminal offence under Section 77 to deliberately destroy, alter or conceal requested information to prevent it being released. Both individuals and authorities can be charged for breaching the Act in this manner.

Four years ago, Clarke and Sharman told C&RT's board 'Partnerships are working on the assumption that they will have to secure funding for projects in their Action Plans'. However, there is no evidence that they have been.

Instead, C&RT has been giving them money. For example, here are some figures for East Midlands. Despite the parliamentary recommendation that Waterway Partnerships should be self funding by the end of 2014, in its financial year 2015/16 C&RT gave East Midlands Waterways Partnership £99,000. The following year C&RT provided £59,000 and this financial year (2017/18) East Midlands Waterway Partnership will be given £31,000. That's £189,000 or an average of £63,000 a year.

Over that same three year period, East Midlands Waterways Partnership did not raise a single penny!

With years of failure, it is little wonder that C&RT wants to start again with Waterways Partnerships.

Photos: (1st) Julie Sharman - now Richard Parry's right-hand person, (2nd) A supposedly four year old action plan created in November 2017 by Heather Clarke, (3rd) Partnership chair Bob Pointing pictured with n-w-departed NW waterways manager Chantelle Seaborn, (4th) Partnership chair Brenda Harvey - resigned.

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