Meet the new C&RT regional directors

May 2018 - Richard Parry has assembled the team he hopes will win him the gamble of changing the Canal & River Trust from a waterways charity, due to lose it's government cash in a few years, to a charity focused on something completely different – 'enriching the lives of millions of local people with waterways on their doorstep.' Peter Underwood looks at his attempts to get C&RT back on the Treasury gravy train.

The appointment of six new Regional Directors is part of Richard Parry's last throw of the dice as he attempts to replace the disappearing £50m grant from government with money for C&RT's contribution to the 'well-being' of the general public, something the public relations machine describes as 'the next phase of the organisation’s development, .. its transformation to become a charity for the waterways and well-being, enriching the lives of millions of local people with waterways on their doorstep'.

Given the switch away from being just a navigation authority, it is hardly surprising that Parry's second reorganisation of the Trust not only moves waterway management further away from the towpath and boaters; with six much larger waterway areas replacing 10 smaller ones and waterway experience coming second to wider qualifications. Four of the six appointments are external candidates, who C&RT claim, 'bring a rich and diverse range of experience to the Trust, including from the heritage, charity and local government sectors'.

The cost of the change are difficult to estimate, especially as C&RT adamantly refuses to say what the new Regional Directors will cost and we won't see figures in an annual report for another year. An educated guess is that the old 10 waterway managers probably cost around £700,000 to £800,000 a year. The six new directors, and the experienced deputies and assistants needed to back them up may well cost over £1,000,000.

Judge for yourselves what boaters and the canal system may gain or lose under the reorganisation.

Regional Director, London & South East – Ros Daniels, who joins the Trust with extensive experience of the heritage and tourism sector, most recently as Head of Historic Properties, London at English Heritage. She has managed a wide variety of historic houses, gardens, coast and countryside for both English Heritage and the National Trust, including Dover Castle. The water connection is that, in her spare time, she is a 'keen canoeist and paddle boarder enjoying time on the water here and abroad'.

Regional Director, Wales & South West – Richard Thomas, who joins the Trust following a long and successful career in the Royal Navy. In a slightly desperate attempt to produce some connection with canals C&RT claims: “During his time at sea he transited two canals: ‘Corinth’ as Captain of HMS Portland and ‘Manchester’ whilst in command of HMS Middleton; setting him on a path to be the Regional Director for Wales and the South West'. Fascinatingly, he also claims to want to become a liveaboard boater, with C&RT saying he and his wife Caren 'have aspirations to live afloat on the canal in Gloucester when taking up his appointment.'

Regional Director, West Midlands – Adnan Saif, comes from local government, regeneration and economic development, and is currently Chief Executive of the British Muslim Heritage Centre. C&RT says, 'Adnan has also founded and led many non-governmental and voluntary organisations at local, European and international levels. In April 2012, he started a social enterprise initiative that seeks to improve leadership and service delivery in local government and civil society'. Despite running the biggest concentration of canals in the country C&RT can't come up with any waterways link.

Regional Director, East Midlands – Phil Mulligan, who joins the Trust with 'extensive senior management experience in the voluntary sector'. He is a professional third sector manager but may be able to contribute to the way C&RT works with volunteers as Phil is currently a National Trust Council member, representing The Conservation Volunteers, an organisation on whose Board he served for five years.
His green credentials are impeccable but he is also a key part of the governbment's involvement in the creation of C&RT as Vice Chair of Defra’s Civil Society Advisory Board when the government first considered the creation of the Canal & River Trust.

Regional Director, Yorkshire & North East – Sean McGinley, one of only two existing waterways managers to become Regional Directors. He is currently East Midlands Waterway Manager, who has worked on the waterways in management and engineering posts for 16 years. Sean started his waterways career 16 years ago in the North East Region before moving to the East Midlands where his management has included the Chesterfield, Grantham and Erewash canals as well as the River Trent and other waterways. Sean is a chartered civil engineer.

Interim Regional Director, North West – Daniel Greenhalgh the other internal appointment is only in post for up to 12 months but C&RT hasn't explained why. A senior manager at the Trust he has been responsible for delivery of major canal infrastructure projects control of operational contractors. Daniel was a site engineer for a civil engineering contractor in Liverpool before joining the waterways in 2005. ​

Perhaps concerned that the new extra-large regions will be too much for the inexperienced new directors the Trust has given two of the busiest areas extra help from the ranks of existing managers.

Tav Kazmi, currently Acting Waterway Manager for the South East, is Deputy Director, London & South East, apparently 'recognising the scale and impact of London & South East as a region, with many complex challenges'.

The much respected and admired West Midlands waterways manager Ian Lane, inexplicably passed over the top job, becomes Head of Operational Projects in the West Midlands. C&RT says this is 'in recognition of the extensive and unique opportunities in the region over the next few years, notably Coventry City of Culture 2021, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022, and in the near term the ongoing development of the Roundhouse project.'

Boating moves further back in the priority list with Interim Head of Boating, Jon Horsfall, becoming Head of Customer Service Support to lead the organisation’s customer service functions, including boating.

Julie Sharman Chief Operating Officer, who has increasingly become the face of the Trust rather than Richard Parry, says: “I am delighted to welcome such a diverse and high-calibre team to the Trust. It has been a rigorous recruitment process that has attracted very high-quality applicants and which reflects the really exciting opportunity the Trust has to make a real difference to the lives of millions of people, including in some of the most deprived parts of the country.

“As we focus on bringing the benefits of the waterways to communities across England & Wales, the appointment of our Regional Directors is at the heart of our proposals to transform the charity, strengthen the accountability of regional teams, and to shift our structure to engage more effectively with prospective partners and the outside world – whilst also enabling the Trust to act quickly and efficiently at every level.”

The Trust’s new regional structure goes live on 4 June. The external appointees will be joining the Trust during July and August with interim arrangements in place until then.

Photos: (1st) Regional Director, London & South East – Ros Daniels, (2nd) Regional Director, Wales & South West – Richard Thomas, (3rd) Regional Director, West Midlands – Adnan Saif, (4th) Regional Director, East Midlands – Phil Mulligan, (5th) Regional Director, Yorkshire & North East – Sean McGinley, (6th) Interim Regional Director, North West – Daniel Greenhalgh, (7th) Now Head of Customer Service Support – Jon Horsfall.

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